Why I do not support the European Parliament recommendations on undocumented women migrants

I will start by doing something that I usually steer clear from which is to “explain” the European Union in a couple of sentences. This is, I am aware, reductionist and possibly erroneous in the sense that one cannot quite describe a system of government in simplistic terms. Yet, I believe it is necessary to do so in order to frame my ideas around certain resolutions.

The European Union is a governing body that is based in Brussels. The closest comparison I can draw from existing political systems is akin to the Federal Government in the US. The different European countries, in this set up, can be loosely compared to the different States in the US. Again, this is a facile comparison and there are many differences but the centralized nature of EU administration (especially in relation to the European Parliament or European Court can somewhat be compared to “Washington” as the central administration of US politics).

So, the website of the European Parliament has published a resolution they passed on January 6th with a list of recommendations regarding undocumented women migrants in the EU. Here are the key points of these recommendations: (emphasis mine on some key points)

The Committee on Employment and Social Affairs calls on the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions in its motion for a resolution:

1. Notes that the irregular status of undocumented women throughout Europe makes it virtually impossible for their fundamental human rights, including the rights to education and health, to be respected, thus making these women particularly vulnerable to all forms of exploitation, low wages, unstable working conditions and social exclusion; considers that the best way of permanently improving their situation is to bring them within the legally established systems, since their irregular situation deprives them of social security and other employment benefits; notes that they may be further disadvantaged by furthermore, illiteracy and by language and adaptability barriers;

2. Calls on the Member States to take the following action: to put an end to discriminatory practices; to fight undeclared work and labour exploitation, inter alia by means of labour inspections; to recognise undocumented women as victims and allow them to access basic health services, employment and education; to enable them to have access to the legal system and to confidential advice in emergencies without fear of this resulting in measures to terminate their residence; to ensure that such action also involves the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion, as well as networks of existing aid organisations, churches and civil society organisations; and, where necessary, to establish specific forms of data protection for the women concerned;

Note: victims of what? Because surely in order for a victim to exist there must be a victimizer. I consider the State to be the victimizer in the case of undocumented women migrants in the sense that the situation is part of a long history of inequalities related to Europe’s colonial past, corporate interventions in the so called Global South and neoliberal globalization that deprive migrants of a livelihood in their countries of origin.

3. Calls on the Member States and the Commission to recognise undocumented women migrants explicitly as a vulnerable social group, exposed to trafficking, discrimination and exploitation on the labour market;

Note: I would urge anyone interested in the mechanisms that the State uses to further violate the rights of undocumented women under the guise of “fighting trafficking” to read this article by Molly Smith in The Guardian. Alternatively, follow her on Twitter. Another woman that has many important things to say about this topic is Laura Agustin. Her blog (with plenty of material) can be found here and she’s also very active on Twitter here.

4. Calls on the Member States and the Commission to focus on the working conditions of undocumented women migrants, as a crucial step towards defining and recognising the difficulties to which they are exposed on the labour market and in order to ensure that their fundamental rights are respected;

Note: Oh really? Focus on the working conditions like that time undocumented women domestic workers who were neither trafficked nor working against their will were reported by the bus drivers who cooperated with the police and immigration authorities to have them deported because the women (all of them visibly of color) “looked illegal”?

5. Encourages the Member States to work actively to extend the possibilities for undocumented persons to become legal, in order to facilitate their access to the labour market and improve their inclusion in society;

6. Stresses that undocumented women in particular are often the victims of precarious, isolated, unhealthy or working conditions, are very often employed below their education level, in some cases experience abuse and violence, and are prevented by extreme dependency on their employers from asserting their fundamental and labour rights; calls on the Member States and the social partners to help undocumented women be brought within the legally established systems, thereby enabling them to better exercise their rights - including through the application of Directive 2009/52/EC providing for minimum standards on sanctions and measures against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals - respecting labour law and collective agreements;

7. Calls for the implementation of ILO Convention No 29 on forced labour; calls for consideration to be given to the special situation of women involved in forced labour – including not just forced prostitution but all involuntary work, the domestic sphere included – and for protection to be given to the undocumented migrant women concerned;

8. Stresses the need for the Commission and the Member States to strengthen labour inspections in order to combat the exploitation of undocumented women migrant workers and the violation of their fundamental human rights;

