Category Archives: Migration/Migrants

Weaponised Refugees and Hybrid Attacks

Refugees and asylum seekers provide rich pickings for demagogues and political opportunists.  The Australian approach politicises their plight by arguing that they are illegitimate depending on the way they arrive, namely, by boat.  The twentieth anniversary of the MV Tampa’s attempt to dock at Christmas Island with over 400 such individuals inaugurated a particularly vicious regime.  Intercepted by Australia’s SAS forces in August 2001, it presented the Howard government with a stupendously cruel chance to garner votes.  And my, did that government garner them with gusto!

Various European countries have also adopted an approach akin to this: naval arrivals from the Middle East and Africa are to be contained, detained, and preferably processed in third countries through a range of agreements.  The common theme to all: firm border controls and deterrence.

Belarus has added another option to the armoury of refugee use and abuse.  The country, under Alexander Lukashenko, has hit upon a shoddy plan to harry countries sympathetic to his opponents and responsible for imposing sanctions upon his regime: swamp them.  First: entice refugees and migrants from a number of countries – Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria and Cameroon – to arrive on tourist visas.  Mobilise said people to move across the Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian borders.

Descriptions have been offered for the strategy.  Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis considered the acts on the part of Belarus as a “hybrid war operation” that threatened, he claimed with dramatic effect, “the entire European Union”.  In July, he told Deutsche Welle that the refugees concerned were being used as “human shields” and a type of “hybrid weapon”.   Lithuanian Deputy Interior Minister Arnoldas Abramavičius resented his country’s border guards “acting as a kind of hotel reception for the migrants for a long time. That had to stop.”

Member states have been sharing experiences on how best to deal with the surge in these Lukashenko arrivals.  In a meeting between Landsbergis and his Greek counterpart Nikos Dendias in June, much solidarity was felt in discussing how to combat a common threat.  Human rights proved to be less important than territorial integrity and European defence.  As the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry stated, both ministers “underscored the importance of European solidarity and the need to pay attention to the processes in the EU neighbourhood, as well as to be ready to respond to dangerous threats emerging from the EU’s neighbourhood.”

Guards along the Lithuanian border had, up till August, intercepted approximately 4,100 refugees and asylum seekers this year alone.  Last year, that number was a mere 81.  The numbers prompted the Baltic state to declare a state of emergency in July.  The resources of Frontex, that less than transparent body otherwise known as the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, deployed personnel with haste that same month to aid policing the border with Lithuania and Latvia.

According to Frontex, the initial support would involve “border surveillance and other border management functions.  The operation will start with the deployment of 10 officers with patrol cars, and their numbers will be gradually increased.”

The agency’s executive director Fabrice Leggeri was brimming with praise for the organisation’s military-styled prowess, suggesting aid in the face of threatening barbarians at the frontier of Europe.  “The quick deployment in support of Lithuania and Latvia highlights the value of the Frontex standing troops, which allows the Agency to quickly react to unexpected challenges, bringing European solidarity to support Member States at the external borders.”

Humanitarianism is the last thing on Leggeri’s mind as he speaks about the role of “additional border guards and patrol guards by Frontex” as they “work side-by-side with their Latvian and Lithuanian colleagues” to “protect our external borders” in common cause.

Earlier this month Poland joined Lithuania with alarmist fervour, declaring a state of emergency.  It served the purpose of needlessly militarising the situation even as it appealed to the inner jingo.  Tellingly, it is the first such order since the country’s communist era, proscribing mass gatherings and limiting people’s movements within a 3 km strip of land along the frontier for 30 days.  Marta Anna Kurzyniec, resident of the Polish border town of Krynki, described an atmosphere that was “generally violent”.  There were “uniformed, armed servicemen everywhere … it reminds me of war.”

To the use of troops can be added such inhospitable barriers as the construction of a 508 km razor-wire fence by the Lithuanian authorities.  Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte considered it an essential part of her country’s strategy of repelling unwanted arrivals. “The physical barrier is vital to repel this hybrid attack, which the Belarus regime is undertaking against Lithuania.”

