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Friday, 24 April 2015 07:21

Why Does Money Flow Freely Across Borders but Refugees Die Trying?

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

arefaThe plight of disposable displaced people extends worldwide, as this protest in Australia shows. (Photo: Takver)

Over the last couple of years, reports have flashed through the news cycles about hundreds of refugees drowning as they flee war and poverty, trying to reach Europe. This is a humanitarian crisis of immense proportions, yet it receives only periodic news coverage. Worse yet, the European Union is providing little more than lip service to prevent more refugees from dying; meet the needs of migrants; and address the postcolonial, neoliberal economic issues causing mass migration.

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The Economist, hardly a bastion of progressivism, chastised the European Union on its generally indifferent response to the plight and deaths of the refugees. Its April 24 editorial, published after more than a thousand migrants drowned in the previous two weeks, stated:

The European Union likes to boast that it is a force for good. But in the past ten days as many as 1,200 boat people have drowned in the waters of the Mediterranean. An unknown number were refugees from Syria, Eritrea and Somalia fleeing war or persecution. They perished in part because the EU’s policy on asylum is a moral and political failure.

In a hastily arranged summit, under way as The Economist went to press, EU leaders set out to do something about the drownings. Before them was a ten-point plan designed to enhance rescues, suppress people-smuggling and spread the burden of taking in refugees. Yet, even if Europe’s leaders embraced the plan in full, it would still fall short.

Why is money free to pass through borders in a millisecond-long electronic transaction, while people are forced to die trying? This is a common theme of the work of Henry Giroux, who writes frequently for Truthout.

Given the international trans-border access and preferential treatment that corporations and banks receive from mega-trade accords, why are people in dire need considered so disposable?

Mass displacement is the inevitable byproduct of neoliberalism and the continuing hegemony of the dominant economic powers. The nations that comprise the leadership of institutions such as The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are dominated by the former colonial powers and the United States. People displaced from their countries by wars and financial conditions - including the current armed conflict and economic chaos in Libya precipitated by a US and NATO-backed coup - are treated as "collateral damage" in the maintenance of corporate and bank-driven dominance.

Although The Economist, which is a champion of neoliberalism, might not agree with BuzzFlash about the role of "developed" nations in causing the problems that result in displacement, it does find common ground with us in indicting the EU's general neglect of the crisis. As The Economist concludes in its chastisement of the EU: "Europe likes to think it is a model for how nation states can work together to make the world a better place. At the moment, the boat people put that idea to shame."

What is happening in the eastern Mediterranean shares many common elements with the struggle of Central Americans and Mexicans fleeing conflict and economic hardships, many of which are caused by NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and CAFTA (Central America Free Trade Agreement). These migrants, too, face life-threatening barriers: Many are forced through the Sonoran Desert, for example, where hundreds have died of dehydration and other causes. 

The Boston Globe found that, "more than 6,000 immigrants have died crossing the southern border since 1998, according to federal records, and hundreds of them have never been identified."

In Europe and the US, migrants continue to be deemed disposable: Money is allowed unimpeded transit across borders, while people are forced to risk death to do the same.

Not to be reposted without permission of Truthout.