9. Calls for the creation of special forms of data protection for undocumented women, including victims of human trafficking, who turn in such situations to hospitals, doctors, the authorities and NGOs seeking for help or guidelines, to women’s shelters, counselling services or religious counsellors and for the protection of workers in such establishments who acquire information about irregular residence; believes help and support should be given in accordance with Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and calls for this directive to be implemented in all Member States; stresses the need for women with irregular or unclear residence status to be able to access medical care without risk of expulsion;

10. Condemns all forms of violence, human trafficking, abuse and discrimination against undocumented women; stresses the need to ensure access to the help on offer in such situations without fear of this resulting directly in measures to terminate residence;

Note: again, notice how much emphasis there is on human trafficking which completely erases the agency of the undocumented women migrants. As if the only reason a woman would migrate is through trafficking and not because of structural conditions in their home countries.

11. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to provide sufficient female contact staff, care professionals, officials, assessors and other staff; calls for such measures out of respect for other religions and cultures and the need to protect against discrimination;

12. Stresses that undocumented women are vulnerable to abuse, and that barriers for them to engage in legal procedures are often to be found in the fear that their safety is not guaranteed, arising from a lack of shelters and procedural obstacles; calls on the Member States to ensure that such women are able to report any abuse suffered and are protected from any form of reprisal; believes that measures should also be introduced to assist such vulnerable women, including provision of shelters; calls on the Member States, accordingly, to take the necessary measures to identify such abuse and to guarantee access to justice;

13. Draws attention in particular to the situation of undocumented women who are pregnant or have children; stresses that they need special protection and a legal entitlement to healthcare and have the right to a birth certificate for their children in accordance with Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; emphasises that they must have access to appropriate medical care and to registry offices without having to fear that this will result in measures to terminate their residence; calls for special forms of data protection for women who in such situations turn to doctors, clinics and registry offices;

Note: my face, I wish you could see it right now.

14. Calls on the Commission and the Member States, through more extensive and integrated research, to close the gaps in reliable data and existing knowledge on the number and situation of undocumented persons in Europe, to draw the attention of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) to the situation of undocumented women, and to take greater account of women in this category when implementing the inclusion targets of the Europe 2020 strategy;

15. Encourages the Member States to grant the children of women with irregular or unclear residence status access to the education system without the threat of this leading to prosecution and/or deportation;

16. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to reduce inequalities in employment between migrant workers and EU workers by offering secondary education and vocational training so that women, especially migrant women, can acquire new skills and are thus not restricted to low-paid jobs;

17. Calls, in the context of efforts to prevent migration by providing development aid to the migrants’ countries of origin, for the focus to be placed on women’s education and rights;

Note: neocolonial interventions under the guise of “aid” for “women’s empowerment” while the European Union continues promoting and pushing for European corporations to drain resources and exploit the very same workforces that eventually seek migration as a solution to their structural problems back home. Not a word about how H&M (a Swedish corporation) or Zara (Spanish), to use two examples though there are dozen similar ones, contribute to the exploitation of textile factory workers in Bangladesh. In the same breath, the Austrian Minister of Home Affairs calls Bangladeshi undocumented migrants “farm animals” and accuses Greece of “letting the barn door open” to allow them to come into the EU.

18. Asks for the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs for the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality on gender aspects of the EU Framework for National Roma Inclusion Strategies to be taken into account in this context.

I have spoken before about the fact that I do not support gendered recommendations or legislation that are solely based on benefiting undocumented women. To begin with, and going back to my simple explanation of the European Union as a governing body in the first paragraph, the reason I do not support this kind of legislation, even though it might seem contrary to my feminist politics is that the EU member States have very rigid and exclusionary definitions of “woman”. In most of the EU, woman = cis. That alone excludes the very specific ways in which trans women, gender queer and/ or other gender variant people are not part of these recommendations. Yesterday, I shared on Twitter this link about the appalling track record of Denmark in regards to the treatment of trans people (Content warning at the link for terrible language and cissupremacist explanations). Member States such as Denmark (to use this example, though Denmark is not the only EU country where trans people are subjected to State violence) do not need to expand their “legal definitions” of woman in order to comply with the recommendations above. They can continue promoting a cissuspremacist view of gender and the EU Parliament (just like the Federal Government in the US) cannot force such changes. I won’t quote from the article because the language used is quite dehumanizing and possibly triggering but to sum it up: Denmark only recognizes trans people in so far as they have undergone surgeries that render them sterile/ infertile and only after they have gone though extensive medical treatments including therapies, medications, assessments, etc. And this is just one example of how State definitions of gender operate solely within a cis binary (there are cis women and cis men, anyone who does not fit these narrow categories is effectively not considered worthy of gender based protections).

