We all need asylum
Eurotunnel’s September announcement that they had appointed a former army general, Sir Roger Wheeler, to help keep out asylum seekers trying to reach Britain through the Channel Tunnel via the company’s French compound at Coquelles seemed most apt just days after Daily Mail headlines screaming about “The Chunnel under siege”, “The storming of the Chunnel” and “Invasion”.
No doubt such militaristic lingo will in future include further metaphors describing how Wheeler is deciding “tactics” for the best “attacks” and “defences” as he “spearheads” a “fight” against the “enemy” until eventual “victory”. This however is not mere warlike figure of speech without material substance, since with miles of razor-wire fencing, security patrols, guard dogs, searchlights and look out towers equipped with infra red and CCTV cameras, the Coquelles terminal resembles a World War 2 prisoner-of-war camp. Not one, though, with prisoners forcibly kept on the inside, but restrained from gaining entry.
But jailbirds is precisely what asylum seekers are—inmates of capitalism’s global choky, convicted of being “bogus” and “illegal” because of non-ownership of money-making assets, and so sentenced to life imprisonment of predominantly suffering, exclusion and exploitation. Not that us natives in “our” country have much more freedom, seeing how Britain’s means of production and distribution most definitely are not ours, leaving us banged up in the selfsame suppressive manipulative clink.
By not owning and controlling raw materials, power stations, factories, transport systems etc, the majority must work and live their lives according to the needs, and dictates to government puppets, of the minority who do. The “middle class” (forced to sell themselves, working class in reality) may imagine they’re better off than others on lower pay, though examining the real cost to their families and health from work pressures, employment insecurity, pollution, environmental destruction and the fundamental instability and competitive dangers of markets and money, reveals their “gains” to be illusory.
The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has sought to adopt a conciliatory approach, expressing a desire to see migrants able to obtain work permits to contribute to UK society. Yet if he paid heed to the state of the global economy, with a worldwide recession looking unavoidable, it’s clear that permits to work are idiotically pointless if businesses have sacked millions of employees because a whole heap of capitalist work has suddenly become unprofitable. So while many of those seeking to enter the UK might be well-qualified machine operators, engineers, builders, doctors etc (as they are), if the capitalist economy is going through yet another of its inevitable cyclical crises, there’ll be no employers or money to pay for these much-needed workers.
Such economic crises make migrants unwanted. They put politicians under maximum pressure to keep them out to minimise state expenditure, spending which reduces the nation’s profitability the bigger it gets, and is especially disliked when making profits is then as difficult as it gets. Increased racism and nationalism also become more likely as high unemployment and poverty produce considerable social suffering, provoking the pained to find and lash out at those they think responsible, and politicians in need of scapegoats, chauvinistic bigots and money-mad tabloids all eager to point some out.
Besides, is Blunkett unconcerned that offering work permits tends to result in cherry picking of the most employable and skilled workers from areas of conflict and deprivation? Because only they will have been most able to save up income, or successfully borrow the money necessary to pay for their travel arrangements, resulting in war-torn and poverty-stricken regions being left without people vital for their improvement and essential services.
The answer to people fleeing conflict, deprivation and brutal regimes is to remove the root causes of such nastiness—minority ownership and control of productive resources which generates rivalry for the upper hand, and restricts provision of, and access to, goods and services according to available profits and ability to pay. It is this exclusive possession and control of resources that also divides the world into separate competing countries and blocs, and the need for associated borders to prevent others from attempting to acquire these valuable assets by armed force, subversion or, in the case of migrants during economic downturns, “excess” demand (i.e., too many unemployed and unemployable people burdening state finances). And since these means of production responsible are possessed and run by ruling classes in all countries worldwide, worldwide socialism is the only solution.
Not only does global minority ownership and control of productive assets cause people to flee and seek better lives elsewhere, it also influences where such migrants try to reach. Politicians and media commentators have concentrated on irrelevant criticism of the Red Cross refugee centre in Calais, from which migrants set out to jump on UK-bound trains (amputated limbs and death occurring in the process), and on nauseating nit-picking about asylum seekers not staying in the “first safe country” they reach, accusing them of seeing Britain as a “soft touch”. Apart from the fact that no country is “safe” from capitalism, just as this economic system became global because that was beneficial to capital, so too has there been economic pressure for one global language to facilitate efficiency in the markets. And since America has been, and remains the dominant economic power—along with other significant economies also having English as their principal language—governments and astute parents in other countries with different native tongues have felt impelled to teach children to speak English in order to be able to compete.
Hence, migrants with even a smattering of English, and a desire to work for a bearable living standard or to pay off debts to people-traffickers, choose countries like Britain. Or Australia, where with a national election imminent, the sickening response of John Howard’s government was to pander to apparently widespread racist sentiment and send in armed troops to force a Norwegian freighter, the Tampa, to take its undesirable shipwrecked cargo of over 400 mainly Afghans away from cobber-filled Oz—a country ironically founded by boatloads of undesirables.
On 7 September, a High Court judge annoyed politicians and tabloids by ruling that detaining refugees at Oakington “Reception” Centre in Cambridgeshire for a week or so, while their asylum claims were being decided, amounted to illegal imprisonment under the Human Rights Act. Not that Mr Justice Collins merits praise, since he also stated it was still legal to detain anyone thought likely to abscond to avoid deportation. So, as usual, who and what’s legal or illegal remains dependent upon what’s acceptable or unacceptable to capitalism.
“Illegal” remains a class-based description that politicians, through their two-faced cant and deceit, will continue to attach to asylum seekers entering the UK for “economic reasons” rather than “genuinely fleeing persecution”. Yet just you try to take what you need from a shop without paying, because you’re skint. How long before the police drag you away, and a magistrate probably locks you away, each insisting that you, too, were “illegal”? And which British employees toiling for inadequate incomes in the longest working week in the EU aren’t forced to sell themselves for “economic reasons”, and have never considered such wage slavery to be “persecution” from which they’d also like to escape?
Those travelling long distances through fear or desperation are people no different to ourselves, since under capitalism, we are all asylum seekers. Only those owning substantial capital that generates enough money to pay for whatever needs they may have, without ever having to work, need not seek asylum from capitalism. Multimillionaires and billionaires, thanks to exploitation of the working class majority, able to fly first-class anywhere in the world at a whim are the real migrant “spongers” who need to be kicked out.