By Isabel Ringrose
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2791

Refugees welcome here—protests across Europe

International protests battle Fortress Europe’s anti-refugee policies
Issue 2791
Activists in central London protest the borders and nationality bill.

Activists in central London protest the borders and nationality bill. (Guy Smallman)

Protests to remember refugees drowned, missing and trapped in camps while trying to reach Europe took place across the continent last Sunday. 

They were called by the Abolish Frontex group. Activists held actions in Germany, Spain, Italy, France, Morocco and Greece.

There were also events in Turkey, Togo and Malta where the message was clear—borders kill, and abolish Frontex. Frontex is the European Union’s (EU) deadly border and coast guard agency in charge of pushing migrants back from Europe’s borders.

Abolish Frontex said, “We make a double promise to not forget those who lost their lives and to fight against borders that killed them. We will continue to fight daily for the freedom of movement of all, demanding truth, justice and reparation for the victims of migration and their families.”

In 2015, after 700 people drowned in the Mediterranean, the EU promised measures to prevent future tragedies. But the reality was Frontex—set up to patrol “fortress Europe”. Frontex repeatedly fails to respond to emergency distress calls at sea, deliberately patrolling in the wrong areas and turning back boats. 

Meanwhile in Britain, Tory home secretary Priti Patel is continuing to make life a misery for refugees who make it this far. As of 11 February refugees evacuated under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy scheme won’t have free access to over the counter medication.

Some 8,000 refugees were evacuated from Afghanistan as part of the scheme to relocate people who worked for British forces. Faiz Mohammed Seddeqi, a former guard at the British embassy in Kabul, has been stuck in a London hotel for six months with his wife and son. After the news he said, “When we see this kind of reaction and decision from the Home Office, it means, ‘From now on, we don’t care about you, and we are not concerned about you’.”

There are currently 25,000 asylum seekers and 12,000 Afghan refugees stuck in hotels. The Afghan citizen’s resettlement scheme, which the Tories promised would re-home a tiny 20,000 refugees in five years, opened at the beginning of January.

Some 5,000 places were available this year. This has now been extended to accommodate 6,500 people—the majority of whom were brought to Britain during previous evacuations. In the spring a pathway will supposedly open for those in Afghanistan who are at risk. 

But with the Tories’ tight numbers it’s not clear how many people this will actually cover. With such limited access to “legal” routes, it’s no wonder the majority are forced to rely on smugglers to reach safety.

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