International Migrants Day: Europe, there is nothing to celebrate!

Photo: Alarm Phone

A year ago, on 18 December 2019 the European Commission stated:

“On International Migrants Day, we stand strong in our unequivocal commitment to respect and protect the dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms of all migrants as well as to ensure that migration takes place in a safe, orderly and well-managed way.”

The opposite, however, is true. Together with European governments, on this day, many international organisations, including the International Organisation for Migration and the UNHCR celebrate their work in ‘protecting migrants and refugees’. Unfortunately, rather than protecting people from border violence, they are contributing to protect EU borders from unwanted migrant crossings and arrivals.  They do not change the conditions that generate border violence but they reinforce them: their humanitarian presence in places people seek to escape from, has a key role in building the narrative of as so-called “safe” countries, concerning places which definitely are not, where human rights are systematically violated, access to international protection is completely denied and to which deportations and ‘voluntary returns’ are increasing.

Today and every day we are witnesses to the role of EU governments, institutions, agencies and organisations in perpetrating this violence either through action or wilful inaction.

EU, on this day we cannot celebrate your fake efforts and empty gestures. On this day, like every day, we remember and fight against all the deaths at sea and along land borders, as well as EU-sponsored forms of segregations in camps, in detention centres, on quarantine ships and in inhumane accommodations within and outside Europe. Today and every day we denounce and fight against pushbacks, forced deportations under the name of ‘voluntary returns’, the stealing of people’s time when waiting for asylum or resettlement for years, the exhaustion of people’s emotions by keeping families, partners and friends apart. Today and every day we fight against the EU visa regime and all the racist bordering practices that criminalise migration to keep people ‘out’ at all costs, or to let some people ‘in’ under exploitative and harmful conditions. Today and every day we are witnesses to the role of EU governments, institutions, agencies and organisations in perpetrating this violence either through action or wilful inaction. Killing people. Torturing people. Making people disappear. Every single day.

There is nothing to celebrate today.

To make this hypocrisy visible, we chose this specific day to write one more open letter to authorities, to confront them with their responsibility in the case of one of the many known but silenced shipwrecks of 2020: the 9 February shipwreck off Garabulli, Libya. 91 people went missing in this incident. Their families are still searching for them and asking authorities what happened that day. The only answer they receive is rejection and denial. This refusal to engage and provide information, and the silencing of the pain of relatives of missing people is yet another form of violence of the EU border regime. This pain affects entire communities and this silence makes sure that the lives of their loved ones become ungrievable.

Call for Action

Find the open letter to the Italian, Maltese and Libyan authorities, Frontex, IOM and UNHCR here. On 9 February 2021, marking one year since the people disappeared, together with families and friends of the missing, we are organising events in several cities and places to commemorate them, to request searches for them, to demand authorities to break their silence and to put an end to death at sea. Get in touch on media(att) if you want to join one of these events or organise a commemoration action for the missing on 9 February 2021.