After a new refugee tragedy underlined the urgent need to challenge racist immigration laws, anti-racists are preparing to protest straight after the general election.
At least 44 people died in Africa’s Sahara desert last week, including children and babies. Survivors told the authorities in Niger that they had died of thirst trying to reach Europe.
The refugees, mostly from Nigeria and Ghana, were on their way to Libya. It follows the discovery of eight dead refugees—five of them children—on the way from Niger to Algeria last month.
It’s possible to more or less keep track of mass drownings on the Mediterranean Sea. The estimated death rate on the crossing has soared from 0.37 percent in 2015 to 1.2 percent in the first five months of last year and 2.3 percent in this year so far, new United Nations figures reveal.
But no one knows how many die on the desert crossing, which most sub-Saharan African refugees have to make before reaching the Mediterranean.
The massacre in Niger was only reported because six refugees survived to reach the town of Agadez and tell their tale. Elsewhere in the vast, barren Sahara they could have vanished without trace.
No one should have to risk their lives to the desert, the sea and the often ruthless trafficking gangs.
But European governments and the European Union (EU) do all they can to eliminate safe, legal routes—and these deaths are the inevitable consequences.
Britain’s Tories are at the forefront. David Cameron was among the key movers of an EU deal with Turkey to get refugees deported from Greece. Theresa May built a Donald Trump-style wall around the French port of Calais.
Her pledge to slash net migration to the tens of thousands will mean more draconian measures.
Britain takes part in EU and Nato operations to try and stop refugees leaving Libya. But many politicians want to extend the operations’ reach to Niger too.
The Italian government is leading the push. It has held talks with Niger’s interior minister and with tribal leaders in the country’s desert regions to explore the potential for border control.
This is all presented as—at least in part—a humanitarian mission. But the more repression refugees face, the more extreme risks they are forced to take—and the more die as a result.
Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) has called for a day of post election mobilisations on Saturday of next week with a central focus on immigration policy.
They aim to “celebrate and defend an anti-racist society”.
SUTR joint convenor Weyman Bennett told Socialist Worker, “We hope to be welcoming into government people who welcome refugees.
“And we have to resist anybody who tries after the election to pursue a course to stop EU nationals from coming here.”