Another reason I do not support these gender based recommendations is because there are myriad ways in which men are affected by State violence that are very closely tied to stereotypical ideas around manhood and masculinity. To use again, another relatively recent example, the rights of an undocumented African father were violated by the State when his child was given for adoption in the UK. The mother’s rights were violated due to her alleged mental health issues (she is an Italian citizen) but the rights of the father were equally destroyed because as an undocumented man he was unable to travel across the continent to attend the Court’s hearings of the case. Children, regardless of their gender, have a right to a family life that contemplates the rights of both parents equally. The rights of an undocumented African man to be a father to his child are equally important to the rights of any woman to be a mother. More importantly, children have a right to both without State violence getting in the way of their well being.

Last but not least, rape culture manifests in very specific ways when the bodies of People of Color are on the line. Men of color have been historically subjugated through rape and sexual abuse. Their centuries old dehumanization has hinged on simultaneous ideas of hypersexualized behaviors and rape as “corrective” tools to further dominate them. I have written before about the sexual violence experienced by undocumented migrant men and how this seems to be an invisible topic within migrant rights discourses.

While undocumented women face unspeakable violence that is very gender specific, I cannot get behind more “white savior” narratives that single us out as “deserving” of protection while the definitions of gender, womanhood, parenthood and family rights are left in the hands of a State that continues to use colonial ideas on our bodies. Moreover, I cannot support definitions and codifications that erase violence that perpetuate these very same colonial histories and violences to this day. The same State that coded us as “less than” is not the best qualified to create the legal frameworks that supposedly contain the “solution” to these historical wrongs.

"The hundreds who lost their lives off Lampedusa yesterday are Italian citizens as of today," Prime Minister Enrico Letta said on Friday - an official day of mourning for the victims.

EUobserver.com / Justice & Home Affairs / Italy grants citizenship to Lampedusa dead

The undocumented migrants who died in Lampedusa have been granted Italian citizenship. A noble gesture, one would say. However, the survivors, face this (from the link):

But for the survivors, crammed in a refugee centre hosting four times more people than its normal capacity, the situation remains dire. Under a law passed by the previous centre-right government, “clandestine immigrants” are considered illegal and have to pay fines of up to €5,000.

Obsession with Anders Breivik led two UK youth to racist campaign

via This is South Devon:

Two friends obsessed with Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik branded themselves with hot irons while embarking on a far-right hate campaign in Torbay, a court was told.[…]

Roddy’s laptop was found to contain an al-Qaeda training manual and Breivik’s ‘2083 A European Declaration of Independence’. This was the Norweigian’s manifesto which he released before killing 77 people in 2011 and which incited a war against Muslims.

Jeremy Atkinson, prosecuting, said: “Both developed an obsession with the personality and ideology of Anders Breivik.

"The defendants had attempted to act out to some extent their own form of activity under the banner of Knights Templar, an organisation discussed at some length by Anders Breivik and aspired to be part of that organisation or their own version of it."

According to the report, Breivik’s “inspiration” resulted in graffiti and public disturbances against Islamic Centers and other buildings these criminals considered to have “Muslim affinities”. They also sent letters to Islamic centers in Brighton and Plymouth telling worshippers to leave the UK. One of the offenders, Tobias Ruth has been sentenced to 33 months in jail. The other, John Roddy, was given 23 months in a young offenders’ institution, suspended for two years and 18 months of supervision.

Corporate practices in the administration of Europe’s undocumented immigrants lives: a point system

When I wrote about “the asylum seeker industrial complex” a few weeks ago I referred to both the EU’s need of the figure of the “asylum seeker” for the perpetuation of the universal human rights myth and the corporations that profit from the administration of these lives. I also objected to the category of “asylum seeker” as the only migrant experience that is coded both in the law and media, erasing the multitude of political and economic reasons behind human displacement in the Global South. Today, I came across a blood chilling post at the EU Observer, Private firms put price tag on migrant suicides. From the piece:

Private security companies operating UK-based immigrant removal centres (IRC)* use formulas to calculate the profit loss incurred by detainees who commit suicide under their watch.

A handful of immigrants, set for deportation, have managed to kill themselves at the facilities over the years. The UK Border Agency, has in some other cases, refused to disclose the cause of death.[…]

The profit formula is based on a performance point system that attributes numerical figures to a list of possible infractions based on a self-auditing process.[…]

If a Serco guard forgets to lock a door at Colnbrook, then the company is fined 50 points. If a detainee is caught climbing onto the roof, it is fined 10 points.

Fifty points are given if a guard fails to report an incident of torture to the manager.

An incident resulting in self-harm is 20 points.

Suicide is 300 points.

The sum is then entered into a formula to determine how much they get paid, although the monetary value of the points is redacted in the contract.

Every instance of a detainee’s harm is a loss of profit for the corporations in charge of the administration of these detention camps. Needless to say, this point system results in the underreporting of violence and dismissal of migrant’s mental health issues.

However, these corporate practices are not limited to privately owned entities that benefit from outsourcing contracts for immigrant detention. This video, posted six days ago by Frontex, the European agency in charge of border control, contains the right mix of militarization and corporate speak that muddles the distinction between the State and privately owned businesses. In the video, European Union officials speak in acronyms about the SQF (Sectoral Qualification Framework) which allows border patrols to be trained across the EU using harmonized education standards. They refer to legal concerns as providing a training that is “Fundamental Rights Compliant” (really, in EU Inc speak, border patrols in charge of rescuing migrants from distressing situations in the middle of the sea should not have empathy or uphold human life, they should be “fundamental rights compliant”). These Frontex officers are then deployed across the European Union where their “compliance” illustrated by this press release from the Greek group “Network Welcome to Europe”, results in actions such as these:

On the 6th of September 2013 two FRONTEX-officers from Italy and Sweden expulsed a family with small children and a pregnant woman from the rooms they were hosted in order to occupy and re-use these rooms as their offices [ED Note: the rooms were located in an NGO building] introducing themselves as European Border Police.

Meanwhile, in the past 16 years, the death count of undocumented migrants due to border militarization, asylum laws, accommodation, detention policy and deportations is currently over 17,000. There is a lot of money to be made by the living and dying in the EU. The “asylum seeker industrial complex” just needs to streamline their profits.

* “Removal centers” are an euphemism for the detention centers where undocumented migrants awaiting deportation can be held for months (or even years).

Not just anyone is sent to Tilburg. Instead, it has become the preferred destination for Belgian’s foreign national prisoners, who comprise over 40% of the prison population. This trend began almost as soon as the contract was signed, with the former Minister of Justice, Stefaan De Clerck, announcing in the Senate, on 30 November 2010, that the Walloon (French speaking) region of Belgium was almost exclusively transferring to Tilburg foreign-national prisoners with irregular immigration status. No reason was given and no further questions were raised apart from those related to the financial implications of the transfers. These days, irregular migrants make up the majority of the prison population in Tilburg, a circumstance that raises a number of questions about which we only have a few answers.

Tilburg: A Belgian Prison Across the Border | Border Criminologies

Anyone interested in the European Union and what it means, in practical terms, for migrants (both documented and undocumented), should probably read this piece. 

Because of the cross border flow created by the EU, Belgium and The Netherlands have signed a cooperation agreement that allows Belgium to send undocumented migrants that have been sentenced to prison for a crime to serve their time across the Dutch border. This results in a number of disprivileges for the foreign prisoners in relation to those who are allowed to remain in Belgium. From the piece:

According to the Belgian prison Act of 2005 a prison sentence aims at “the rehabilitation of the offender and the preparation of his reintegration into society”. Officially, immigration status does not preclude access to reintegration and rehabilitation activities in Belgium. In practice, however, irregular migrants are often unable to participate due to language barriers and waiting lists (Hellemans, Aertsen & Goethals 2008; Snacken & Tournel 2009). Such matters are compounded in Tilburg where foreign prisoners are excluded from Dutch language courses and skills training. They also earn less money through prison labour, than they would in a Belgian prison, and, due to distance, have greater difficulties in maintaining contact with friends and family members.

