Statewatch article: RefNo# 33153
Editorial: Exclusion and denial by Ben Hayes
Statewatch Journal; vol 23 no 1 March 2013
Criminologists, of all people, appreciate that there is no necessary “fit” between morality and “crime”, or between justice and law. But even criminologists might raise an eyebrow at the sight of someone being imprisoned on suspicion of not being British – imprisoned for over six months, in Pentonville prison, interrogated until he “confessed” that he was not British but Nigerian, a confession which turned out to be false, part of a psychotic episode induced by his detention.

So began Frances Webber’s Crimes of Arrival, published by Statewatch in 1995. By this time, the “whole panoply of modern policing” and its associated rhetoric was already being employed against people trying to come to “the new Europe”, to seek asylum, to be with their families, or to work. Routine fingerprinting, arbitrary detention, restraint by body belts and leg shackles, people forcibly injected with sedatives to keep them quiet as they were bundled onto aircraft – all of this was meticulously documented in Crimes of Arrival.

Twenty years later and the inhumane and degrading treatment meted out to migrants and refugees is scrupulously airbrushed from Europe’s political landscape. According to the European Commission’s website, the EU has established a border free zone in which we can travel “freely and safely”, a “balanced migration policy”, a “Common European Asylum System” and a “humane and effective return policy”. It is also dealing “firmly and effectively with irregular immigration”, while doing its utmost to save lives at sea.

So detached has the official rhetoric about migrants’ rights and saving lives become from the realities of the detention centres, the razor wire, the intensive surveillance, the military patrols, the forced expulsions and the 20,000 documented deaths, that people bearing the brunt of the economic crisis and austerity measures may be forgiven for thinking that over-generous migration policies are indeed the source of all their woe – a message that is rammed home by opportunist politicians and xenophobic media at every opportunity.

This new edition of the Statewatch Journal examines the latest European policy and practice vis-a-vis border control, immigration and asylum. The first essay, by Frances Webber, takes us on a fresh tour of a “quasi-criminal” and highly-repressive EU policy framework anchored in “the imperative of exclusion of all but the most highly skilled and qualified”. Speaking the language of human rights and protection while presiding over these exclusory and repressive measures, she maintains, ends up degrading both policymakers and victims, emptying of meaning the ideals on which the EU claims to be founded.

Matt Carr, author of Fortress Europe: Dispatches from a Gated Continent, discusses the response to events in Lampedusa where, in October 2013, a boat carrying more than 500 peoplesank just four kilometres from the island’s port, killing at least 359 of those on board. If Europe wants to welcome the living and not the dead, he argues, it “needs to abandon an essentially repressive and exclusionary approach to border enforcement” which in effect “accepts migrant deaths as collateral damage”.

Charles Heller and Chris Jones examine ‘EUROSUR’, the EU Border Surveillance System which started life as a high-tech means of preventing illegal migration by sea but, in the aftermath of the Lampedusa tragedy, was cynically transformed for the watching media into a dedicated tool for saving lives. They argue that EURSOUR’s humanitarian varnish cannot hide the fact that militarisation and surveillance have thus far been a cause of migrants’ deaths, not a means to prevent them.

The same questions can be levelled at FRONTEX, the EU agency in charge of the management of the EU’s external borders, which – after years of sustained criticism from civil society organisations – now has a human rights policy. Leila Giannetto asks what it really amounts to.

Meanwhile, inside the EU the hunt for “illegals” and “overstayers” continues remorselessly. Chris Jones examines the EU’s growing number of joint police operations targeting irregular migrants and the consolidation of this policy under the thinly accountable Standing Committee on Operational Cooperation on Internal Security (COSI), established by the Lisbon Treaty.

Trevor Hemmings chronicles yet another “death foretold” at the hands of an increasingly privatised detention and deportation system. Jimmy Mubenga died from cardiorespiratory collapse while being retrained during deportation by Detention Custody Officers working for the private security firm G4S on a British Airways flight to Angola in 2010. In addition to the unlawful killing verdict, the coroner identified a culture of racism among companies to which immigration functions are outsourced.

It is the same picture across the EU. Outsourced detention has worsened the situation for irregular migrants, leading to a litany of complaints and prompting a wave of well-organised, sustained protests by refugees and undocumented migrants and support groups. Katrin McGuaran and Kees Hudig document some of the recent actions, and call on European civil society organisations to show greater solidarity and less charity. This means defending people’s rights to come and be here, not just blithely calling for fewer deaths at Europe’s borders.

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