Safe migration routes for all – not only in times of crisis, but always!

[from NoFrontex] 4 March 2022 –  The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine is driving hundreds of thousands of people to escape. The current situation clearly shows: we need open and safe migration routes – and anti-racist solidarity.

Thousands of people are fleeing the Russian aggression against Ukraine. In many European countries, this has caused immense solidarity within society – the demand to quickly and jointly organize the reception of Ukrainian war refugees can be heard throughout Europe. More than 20,000 people took to the streets in Bern, Switzerland, on Saturday to protest against the war and demanded not only an end to the Russian attack but also solidarity with all those affected by the war. An important statement. In the face of an escalating war in Europe, suddenly the impossible seems possible: the EU Commission offered the neighbouring countries (Poland and other regional states) financial support and the competence of Frontex to help them organizing support for refugees fleeing Ukraine. The Polish government reacted positively to the offer and said that it possibly wants Frontex’s help with accommodation and care. This shows where the money Frontex invests in militarisation could actually go: into solidarity-based infrastructure that guarantees a dignified life for all those who (have to) decide to leave their place of residence.

For NoFrontex it is clear: we need open and safe migration routes, not only in times of crisis, but always. As NoFrontex, we fully support the call to quickly and jointly ensure the admission of Ukrainian war refugees. Together with numerous individuals, networks and organisations we demand this in an open letter to minister Karin Keller-Sutter. We need corridors of solidarity!

So all good? No!

But that is not enough. The fact that we have to discuss at all today whether and how many and above all which people from Ukraine are allowed to come to the Schengen area, or to Switzerland, shows the point we have reached. The normal state of the EU migration regime is unbearable and unacceptable: barbed wire and isolation are part of everyday condition. People are seen and treated as a danger and enemies along racist categories and capitalist logic. Faced with a crisis, abstract quota are put together. In autumn, thousands of people travelling from Belarus towards Europe were brutally pushed back in the same border region – in the immediate vicinity of where thousands of Ukrainians are now seeking safety. By the same border authority that now presents itself as a humanitarian institution. The public outcry was largely absent. These were people from Iraq, Yemen and other countries – they were pushed back in a racially motivated way, with sometimes fatal consequences. Politicians from all over Europe, but also Frontex-Director Fabrice Leggeri himself, backed the brutal practice of the Polish and Lithuanian border guards.

It is an important development that escape routes are now quickly established and, for the most part, unbureaucratically. But what is possible today must also be possible tomorrow – and not only for *white* Europeans, but for everyone. The racist categorisation of refugees is not only evident in Europe’s unequal reaction to the migrant movements during last autumn and those of today. It is repeating itself at this very moment: There are numerous reports of Africans living in Ukraine who report disturbing discrimination. They are pushed back, sometimes by police officers, sometimes at gunpoint. Under the hashtag #AfricansInUkraine there are dozens of reports from those affected. Racist segregation in the middle of a mass escape caused by war. Moreover, violent pushbacks in the Aegean continue unabated and in Libya thousands remain stranded in horrific camps, often hindered to cross the Mediterranean towards Europa with the help of Frontex. This is complemented by statements of politicians and media coverage dripping with racism: Solidarity and empathy is explicitly directed towards refugees «with blonde hair and blue eyes.» And even the Swiss newspaper “NZZ” lives up to its reputation and joins in the racist tenor: these are real refugees, while they speak previously of alleged refugees. What we are currently witnessing is the racist EU migration regime in a nutshell: no matter at which border or in which situation, racialised people are exposed to systematic discrimination on their way towards Europe.

Abolish war-driven society, organize from below

The war of aggression by Putin and his allies and its consequences cannot be seen without context. It is part of a world that is characterised by armament and competition. Patriarchal and chauvinist politicians promote nationalisms and wars. Also the current war was fuelled by the ongoing arms race. Those who now call for rearmament or as Germany announce massive armament plans of approximately €100 billion follow this logic. More weapons have never made for more peaceful conditions. This is why we need solidarity, resistance and organizing from below, that do not stop at this war, but advocate social alternatives that counter warlike escalation, nationalism and deterrence. This also applies to migration struggles and their demands: they do not stop at demanding freedom of movement for all, but of course also mean preventing the causes of flight and understanding migration as a fact. War is one of many causes of migration. All reasons to migrate are legitimate. Our solidarity is therefore with all people – whether they are currently fleeing Ukraine, fighting for their rights in Libya or struggling after arriving in Europe.

Frontex and war

But what does all this have to do with Frontex? Frontex and war are two sides of the same medal. On behalf of the EU, Frontex seals off the Schengen borders for migrants with military infrastructure and wages a war against migration. The EU border protection agency and its increasing personnel and fleet are part of the spiral of rearmament and follow the same patriarchal military logic. Within this context, Frontex cooperates with the same actors who profit from rearmament or actors of whom people escape. And the agency seals off the EU’s external borders against people who are displaced, among other things, by military conflicts in which Europe is diligently involved. This must end. We need safe escape routes instead of drones, a society of many instead of isolation, ferries instead of Frontex.

More than ever, we demand the demilitarisation of the border regime and freedom of movement for all. This is precisely why we continue to fight against Frontex. We hope that the solidarity with those affected in Ukraine will trigger a wave of solidarity that includes everyone and does not only show itself in conflicts that take place “on our doorstep”.

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