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Fighting the Causes of Flight

by Jens Berger
The refugee debate is back again but only the symptoms are in the spotlight. Refugees are fought instead of the causes of flight. The political failure is as dreadful as the forgetfulness of the media and politics. For the first time, more than 70 million persons are fleeing from war, persecution and conflicts. Every two seconds a person becomes a refugee.

By Jens Berger

[This article published on July 9, 2019 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

The refugee debate is back again since the affair around the life-boat “Sea Watch 3.” Once again, only the symptoms are in the spotlight. The German chancellor announced fighting the causes of flight must now have the highest priority. That was four years ago. Since then, this sentence was repeated a thousand times. Still nothing has changed. Refugees are fought instead of the causes of flight. The political failure in this question is as dreadful as the forgetfulness of the media and politics.

A few weeks ago, UN Refugee Assistance (UNHCR) published its new annual report. For the first time, more than 70 million persons are fleeing from war, persecution and conflicts. Every two seconds a person becomes a refugee. In 2018, 2.8 million persons abandoned their homeland as refugees or persons seeking asylum.

When the theme dominated the news four years ago, NachDenkSeiten formulated the three most important points for preventing the causes of flight:

• An active peace and peace security policy

• The prohibition of arms shipments to crisis regions

• Building a more just world trade system and the concession to the South that local markets can be protected by tariffs and trade barriers.

Let us recapitulate what was done and whether European policy fulfilled its responsibility.

1. An active peace and peace security policy

War is the most important cause for flight and expulsion, whether these are the classical wars between two or more countries, civil wars or so-called asymmetrical conflicts. Most refugees who seek asylum in the European Union still come from three countries Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq that were plunged into war thanks to the direct and indirect participation of the West – obviously led by the US. Therefore, a policy that seriously fights the causes of flight must be a policy that prevents wars, ensures peace and criticizes the US as international war-mongerer Number 1. Was there any progress in the last three years?

No, the opposite is true. Cynically one could say Syria (6.6 million expellees), Afghanistan (2.8 million) and Iraq (3.1 million) are already largely depopulated. Other trouble spots like Yemen (2.5 million expellees), Congo (5.1 million), Ethiopia (3.5 million), South Sudan (2.3 million), Sudan (3.0 million), Myanmar (860,000) and Columbia (9.0 million) are so far from Europe that their refugees and expellees are not seen as a real problem.

The number of refugees arriving in Europe is declining. In the first half of 2019, only 40,000 refugees reached Europe – almost 33,000 on the sea route across the Mediterranean where 681 drowned in that time period. With Europe as their goal, hundreds of thousands of refugees sit in camps in the Maghreb countries. The Sahara zone is developing into a powder keg. “The whole region faces great border-crossing challenges, from climate change, drought, growing uncertainty, violent extremism to smuggling persons, weapons and drugs,” UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez warned a few weeks ago.

A possible Iran war could have very dramatic effects on the refugee streams to Europe. Iran has 81 million inhabitants. A policy intent on combating the causes of flight must begin here and dissuade the US and Saudi Arabia from further escalation with all conceivable means. However, nothing of that can be seen. Superficial diplomatic notes are reported while serious criticism of the war policy of the US is avoided as the devil avoids holy water.

Even in the crisis region of the Sahara, the German government plays with fire and relies entirely on the military, armaments and ‘fighting terrorism’ instead of taking away the breeding ground for military resistance in these countries through massive civilian rebuilding. So the very real danger exists that military conflicts and a continuing political and economic instability will drive millions of people to flee to Europe on the Mediterranean escape route.

2. The Prohibition of Arms Deliveries to Crisis Regions

Expelling millions worldwide in crisis regions often happens with German weapons. Thus, prohibiting weapon deliveries to crisis regions is a necessary element of a serious fight against the causes of flight. However, the German government does not want a prohibition on arms deliveries. On the contrary, Germany shipped weapons worth more than a billion euros to the war parties of the Yemen war in the first half of 2019. Officially, there are export restrictions that were suspended 122 times in the last six months through special export permits.

There is hardly a region where Germany does not supply weapons of war. Algeria, Egypt, Columbia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirate are recipient countries according to SIPRI-data. Arms export guidelines are only paper tigers. In the future, people will be expelled with German weapons and then will be near at hand as refugees. Weapon deliveries do not deactivate the cause of flight.

3. Building a more just world trade system, dismantling export subsidies in the North and concessions to the South that protect local markets and trade barriers are vital.

Economic motives are among the most important causes of flight alongside war and violence. Mostly young male refugees from Africa have no chance for a halfway regular job in their homelands or cannot feed themselves and their families. These migrants are then often driven to the ‘Promised Land’ of Europe. Whoever wants to effectively oppose these causes of flight must carry out countermeasures and give the African states a chance of catching up and give people there a realistic chance for a future. These problems are not new. Has anything improved in the economic rules for the poorest countries of the world in the last four years?

No, the negative effects of a Chinese expansion pressure on Africa are now added to the catastrophic consequences of European and American policy. China, the US. the EU and Germany are jointly responsible for the worsened economic situation for Africa.

A duty-free and privileged access to European markets and the possibility of protecting their own markets at least temporarily from the overpowering competition of very productive corporations of the global North are necessary. While the first point is generally implemented, the second point has been reversed into its opposite. So Germany supports a really good plan that opens the EU market to all the ACP states (African, Caribbean and Pacific). However, the EU market thanks to German economic lobbyists is only opened when the ACP states also open their markets for the EU. This is the current state of the debate. However, such an economic argument would be economic suicide and trigger millions of economic refugees who would have to seek their chances in Europe.

