By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
The recent deaths of more than a thousand African refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea in order to get to Europe highlights an on-going and growing global migration crisis. Contrary to commentators on the political right – in both the USA and Europe –what we are witnessing is not representative of a search for the good life by undesirables from the global South: This is about survival.
Many people in Europe and North America have a strange attitude toward the entire question of immigration. It’s as if there has been an epidemic of historic memory loss. Immigration from Africa, Asia and Latin America to Europe and North America is treated in the mainstream outside of any context. Migrants are frequently referenced as being “infiltrators.” In the U.S., migrants from the global South are demonized. In much of Europe, Islamophobic and anti-Arab racism is used against migrants from the Middle East and Central Asia, blaming them for economic decline and/or suggesting that they – the migrants – lack the will and capacity to assimilate.
The desperation evidenced by the deaths of so many people attempting to cross the Mediterranean, or closer to home, migrants crossing the Mexican border and dying in the deserts, is a direct outgrowth of two major factors. The first is represented by colonialism and neo-colonialism. The second is represented by the impact of the reorganization of global capitalism in the form of neo-liberal globalization.
Migration patterns tend to be from the former colonies to the former colonizer, or from those countries that have historically been dominated by Europe or North America to the country that has been the historical dominator. People are leaving countries that were, in some cases, artificially created by the former colonizer or completely abandoned by the former colonizer when they were either forced to leave or when the colony no longer held value.
In the second case – the impact of globalization on migration – all one has to do is to look at Mexico to understand the problem. The passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) resulted in the destruction of Mexican agriculture, the weakening of the public sector, and a resulting migration of Mexicans north to the U.S. in search of survival. It is demonstrated factually that migration shot upwards when NAFTA was signed into law.
Thus, it is highly ironic that so many people in Europe and North America blame the migrants for allegedly ruining the “destination countries.” The migrants from the global South left their homelands due, largely, to the political, economic and, yes, military policies of Europe and North America. To put it another way, in order to address migration, one needs to push for European and North American governmental policies that address the devastation wrought by the global North over the last several hundred years.
It’s simple: You cannot ignore history. It has this odd way of coming up and biting you when and where you would least expect it.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice activist and writer. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and www.billfletcherjr.com.