Political figures such as Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Lithuania’s Landsbergis have also encouraged disseminating stern messages of disapproval to those trying to enter their countries.  “We need to inform the people that they are being lied to,” huffed Landsbergis.  “They are being promised an easy passage to Europe, a very free life in Europe.  This is not going to happen.”  Morawiecki, despite claiming some sympathy for “the migrants who have been in an extremely difficult situation” felt that “it should be clearly stated that they are a political instrument.”

The situation has also seen the European Court of Human Rights make a much needed appearance in its request that both Poland and Latvia “provide all the applicants with food, water, clothing, adequate medical care and, if possible, temporary shelter.”  The Court, however, wanted it known “that this measure should not be understood as requiring that Poland or Latvia let the applicants enter their territories.”

The Polish government, for its part, insists that their hearts have not hardened, dabbling in its own bit of dissembling for the press.  As a spokeswoman for the interior ministry claimed, “These people are on the Belarusian side of the border.”

The manipulation of such human traffic created its fair share of bestial realities ignoring the fundamentals of the UN Refugee Convention and an assortment of international instruments, including the Geneva Convention.  This is particularly so regarding a number of Afghan refugees who find themselves stuck at Usnarz Gorny, 55 km east of Bialystok.  “They’re the victims of the political game between countries,” came the accurate assessment from Amnesty International Poland’s Aleksandra Fertlinska.  “But what is the most important is that it doesn’t matter what is the source of this political game.  They are refugees, and they are protected by [the] Geneva Convention what we need to do is accept them.”

One Iraqi refugee by the name of Slemen, finding himself in the drenched environs of Rūdninki, some 38 kilometres from the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, offers his own relevant observation.  “Just because we came through Belarus doesn’t make us bad people,” he explained to Der Spiegel. But bad he, and his fellow travellers, are being made out to be by states who overlook the compassion of processing claims in favour of an instinctive politics stressing deluge and threat rather than salvation and hope.

The post Weaponised Refugees and Hybrid Attacks first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Progress or War: On Islamophobia and Europe’s Demographic Shifts

Europe’s identity crisis is not confined to the ceaseless squabbles by Europeans over the EU, Brexit or football. It goes much deeper, reaching sensitive and dangerous territory, including that of culture and religion. Once more, Muslims stand at the heart of the continent’s identity debate.

Of course, anti-Muslim sentiments are rarely framed to appear anti-Muslim. While Europe’s right-wing parties remain committed to the ridiculous notion that Muslims, immigrants and refugees pose a threat to Europe’s overall security and unique secular identities, the left is not entirely immune from such chauvinistic notions.

The right’s political discourse is familiar and is often condemned for its repugnantly ultra-nationalistic, if not outright racist, tone and rhetoric. The left, on the other hand, is a different story. The European left, notably in countries like France and Belgium, frame their ‘problem’ with Islam as fundamental to their supposed dedication to the secular values of the State.

“A problem arises when, in the name of religion, some want to separate themselves from the Republic and therefore not respect its laws,” Macron said during a speech in October 2020.

Leftist politicians and intellectuals were just as eager as the right to prevent Ihsane Haouach, a Belgian government representative, from serving as a commissioner at the Institute for the Equality of Women and Men (IEFH). Again, both sides joined forces, although without an official declaration of unity, to ensure Haouach had no place in the country’s democratic process.

It was a repeat of a similar scenario in France last May when Sara Zemmahi was removed from the ruling party’s candidates list for seemingly violating France’s valeurs de la République – the values of the Republic.

These are but mere examples, and are hardly restricted to French-speaking countries. There are many such disquieting events pointing to a deep-seated problem that remains unresolved. In Britain, Rakhia Ismail, who was celebrated as the country’s first hijab-wearing mayor in May 2019, resigned from her post less than a year and a half later, citing racism and marginalization.

While the Belgian, French, and British media elaborated on these stories as if unique to each specific country, in truth, they are all related. Indeed, they are all the outcome of an overriding phenomenon of anti-Muslim prejudice, coupled with a wave of racism that has plagued Europe for many years, especially in the last decade.

Though Europe’s official institutions, mainstream media, sports clubs and so on, continue to pay lip service to the need for diversity and inclusion, the reality on the ground is entirely different. A recent example was the horrific outcome of England’s defeat in the EURO2020 final against Italy. Gangs of white English, mostly males, attacked people of color, especially black people, whether on the street or online. The extent of cyber-bullying, in particular, targeting dark-skinned athletes is almost unprecedented in the country’s recent history.

Various British officials, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, condemned the widespread racism. Interestingly, many of these officials have said or done very little to combat anti-Muslim hate and violence in the past, which often targeted Muslim women for their head or face covering.

Strikingly, Johnson, purportedly now leading the anti-racist charge, was one of the most disparaging officials who spoke demeaningly of Muslim women in the past. “Muslim women wearing burka look like letter boxes,” he said, according to the BBC.

Of course, Islamophobia must be seen within the larger context of the toxic anti-refugee and anti-immigrant sentiments, now defining factors in shaping modern European politics. It is this hate and racism that served as the fuel for rising political parties like Le Front National in France, Vlaams Belang in Belgium, The Freedom Party in Austria and the Lega in Italy. In fact, there is a whole intellectual discourse, complete with brand new theories that are used to channel yet more hate, violence and racism against immigrants.

And where is the left in all of this? With a few exceptions, much of the left is still trapped in its own intellectual hubris, adding yet more fuel to the fire while veiling their criticism of Islam as if genuine concern for secularism.

Oddly, in Europe, as in much of the West, crosses and Stars of David as necklaces, or the Catholic nuns’ head covering, velo delle suore, let alone the kippahs, the religious tattoos and many other such symbols are all part of Europe’s everyday culture. Why do we never hear of such controversy of a Jewish man being tossed out of a public building because of his kippah or a white French woman being expelled from university for wearing a cross? The matter has less to do with religious symbols, in general, than of the religious symbols of races and peoples who are simply unwanted in Europe.

Also, limiting the discussion to refugees and immigrants may give the impression that the debate is mostly concerned with the non-European ‘others’ who are ‘invading’ Europe’s shores, determined to ‘replace’ Europe’s original, white, Christian inhabitants. This is hardly the case, since a sizable percentage of Belgians and French, for example, are themselves Muslims, estimated at 6 percent and 5% respectively. Namely, these Muslims are European citizens.

Haouach, Zemmahi and Ismail actually wanted to be a part of – not break apart from – these societies by honoring their country’s most cherished political traditions, yet without erasing their own cultural heritage and religious identities in the process. Alas, they were all vehemently rejected, as if Europe has made a collective decision to ensure that Muslims subsist in the margins forever. And when Muslim communities try to fight back, using Europe’s own judicial systems as their supposed saviors, they are, once again, rejected. The latest of such spurns was in June, when Belgium’s constitutional court resolved that prohibiting the wearing of hijab does not constitute a violation of freedom of religion or the right to education.

It is time for European countries to understand that their demographics are fundamentally changing, and that such change can, in fact, be beneficial to the health of these nations. Without true diversity and meaningful inclusion, there can be no real progress in any society, anywhere.

But while demographic shifts can offer an opportunity for growth, it can also inspire fear, racism and, predictably, violence as well.

Europe, which has fought two horrendous wars in the last century, should know better.

The post Progress or War: On Islamophobia and Europe’s Demographic Shifts first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Let’s Win a Minimum Wage and Permanency for All GIG Workers


On February 2, a group of delivery drivers took a brave step. They waged the first strike in Australia’s history by gig workers. The workers opposed cuts to their pay rates by the company that they toil for, British-based Hungry Panda. Hungry Panda, while having no operations in China itself, specialises in providing food delivery to expatriate Chinese communities. It is largely owned by Western investment firms like Swedish corporation Kinnevik and Britain’s Felix Capital. Hungry Panda responded to the daring strike by removing two strike leaders, Jun Yang and Xiangqian Li, from the platform dispensing gigs to drivers. But the workers stood firm. They organised with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and held rallies and stopworks. And six weeks later, they made history again. They achieved the first ever victory by gig economy workers in Australia. The two sacked workers won their jobs back and Hungry Panda reversed the pay cuts, increased pay in certain areas and agreed to provide accident insurance to drivers.

In terms of improvement in conditions, the victory is modest. Like other gig workers, Hungry Panda workers continue to be terribly exploited. Many have to work long hours to make ends meet. For delivery riders, the resulting exhaustion can literally kill them. Last year, five such riders were killed on the job in Australia. However, the victory at Hungry Panda has enormous significance. It shows that even gig workers – who by definition have no job security because their income depends not on set hours but on being granted individual gigs by their bosses – can win gains through collective action. Let’s seize on this trailblazing struggle to organise other gig workers into our unions and fight for a drastic improvement in their pay and conditions. Let’s not only wage struggles against individual business owners but combine that with a fight for laws to improve the conditions of all gig and casual workers. To do this we need to bring the power of stronger sections of the union movement behind the fight for the rights of these most vulnerable workers. Let’s demand:

  • The granting of a decent, guaranteed minimum weekly wage to all currently gig and casual workers even if they are granted less hours in any week than that which would enable them to currently receive such wages.
  • The immediate granting of permanency to all gig and casual workers – including the granting of all the rights of permanency like sick pay, annual leave and accident insurance.

Migrant Workers from the Chinese Workers State Spearhead Struggle

The backbone of the Hungry Panda struggle was made up of drivers from the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) who had come here as visa workers or students. This includes the two strike leaders who were initially sacked. This is not the first time that migrant workers from the PRC have energised the workers movement in the countries that they have worked in. In November 2012, 180 bus drivers from China waged Singapore’s first strike in 27 years! Their strike not only flouted Singapore’s harsh anti- strike laws but was done in defiance of Singapore’s union leaders who treacherously condemned the strike. Five of the Chinese strike leaders ended up being jailed by the Singapore regime and 29 other strikers were deported. The struggle did, however, win some improvements to the housing conditions of the drivers. In repressive, capitalist Singapore, the daring strike by the Chinese guest workers had the effect of a political earthquake.

So why do migrant workers from China, even when toiling under precarious employment arrangements, often have a great propensity to wage struggles? The reason is that in 1949, China had a massive revolution that brought workers to power. To be sure, the workers state created by that revolution is bureaucratically deformed and is today being white anted from within by a capitalist class that China’s compromising leaders allowed to emerge over the last four decades. However, unlike in Australia, India or the U.S., where it is the tycoons that governments answer to, in China billionaires are often cut down to size. Indeed, China’s tycoons are terrified when rich lists are released because that can result in a popular upsurge against them on social media that can culminate in the PRC state imprisoning them. Just two weeks ago, the PRC forced one of the two main companies controlled by China’s most well-known capitalist, Jack Ma, to restructure in a way that will cripple its profitability. Indeed, ever since the PRC squashed a lucrative share sale of that company last November, the normally high-profile Ma, fearing arrest, has gone into seclusion. Could you imagine that happening to Gina Rinehart or one of the Murdoch dynasty here!

As a result of these anti-capitalist crackdowns in China, while wages are lower, in keeping with the country still pulling herself out of her pre-revolution poverty, working conditions are better than in Australia. This is especially true in the PRC’s socialistic public sector that dominates the key parts of her economy. As a huge sprawling country, there are some private companies, especially those owned by Western or Taiwanese capitalists, which can quietly get away with abusing workers rights. However, ever since the PRC instituted a pro-worker law in 2008, workers rights have considerably improved. Article 4 of that law gives unions effective veto power over any modification to wages or conditions at a workplace. More significantly, when Chinese workers strike, PRC authorities often – though not always – support the workers not only in their court rulings but by tacitly allowing workers to picket and, sometimes, even take the bosses hostage with impunity. The result of all this is that Chinese workers have a sense of entitlement – a sense that comes from being a member of China’s ruling class. So, when they go as temporary workers abroad, they bring that workers don’t have to put up with crap spirit with them. The Australian workers movement, which has been on the back foot for decades, sure does need this kind of “communist Chinese interference”! Moreover, as the contribution by Chinese workers at Hungry Panda has shown, the existence of a workers state in China is good for the workers movement here. On the other hand, if the capitalist powers succeed in their campaign to destroy the PRC workers state and, thus, turn China into a massive sweatshop for capitalist exploitation this would drive down the conditions of workers the world over. Thus, we must stand with socialistic China against the capitalist powers’ Cold War drive. Rebuff the lying, anti-communist propaganda campaign over Xinjiang, Hong Kong and the pandemic! Oppose the U.S. and Australian capitalist regimes’ military build up against socialistic China!

Demand the Rights of Citizenship for All Workers Residing Here

As well as being from China, Hungry Panda workers are often also temporary residents from South Asian countries. Their powerful struggle has blown to pieces the nationalist notion that visa workers are simply people who “take Australian jobs” rather than a valued part of a potentially fighting workers movement. Nevertheless, that guest workers and international students can be deported so easily and have no access to social security is a huge deterrent to these workers engaging in struggle. Even as pro- ALP union leaders and their ALP parliamentary mates have been quick to use the Hungry Panda workers victory to strengthen their own reputations with workers, much of the pro-ALP union leadership isolates visa workers still further by calling to “keep out guest workers”. Fortunately, a small number of unions are now rejecting this divisive approach that weakens the ability of workers to unite and fight. We say that the workers movement must fight for the granting of all the rights of citizenship to every worker, refugee and student who is here. Let’s unleash the full fighting potential of migrant workers seen so powerfully in the Hungry Panda struggle.

There is something else holding back struggle by migrant workers and that is the incessant racism that they are copping. Such attacks intimidate these workers and make them feel that they don’t belong here and, thus, would be demonised further should they rock the boat. The entire workers movement must come to their defence. We cannot stop individual attacks as they take place at random and are committed by a large number of disparate racists. However, when organised white supremacist groups hold a public provocation, the workers movement should unite with Aboriginal people, all people of colour and all anti-racists to sweep the racist scum off our streets. By dealing severe blows to the most organised racists we can scare the more numerous, garden-variety rednecks into pulling their heads in. Right now, people of Asian background are especially being hit with racist attacks which are getting worse by the day. To stop this we need to oppose the main factor currently encouraging anti-Asian hate attacks – the Cold War drive against socialistic China. Yet, the current ALP leadership of the workers movement is at one with the right-wing Morrison government in its Cold War – and increasing push towards hot war – drive against socialistic China. The ALP does so for the same reason that they promote divisive slogans against guest workers. The ALP accepts the overall domination of the capitalist class and is only seeking to improve workers position within that framework. That necessarily means that instead of fighting to strongly challenge capitalist interests they are left with trying to improve the position of local workers at the expense of their migrant and international worker counterparts. We need to decisively turn the workers movement away from this divisive and failed “strategy.” We need a workers movement that understands that we cannot defend workers interests if we try to gain the acceptance of the big end of town – a movement that understands that workers interests only come by uniting workers of all races and nationalities in militant struggle against their common enemy, the capitalist exploiters.

Let’s Use the Inspirational Struggle by Hungry Panda Workers to Build a Working Class Fightback

The struggle by Hungry Panda workers is not only crucial for gig and casual workers. By showing that even the most vulnerable workers can win through collective action, they provide inspiration to all sections of the union movement. And right now our workers movement sure is in need of inspiration! The bosses have used the pandemic to attack working conditions, retrench workers and make those still working toil yet harder for the same pay. Let’s unleash powerful industrial action to smash attacks on workers’ wages and conditions! Fight for a minimum weekly wage and permanency for all currently gig and casual workers! Win secure jobs for all by forcing capitalists to increase hiring at the expense of their profits! Build the unity we need to wage a class struggle fightback – smash racist attacks and demand the rights of citizenship for everyone who is here! Defend the PRC workers state that gave the Hungry Panda guest workers their “sense of entitlement” that enabled Australia’s first ever successful industrial struggle by gig workers!