There is another fact not mentioned in the piece: if the undocumented prisoner has family or friends without legal residence, they will also be reluctant to travel across the Dutch border to visit, even if, hypothetically, they have the financial means to do so. While border controls have been eliminated in the EU, train conductors and bus drivers often act like de facto security agents. If they so much as suspect anyone from being undocumented, they will notify the police immediately and cooperate with arrests. If someone mistakenly buys the wrong train or bus ticket, conductors and drivers often ask to see IDs and refusal to comply (or not having one) results in police presence. In 2011, I posted about the Dutch bus drivers who notified the police about "African women who look like illegal immigrants" resulting in the deportation of 12 women from Ghana, Uganda, Brazil and the Philippines. Collaborating with anti immigrant authorities is not only pervasive but encouraged in Dutch society.

Almost no country in Europe as xenophobic as the Netherlands

Immigration: ‘Almost no country in Europe as xenophobic as the Netherlands’ | Presseurop.eu

Mariana Câmpeanu, Romania’s Labour Minister had this to say about the fear of immigration from Eastern Europe in The Netherlands.

Also from the article:

The minister appealed to the Dutch media to “emphasise the contribution that east Europeans make to the Dutch economy,” instead of focusing on Romanian criminals in Netherlands.

"Appealing to Dutch media" would be like appealing to my cat to stop chewing on whatever she has focused her teeth on. Which is to say, it’s pointless. While I have no way of quantifying the statement made by Ms. Câmpeanu about the extent of Dutch xenophobia compared to other places (in the sense that there are no statistics or in depth studies to compare), I can, with absolute certainty, say that Dutch mainstream media is among the most racist, toothless, status quo upholding and reactionary medias of all of Europe. I cannot think of a single mainstream outlet where these traits don’t manifest in one way or another.

Dutch Intelligence Services report lists opposition to immigration policy as “threat”

Last month, the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (locally known as AIVD or Algemene Inlichtingen- en Veiligheidsdienst in Dutch), released its annual report. As expected for a non classified document, there is nothing ground breaking here, nothing that our local media doesn’t always remind us is “threatening” or “dangerous”. The list of “threats” include, as expected, Muslim terrorists, Jihad, recruitment for Al-Qaeda, etc. Basically, all the same talking points we’ve been hearing since 9/11.

However, there is one new issue that appears listed on Page 28, under the banner “Radicalism and Extremism”, lumped together with Islamic Extremism and Left-Wing extremism. From the report (emphasis mine; link to PDF of the report in English):

Intimidating and/or violent opposition to the asylum and immigration policy

In 2012, opposition to the Dutch and European policy on asylum and immigration increased. This was mainly due to the definitive start of the so-called No Border Network, in which activists and extremists such as the Anarchist Anti-Deportation Group in Utrecht and the Stop the Deportations Working Group have joined forces while retaining their own principles and action methods to promote co-operation and coordination. The annual ‘No Border Camp’ activities, where activists discuss matters such as international campaigns, took place in Sweden and Germany this year.

Actions taken in 2012 by opponents to the asylum and immigration policy included graffiti at the residence of the then Minister for Immigration, Integration and Asylum, Mr Leers, and the training centre of the IND in Utrecht. In addition, Dutch people were involved in blockading detention centres for asylum seekers in Belgium (Merksem and Brugge), during which several people were arrested.

In addition to the familiar action groups (the Working Group Stop the Deportations and the Anarchist Anti-Deportation Group in Utrecht), in 2012 other to some extent new groups were active, which for instance provided direct aid to homeless refugees. Some anti-fascist groups (AFA-Fryslan, AFA The Hague) also changed the focus to the opposition to the asylum and immigration policy.

Among the groups opposed to the asylum and immigration policy there is much interest with respect to Frontex, the European Union (EU) agency that coordinates the monitoring of Europe’s borders. The left-wing activist Campaign Against Arms Dealing published a brochure on the ‘militarisation of Frontex’, containing a list of Dutch defence contractors. The AIVD sees this as a possible call to take action.

Regional groups were especially active in the organisation and maintenance of various tent camps belonging to Somali and Iraqi asylum seekers who have exhausted all legal procedures. The Anarchist Group Amsterdam (AGA) was involved at the camp on Notweg in Osdorp, and AFA-Fryslan at the tent camp and deportation centre in Ter Apel. In addition, AFA The Hague was heavily involved in the organisation of the tent camp at the Koekamp in The Hague, and played a part in preventing this camp from being cleared. The AIVD maintained contacts with the local authorities regarding the actions of these groups.

