FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Greeting Asylum-Seekers With Drones

by DAVID CRONIN

Five years ago I had the dubious honour of interviewing a representative from the Flemish far-right party Vlaams Belang.

After listening to this woman spout some paranoid nonsense about the police being “afraid” to enter parts of Brussels “where Muslims rule”, I asked if she had anything against me.  As an Irish national, I am a foreigner in Belgium, I explained.  That wasn’t a problem, she replied, because “you are probably the same religion as us”.

The disaster off the coast of Lampedusa reminded me of that bizarre and unsettling conversation.

In the mid-nineteenth century, my ancestors fled hunger and destitution in “coffin ships”, frequently dying onboard.  Mass emigration is haunting Ireland once again today.  Yet unlike the Africans who perished before they could reach the Italian shore, we can usually travel in safety.

Adjusting to a new life abroad is never easy. But, at least, demagogues will take kindly to us because we share the same race – or, as they prefer to call it, religion.

Sometimes, though, I am not sure if the gap between extremist parties like Vlaams Belang or Golden Dawn and more “mainstream” politicians is all that great.

Nick Griffin, a British National Party thug now sitting in the European Parliament, once  provoked a furore by arguing that boats carrying migrants should be fired upon.  If Griffin had been a little more nuanced, then his proposal would have differed little to official EU policy.

The immediate response of Cecilia Malmström, the EU’s home affairs commissioner, to the Lampedusa disaster was to tout a new border surveillance system called Eurosur.  According to Malmström, the system will help the authorities rescue boats that get into difficulty after it becomes operational in December.

Contrary to what Malmström has indicated, Eurosur is not a humanitarian initiative.  Rather, its primary focus is
9780745333335_p0_v1_s260x420addressing what the European Commission calls “illegal immigration” – a repulsive term as travelling from one country to another in search of a better life is not a crime.

Eurosur is partly the fruit of a €15 million scientific research project  launched in 2010.  Though mainly funded by the EU, the project had a heavy participation from top weapons-makers like Britain’s BAE, the Franco-German firm EADS and Spain’s Indra.

This is one of several EU-financed schemes relating to maritime surveillance.  Another one,  OPARUS, examined how drones can help to detect Africans or Asians trying to enter Europe.  BAE, EADS and the French companies Thales and Dassault are all taking part in it.  So, too, is Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), a maker of drones used to bomb civilians in Gaza.

I’ve challenged Malmström a couple of times about why she wants to train warplanes on some of the world’s poorest people.  She has tried to fob me off by claiming the fact that drones can have violent applications is a mere coincidence.

There can be little doubt that the EU is taking an increasingly militarised approach to questions of migration and asylum.

Frontex, the EU’s border management agency, will have a significant role in overseeing Eurosur.  The agency is headed by Ilkka Laitenen, a Finnish brigadier-general.

Laitenen sits on the  advisory board of Security and Defence Agenda, a “think tank” reliant on funding from the arms industry.  He and his staff are also in regular contact with the European Defence Agency, a body established to drum up business for this continent’s weapons-makers.

Frontex, too, has been shopping around for drones deemed suitable for tracking migrants.  It is known to have  invited  Israeli  and American drone manufacturers to display their deadly wares to its staff.  The US Department of Commerce has  advised the country’s arms producers to keep a close eye on Frontex as it may provide “export opportunities”.

Cecilia Malmström has rightly been  critical of the Greek authorities for approving a tiny number of asylum applications and systematically refusing asylum to refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that Malmström supervises the work of Frontex, an agency that has helped Greece to abuse the right to asylum.  In January 2011, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that Greece’s detention centres for asylum-seekers were in such a dilapidated state that keeping people in them was tantamount to torture.   Frontex has provided buses for transporting asylum-seekers to those centres.

It stands accused, therefore, of being a subcontractor for torture.

I couldn’t fail to notice that one of the main boasts of Britain’s Conservative Party at its latest annual conference was that it had brought immigration down.  The boast should be seen against the backdrop of the wider ideological war being waged against the poor – both in Europe and further afield.  Like any war, its main beneficiaries are those making the tools with which it is fought.

David Cronin is the author of the new book Corporate Europe: How Big Business Sets Policies on Food, Climate and War published by Pluto Press.

A version of this article  was first published by EUobserver.

 

A version of this article  was first published by EUobserver.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail