“A Plague of Feral Humans”
The servile and obliging media routinely calls them “migrants,” but they are, in fact, economic and political refugees. In a world in which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were honored, they would be given “asylum,” for it would be their right. Article 14 of the Universal Declaration “recognizes the right of persons to seek asylum from persecution.”http://www.unhcr.org/protect/PROTECTION/3b66c2aa10.pdf
Furthermore, the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Protection of Refugees first recognized the fundamental right to asylum for people seeking international protection from persecution or harms (1951 Geneva Convention on the protection of refugees).
But the designation “migrant” confers no international legal status and implies shifters, vagabonds, or people who choose a life on the move. Accordingly, the refugees are stigmatized, most recently—and infamously—in Rupert Murdoch’s Sun, a British daily. Katie Hopkins, a British TV celebrity, called them “cockroaches” and “a plague of feral humans.” Was she referring to the 500 people drowned last September, most of them Palestinians, fleeing Gaza through Egypt, when the smugglers deliberately sank their ship?
Surely, she knew. And surely she knew that Protective Edge, the Israeli onslaught on Gaza, which started on 7 July, left the world’s largest open-air prison more infernally unlivable than it had already been. Shortly after Hopkins’ vintage Nazi-era slurs, 850 of these “unpeople” drowned, when their fishing boat capsized in the Mediterranean, south of Sicily. 400 more “unpeople” had drowned a few days earlier, when, adrift in the Mediterranean for a day, they spotted a commercial ship and rushed to one side to signal for help, tipping the boat over.
Not that Katie Hopkins’ vicious comments went unnoticed. In response, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, castigated her sentiments, calling on the European Union to stem the tide of xenophobic racism, which, he said, “under the guise of freedom of expression, are being allowed to feed a vicious cycle of vilification, intolerance and politicization of migrants, as well as of marginalized European minorities such as the Roma.” (1)
The European Union’s Response to the “Plague”
The European Union tackled the outrage of public opinion with a plan: “At a joint meeting of Foreign and Interior Ministers, chaired by High Representative / Vice-President Federica Mogherini and held in Luxembourg, Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Avramopoulous presented a 10 point plan of the immediate actions to be taken in response to the crisis situation in the Mediterranean.”
The plan envisions the solution as a militarization of the problem; launching aggressive operations against the smugglers in Libya with Apache helicopter gunships and employing the security forces of Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Mali, and Niger to monitor and detect potential “migrants” in order to restrict their avenues of escape via the treacherous sea, the only approach still open after the European Union has shut the land borders tight. In addition, the EU is looking into the possible use of drones, which Israel, the largest exporter of drones in the world, had tested effectively on Gaza last summer. Israel routinely advertises for-sale weapons as “tested in the field.”Ironically, this muscularly punitive response, practically a palimpsest of the “war on drugs,” was what Katie Hopkins had in mind: “bring on the gunships, force migrants back to their shores and burn the boats.” Liberal Europe understood her, although this particular vitriol was not highlighted in the press.
“[T]oday, a supposedly post-Nazi liberal Europe treats desperate victims as they once treated desperate Jews, shutting the borders, restricting immigration, turning them back to the hell they came from…”
There were more humane solutions, one of them cancelled in October of 2014 after just one year of operations: Mare Nostrum, which saved 150,000 people in search and rescue operations on the sea. It was substituted with Operation Triton http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-30039044, supervised by an agency called Frontex. The proposed ten-point plan calls for a strengthening of Triton and Frontex. Neither is in the business of rescuing people.
And thus, today, a supposedly post-Nazi liberal Europe treats desperate victims as they once treated desperate Jews, shutting the borders, restricting immigration, turning them back to the hell they came from—for the forcible return, too, is in the plan. So much for “Ode to Joy,” Beethoven’s hymn to universal brotherhood, which is the anthem of this European Union of Hypocrisy! One of the Requiem masses might be more appropriate—or even Berlioz’ “Dies Irae” from Symphonie Fantastique. After all, Europe has almost as high a quotient of culture to choose from as it has of genocides.
The Inhuman Hand of the Market: A Crime against Humanity
These deaths at sea are no accidents. They are part of the neo-liberal plan to recolonize the world. In the 1970s, “liberal” became the L-word, so it was substituted by “neo-liberal,” a new philosophy for the economic sustenance of humankind. In Margaret Thatcher’s immortal words, neoliberal economics “is the means; the goal is the soul of man.” In other words, neoliberal economics was to transform society into a mass of soulless creatures whose god would be the market. Masses of refugees would provide the bodies sacrificed to a soulless world. She didn’t say it, but she knew what the effects of her Mephistophelian plan would be—extreme disparity in wealth and poverty. In short, neoliberal ideology focuses on maximizing consumption and production by reducing the role of the state and letting loose the supposedly self-regulatory forces of the market. In the so-called “developing countries,” in Africa for example, development banks extend loans that financially “recolonize” the country by mere service of the interest on the debt. These debts require Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPS, aptly)—reforms that favor export industries (and thus underdevelop industries which serve native needs)—agricultural cash crops, mining, logging, and drilling. Taxes, tariffs are reduced; public services are minimized; the common wealth is privatized. Poverty, famine, and unemployment descend on the land. The graveyard in the sea follows. It would be an offense to decency to call it “unintended.” This is economic war, after all. Casualties are inevitable.
The European Union was granted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 “for over six decades [of contributions] to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.” But the Prize was perhaps premature. Five hundred years of a civilization of holocausts traversing the bourgeois era from the “discovery” of America to the present could not be erased by six decades of supposed good behavior. The sea took its toll, but the mandate came from a historic darkness at the heart of European civilization.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
[box] Luciana Bohne is a retired academic who contributes to Counterpunch and Intrepid Report. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org [/box]
(1) Hopkins on Migrants
On 17 April 2015, Hopkins wrote a column in The Sun comparing migrants to “cockroaches” and “feral humans” and said they were “spreading like the norovirus”.This was published the same week that 400 migrants were feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea and more than 10,000 were rescued trying to cross the Mediterranean. “No, I don’t care. Show me pictures of coffins, show me bodies floating in the water, play violins and show me skinny people looking sad. I still don’t care”, she wrote. Hopkins stated she had more sympathy for “British truckers and taxpayers”.
On 24 April 2015 the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein stated that Hopkins’ used “language very similar to that employed by Rwanda’s Kangura newspaper and Radio Mille Collines during the run up to the 1994 genocide”, and noted that both media organizations were subsequently convicted by an international tribunal of public incitement to commit genocide.
Hopkins’ column also drew criticism on Twitter, including from Russell Brand, to whom Hopkins responded by accusing Brand’s “champagne socialist humanity” of neglecting taxpayers. Simon Usborne, writing in The Independent, compared her use of the word “cockroach” to previous uses by the Nazis and just before the Rwandan Genocide by its perpetrators. He suspected that if any other contributor had written the piece it would not have been published and questioned her continued employment by the newspaper. Zoe Williams commented in The Guardian: “It is no joke when people start talking like this. We are not ‘giving her what she wants’ when we make manifest our disgust. It is not a free speech issue. I’m not saying gag her: I’m saying fight her”.