The report devotes almost 400 words to this topic whereas the next one on the list, Right Wing Extremism gets merely a quarter of that, involving claims that Right Wing Extremism is all but dead in The Netherlands. However, releasing a report on the militarization of border control and the participation of Dutch corporations in what I call “the asylum seeker industrial complex” is listed as a threat of more importance than Right Wing violence.

Two weeks ago, when I wrote about refugees replacing terrorists in Europe’s collective imagination, I mentioned that, unlike terrorists, this new threat comes with the added bonus of being an expansive category which can include more people and from a more diverse background than the limiting “terrorist”, who has to be confined and boxed within the boundaries of a certain ideology. Little did I know back then that the Dutch Intelligence Services would be proving my point so soon.

The language of European immigration is broken

This article at Time about the ingrained racism and xenophobia in Switzerland highlights the ongoing abuses experienced by asylum seekers and refugees currently being housed by the national government in different municipalities. Here are a few highlights of the situation:

That’s because local authorities have announced last week that asylum seekers housed by the federal government in Bremgarten’s army barracks won’t be allowed to move around town freely or use the local swimming pool and other sports facilities. “For security reasons, we decided not to allow access to these areas,” the town’s mayor, Raymond Tellenbach, explained in a TV interview. 


Roman Staub, the mayor of Menzingen, a town of 4,300 inhabitants that will house between 100 and 200 asylum seekers in 2015, echoed the unease expressed by his Bremgarten counterpart, telling a Swiss TV station on Aug. 6 that asylum seekers in his community would not be allowed to enter “sensitive areas” like schoolyards to prevent contact with children.

This is, of course, a policy of segregation based on racist notions of who is and isn’t allowed to become part of communities.

However, I am also becoming increasingly annoyed by the hegemonic appropriation of these semantic categories of “asylum seeker” and “refugee”. These are the two words used almost exclusively in all policy documents and media commentary about immigrants trying to reach the EU. The EU needs these migrants to be exclusively denoted as “asylum seekers” and “refugees” because it can then place the responsibility for their displacement outside its borders. These people, we are told, are escaping conditions outside the realm of our responsibility. The structural poverty, political turmoil, warfare, etc, they face back home has nothing to do with us, or so goes the dominant narrative. In this narrative, the European Union then positions itself as “saving” these migrants by allowing them to stay (as the case might be with some) or alternatively, the European Union is saving us from their scourge by detaining them in inhumane conditions and eventually deporting them (as the case is with the vast majority).

Europe needs the figure of the asylum seeker and refugee because then it can self perpetuate the centuries old tradition of Enlightenment and Universal Human Rights. In this tradition, Europe always, always places itself as a final dictum on the humanity of the Other. By creating this “human blob” of asylum seekers, there isn’t a need to offer any granular analysis of the effects of neoliberal globalization and corporate interventions/ resources depletion that created the mass displacements to begin with. Anyone following the “money trail” (which is what these mass displacements are; people following the flow of resources to the place where they are accumulated) is then presented as a single category of “asylum seeker” while denying the multiplicity of experiences and reasons that created the migration flow.

Anyone that aspires to live in the EU without the credentials to do so through a well paid corporate job has two options: become an undocumented immigrant (which is usually an individual pursuit and requires the migrant to have the resources to travel alone and enter the EU on a tourist visa) or claim asylum. Since this is the only venue left for millions, is it any surprise that the numbers would raise as poverty, political turmoil and warfare increase? Rather than offer long term solutions to the structural problems that led to the migration, the European Union creates an industry to deal with the displaced masses. The “asylum seeker industrial complex” gave us the militarization of the EU borders through Frontex; corporate contracts with G4S for the administration of detention camps and deportations; contracts for the purchase of weapons and military technology for surveillance; a legal network of experts that define the rules and regulations; think tanks that first create and then analyze the language of migration and displacement; mental healthcare professionals who have contracts to overview claims of PTSD and associated disorders created by the conditions that led to the asylum claim, etc etc.

The association of the non European Other with terrorism is losing momentum. Europe has more or less exhausted the possibilities of this rhetoric and now needs to move away from it in order to expand the military complex. The “refugee” comes with the added bonus of being an expansive category. It can include people from any region in the world without having to be confined to the “Muslim Other”. In the long term, the “asylum seeker industrial complex” is a much more profitable pursuit.

