The other day 1,000 migrants arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa in just one single day.
What is the Italian government doing? It is stopping them all and putting them into a detention centre, which was actually opened by the previous centre-left government. This detention centre was built for 90 people, but now it has 1,000 inmates.
The government did some Micky Mouse identification, and then people were put onto planes and sent to Libya. Most of the migrants weren’t even from Libya.
But in Libya they have built what I would call concentration camps for migrants.
This is against all immigrants’ rights and all international treaties. Libya has not signed up to any treaties like the Geneva Convention.
These migrants are not being treated as slaves or even as animals—they are being treated worse than that.
The left presented a motion to the European Parliament, which it lost by a few votes, to end the camps. It is very serious that the majority in the parliament voted to keep the camps open.
One of the reasons sanctions on Libya were lifted was so that Western governments could sell Libya weapons.
One of the conditions of getting the sanctions lifted was that Libya had to buy weapons from Italy. So now there is a huge profit-making exercise going on.
It is like going back to ancient history. The Roman Empire didn’t have enough legions themselves, so they armed people who supported them locally.
One of the conditions of Libya being allowed to buy weapons is that they repress these migrants.
As the ESF is meeting in London, there is a meeting of the G5 in Florence involving Britain, Italy, France, Spain and Germany.
The formal agreement made at this meeting will be about terrorism. But in reality the agreement will be to finance without delay, without even waiting for any decision by the EU, more concentration camps for migrants.
Opposing this should be one of the movement’s strongest campaigns.
HUNDREDS OF refugees and asylum seekers are at the ESF, their tickets and costs subsidised by trade unions and community organisations.
“We have no rights in the countries we come from, and then the government here denies us rights too,” Igor, a Ukranian asylum seeker who lives near Manchester, told Socialist Worker.
“We are at the forum because our allies are to be found here.”
Natasha from Ukraine says, “It seems the closer the European governments get, the higher the barriers at the borders become.”
Elane Heffernan is part of the network of refugee organisations that helped organise the presence of migrants at the forum.
She told Socialist Worker, “There are key issues we can begin to unite the unions and the movement around.”
Coming out of the ESF activists are hoping to win agreement around calling for:
* A campaign to grant immediate legal status for all workers without papers, and to abolish all restrictions on the social political and economic rights of migrant workers with papers.
* That no worker is illegal.
* Opposition to forced deportations and support for the free movement of workers.
* A call to all sections of the movement to make May Day 2005 a day of action against racism and for migrant workers’ rights.