Four Years passed Without Any Results

No “Master Plan Migration” or even a “Marshall Plan for Africa” was proposed. Nothing happened in the last four years. All the causes of flight still exist. The economic, ethnic and religious tensions in the perpetual crisis zones have even increased. The next refugee waves will soon be at Europe’s gates. The situation of 2015 could be repeated with a drought, a civil war, another aggressive and illegal US war in the Middle East or the consequences of climate change.

Nothing has happened not only regarding the causes of flight. The EU has no accepted distribution plan for the arriving refugees. Admitting and first provisions are still demanded from southern European border states. Four years were given away without constructive work on a solution.

Peace security simply has not happened and represents a complete failure. The US wages its wars of destruction. The junior partners from Europe still join in these crimes.

Only symptoms dominate in the debate – like the questions about private lifeboats in the Mediterranean. At best, these are diversionary maneuvers and secondary theaters of war.

New refugees will be constantly produced as long as Europe exploits the global South and does not press for a more just world trade order. New refugees are constantly
produced as long as Europe does nothing against climate change. Discussing the questions of emergency rescues in the Mediterranean is obviously necessary for humanitarian reasons. Merely focusing on the symptoms must be called cynical as long as the policy constantly produces refugees. However, this cynicism is sad reality. Nothing changed for the better in fighting the causes of flight in the last four years.



[These readers letters published in July 2019 were responses to Jens Berger’s article “Fighting the Causes of Flight” and are translated from the German on the Internet, On the causes of flight, one must be careful not to slip into methods that cause flight. We live in a complicated and unjust world.]

1st reader’s letter

Hello Nachdenkseiten,

Combating the causes of flight is impossible without far-reaching changes in the system. The lobbies represented by Merkel and Co. have a simple business idea based on the principle of opening (literally, conquering) new global markets and transforming their structure so they are seamlessly compatible to the international corportocracy and the so-called financial sector. Whoever is conned or taken for a ride is a gold mine. Whoever questions the legitimacy of this is taken for a ride with religio-political nonsense that is psychologically effective with subtle half-truths and blunt lies until he finally realizes this.

This is incredible and true. The enormous extent of barbarism – including individual insults -shows that the crown of creation can be deceived with the cheapest tricks, firewater and glittering rubbish. So the world public is prevented from understanding and storming the barricades. What is central is denied…as though the present had not long ago entered its horror dimension and was not offered concrete learning possibilities.

The relapse into the Stone Age has no friends except for persons with violent tendencies and persons with marked dullness and mindlessness. Unfortunately many can be easily misled and do not see the relapse danger any more.

With friendly greetings,
Johannes Bichler

2nd reader’s letter

Dear Mr. Berger,

In his book “Financial Imperialism,” Michael Hudson answers your question. Why hasn’t politics changed its focus?

Mr. Hudson writes on page 167:

“Like China, the Soviet Union was `a market, not a rival for Americans…

As Europe was only a market after World War II. For Europe, Africa is again a market where local products are sold. It is a market where urgently necessary raw materials can be acquired cheaply or a market for the arms industry as Eastern Europe is a market for cheap nurses or cheap service personnel

The governments are not really interested in deaths around migration. Do you think an official cannot sleep tranquilly anymore after negotiating for uranium munitions? The hungering and dying of this world do not matter to these persons.

Wage dumping can be enforced more easily on the market when there are myriad job seekers. High rents can only prevail when there is a high demand.

New persons must come to Europe again and again so the demand does not falter. These persons either are born here or come from elsewhere. The state saves huge amou8nts of money when people come from elsewhere. No children need to be channeled through kindergarten and school.

Improvement of the local educational system is also not inevitable. Qualified teachers come from other places. Corporations realize win-win in the necessary housing construction. Companies can build and build and there will never be enough apartments. The rents can rise and rise. The profits increase with the rents so this is win-win again.

Peace is also ambivalent. Peace would lead persons in the arms industry into unemployment. Peace would also increase the price of raw materials. Even worse, raw materials could be completely withdrawn from our grasp. This could happen because people in raw material countries think the landscape should not be disfigured. The company Total intends to disfigure the Virago National Park. Corporations want to drill for oil in the Ecuadorian Yasuni National Park. Peace would be very troublesome.

From their view but not from the companies’ standpoint, four years passed without any positive results… They call that cynicism. I say it works.
Jan Skalia

3rd letter

Dear Mr. Berger,

You hit the nail on the head again. There was total silence and inactivity for 4 years on the causes of flight. This could be a tremendously important theme but the government is in a deep sleep… Right-wing extremists are not arrested… For what do we pay taxes? Can this deep-sleep state be saved?

4th letter

Dear Mr. Berger,

Your article on fighting the causes of flight refers to the omissions of the European Union over the last 4 years.

Let me refer you to the 1980 Report of the North-South commission “Ensuring Survival – Common Interests of Industrial and Developing Countries” and to the 1983 report “Help in the World Crisis – An Immediate Program.” Both have introductions by Willy Brandt, the chairperson of this commission… The time of omissions covers at least 35 years (!!).
Dieter Heine
Related Categories: U.S. | Immigrant Rights
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