The brutal treatment of immigrants and refugees in Greece is a product of the Fortress Europe policy adopted by the European Union, aimed at deterring all those fleeing war, political persecution and poverty from settling in Europe. The EU’s agency for the protection of European borders, Frontex, has worked closely with the Greek state and the Greek police to set up centres that are overcrowded and characterized by subhuman conditions. Only a tiny percentage of those seeking refuge in Greece are eventually allowed to remain in the country.

Protests at Greek Detention Camp Highlight State Violence Against Immigrants in Europe | Global Research

And then this:

The deplorable conditions at camps across Greece that are funded by the EU are triggering protests by immigrants, which in turn are being exploited by the Greek government and media to fuel racism and divert attention from the country’s social crisis following four years of austerity measures dictated by the EU in behalf of the international banks.

According to new report, Belgium fails to provide justice for Muslims victims of racism

via Belgium ignores discrimination against Muslims: OSCE | Europe

Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) official Adil Akhmetov has said the Belgium government failed to provide justice to Muslim families living in the country who were subject to discrimination and violence.

Ambassador Akhmetov, OSCE Personal Representative on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination against Muslims and a Senator in Kazakhstan Parliament, met with NGOs and Muslim families in his visit to the northern city of Antwerp.

Akhmetov listened to Done Arslan, whose son Mikail Tekin died four years ago in the Jamiouix Prison near the city of Charleroi after suffering violence at the hands of prison guards on the first day he was jailed.

According to prisoner witnesses, Tekin, handcuffed, was beaten and dragged on the ground by three guards with whom he had an altercation. Witnesses say Tekin was killed with a baton pressed upon his neck. The guards were acquitted on self-defense.

"How in the world could they have exercised self-defense against a tied prisoner; I just can’t believe it," Arslan said. "Thank God, the file has not been closed. We have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)."

The OSCE Representative told AA reporter that Belgium authorities was “negligent” in handing due punishment to the perpetrators of what he said should be categorized as “racism and hate crimes”.

They said that the horsemeat was processed at the end of the day, after the normal shift had finished and the plant had been cleaned, and that workers were tasked with cutting and mixing beef, some of it defrosted from consignments with labels as old as 2001, with horse deliveries. They had to cut out “green” putrid beef, which smelled so bad that they could keep working only by tying towels around their faces. They also described having to endure brutally tough working conditions and filthy, overcrowded accommodation.

Horsemeat company regularly mixed horse in with beef, say Polish workers | UK news | The Guardian

For those that have been following the food fraud and the scandalous chain of food production in Europe, this is a must read. Follow up of my timeline piece a few weeks ago.

Also from the article:

Kowalski and other workers described regular accidents at the factory in which employees were seriously injured by butchering knives. They alleged that a Dutch worker would treat injuries in the canteen but that the company made no effort to take employees to hospital when necessary, leaving this to their Polish colleagues.

And this because of course, it’s the immigrants’ fault that they are treated like dirt:

The landlord, Adrie van den Berg, a former pig farmer, said he thought there were 12 per house and blamed the Polish men themselves for not being clean, and for chain-smoking and drinking beer.

The Italian government has ordered an investigation into slurs on rightwing websites against the country’s first black minister, a case that has put Italy’s racial problems back under the spotlight.

Italy to investigate racist remarks against first black minister | World news | guardian.co.uk

You know, Europe, “the continent of human rights” and similar assorted empty rhetoric, once again showing its bare ass. More from the article:

Cecile Kyenge, an eye doctor and Congo-born Italian citizen, was named integration minister in the new government of Prime Minister Enrico Letta on Saturday. She is one of seven women in the government.

Since then, she has been the subject of taunts not only on neo-fascist websites but the butt of race-tinged remarks by a politician of the Northern League, which has been allied in the past with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Equal opportunities minister Josefa Idem ordered an investigation by the National Anti-Discrimination Office into websites that called Kyenge a “Congolese monkey”, “Zulu”, “the black anti-Italian”, and other slurs.

This isn’t just some internet thugs leaving the usual offensive racist remarks we’ve all seen pretty much everywhere. Northern League European parliamentarian Mario Borghezio made references to a “bonga bonga government” because of Kyenge’s heritage.

Primary schools are structurally refusing to accept children with an ethnic minority background because of fears they may drive down test scores, experts from multicultural institute Forum say in Friday’s Trouw.

DutchNews.nl - Primary schools reject minority pupils over test score fears: Trouw

More than once I’ve been told by Dutch people that “I must have made up” the concepts of institutional and institutionalized racism. They claim such a thing does not exist in The Netherlands (something to do with “everyone being equal under the law” yadda yadda, etc). This, I’m afraid, explains the ideas much better than I could with mere words of my own. 

Frontex signs cooperation with Azerbaijan; political dissidents better forget about rights

I suppose by now anyone who has read anything I write knows about the lethal history of the European Border control agency Frontex. Today, this announcement was made: Frontex, Azerbaijani border service sign working arrangement. From the press release:

The Working Arrangement’s chief components include the development of activities in the field of information exchange and risk analyses, training and research-and-development related to border management as well as the elaboration and coordination of joint operational measures and pilot projects on border control. Sharing of experience is also envisaged with a view to developing efficient border-control procedures, enhanced technical capabilities and exchange of best practices.

Now, here’s the context not included in this press release:

On the situation of Azeri women displaced from their homeland due to a two decade long conflict with Armenia, Mehrangiz Najafizadeh writes

Azeri women IDPs/refugees are the most vulnerable of all Azeri women. In this context of crowded living conditions, giving birth to children in uncertain settings, inadequate medical care and nutrition, and unemployment, women’s roles are precarious as Azeri women IDPs/refugees have had minimal control over their social and physical environment during these extended years of continuing uncertainty and “temporary” displacement that, in effect, have become a state of permanence. Azeri IDP/refugee women continue to experience a prolonged state of “temporary” displacement that now is approaching two decades in length. Throughout this period, their lives have been filled with uncertainty. When will the dispute with Armenia be resolved? When will they be allowed to return to their homelands in Nagorno-Karabakh?

Authorities Targeting Youth Activists

The Azerbaijani authorities have a record of pressing bogus charges, including for drug possession, to intimidate and silence investigative journalists.

Rights Lawyer Imprisoned 

An Azerbaijan court on February 27, 2013, sentenced Bakhtiyar Mammadov, a human rights lawyer to eight years in prison on the basis of a prosecution and conviction that appear politically motivated. […] Mammadov represented several residents who were forcibly evicted from their homes in the capital, Baku, which were demolished in early 2012 as the government was building a performance hall for the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. Mammadov’s clients had challenged the government compensation package, and Mammadov alleged corruption by a high-level official involved in the compensation funds.

Government Detains Outspoken Critics 

The arrest of two prominent government critics in Azerbaijan on broad charges of organizing mass disorder in Ismayilli raises concern they are facing political retribution. In January, mass protests in the town led to clashes with police. On February 4, 2013, Baku’s Nasimi District Court remanded the two men – Ilgar Mammadov, a political analyst and chair of the opposition group “REAL,” and Tofig Yagublu, deputy chair of the opposition political party Musavat and a journalist with opposition daily Yeni Musavat – to two months’ pretrial custody. A court also remanded Ismayilli residents Mirkazim Abdullayev and Elshen Ismayilli to two months’ pretrial custody on the same charges.

Now Frontex is not only cooperating but sharing strategies of border control with a government that has a long, recorded history of torturing and imprisoning anyone who expresses dissent. The only reason our border control agency is engaging this government as equal peers is to prevent these dissidents from even trying to reach the European Union to escape persecution. Better dead in their homeland than immigrating into Fortress Europe goes the twisted and cruel logic. On the one hand, the EU will continue to “export” this rhetoric of championing human rights, often utilizing them as an excuse for neo-colonial interventions; on the other, when it is convenient to curb immigration, they will sign shady cooperation agreements with States that are abusing these very same human rights the EU loves to tout as a “model” of “freedom and democracy”.  In the meantime, the safety of thousands is left between a local government that views disagreement as grounds for imprisonment and a European Union administration that sees certain human lives as disposable, especially if they intend to seek refuge from unbearable living conditions.

The issue, however, isn’t about “enjoying” horse meat or merely about being fed a type of meat without one’s knowledge. This is also about food sovereignty and our right to decide for ourselves and our families what we consume. This is, undisputedly, a feminist issue.

Tiger Beatdown › Horse meat, gender and food sovereignty

I wrote a summary of the food production scandal sweeping Europe and how it disproportionately affects women.