  • Image credit: The Australian
  • The post Let’s Win a Minimum Wage and Permanency for All GIG Workers first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Priti Patel and the Death of Asylum

    Nothing makes better sense to the political classes than small time demagoguery when matters turn sour. True, the United Kingdom might well be speeding ahead with vaccination numbers, and getting ever big-headed about it, but there is still good reason to distract the voters.  Coronavirus continues to vex; the economy continues to suffer. In February, the Office of Statistics revealed that Britain’s economy had shrunk by 9.9%.  The last time such a contraction was experienced was in 1709, when a contraction of 13% was suffered as a result of the Great Frost which lasted for three devastating months.

    With Brexit Britain feeling alone, it is time to resort to mauling targets made traditional during the 2016 campaign to exit the European Union: the asylum seeker, the refugee and anyone assisting in that enterprise.  And the person best suited to doing so is the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, who outlined the government’s New Plan for Immigration on March 24th.  It has three objectives with one overarching punitive theme “to better protect and support those in genuine need of asylum.”  The authenticity of that need will be aided by deterring “illegal entry into the UK, thereby breaking the business model of criminal trafficking networks and protecting the lives of those they endanger”.  Those with “no right to be” in the UK will also be more easily “removed”.

    It is in the nature of such policies to conceal the punitive element by extolling virtues.  “The UK accepted more refugees through planned resettlement schemes than any other country in Europe in the period 2015-2019 – the fourth highest resettlement schemes globally after the USA, Canada and Australia,” reads the policy statement. “The UK also welcomed 29,000 people through the refugee family reunion scheme between 2015 and 2019. More than half of these were children.”

    This self-praise ignores the inconvenient fact that the UK received fewer applications for asylum than European states such as France and Germany in 2020.  According to the UNHCR, both countries received four times the number in 2020.  “The number of arrivals in the UK in 2020,” remarks academic Helen O’Nions, “was actually down 18% on the previous year.”

    It does not take long, however, to identify and inflate the threats: people crossing the English channel in their “small boats reached record levels, with 8,500 … arriving this way” in 2020.  Sinister imputations are made: 87% of those arriving in small boats were male.  In 2019, 32,000 illegal attempts were made to enter the UK, but foiled in Northern France while 16,000 illegal arrivals were detected in the UK.

    The Home Office laments the rapid increase of asylum claims; decisions cannot be made “quickly”; “case loads are growing to unsustainable levels”.  Never mind the UN Refugee Convention and human rights: what matters is bureaucratic efficiency.  To achieve that, Patel hopes to “stop illegal arrivals gaining immediate entry into the asylum system if they have travelled through a safe country – like France.”  Any arrivals doing so could not be said to be “seeking refuge from imminent peril”.  Stiffer sentences are also suggested for those aiding asylum.  “Access to the UK’s asylum system should be based on need, not on the ability to pay people smugglers.”

    Much of what the Home Office makes of this is nonsense.  It entails a fantasy about a model cut, idealised asylum seeker: those with state documents from the persecuting state, clearly of the identifiable sort, all morally sound.  The murkier reality necessitates deception as an indispensable part of the process.  To not have documents makes travel impossible.  Alternative routes and means are therefore required.

    The threat to relocate and refuse those seeking asylum would also breach the UK’s own Human Rights Act of 1998, obligating the state to prevent people from being returned to places where they are at the risk of torture, inhuman, degrading treatment or cruel and unusual punishment.  That principle is also a cardinal feature of the Refugee Convention.

    The view from those who actually have more than a passing acquaintance with the field is vastly different from Patel’s.  Politely, some 454 immigration scholars in the UK have told the Home Secretary in an open letter that she does not know what she is talking about.  The New Plan, for instance, may have 31 references, but “there is just one reference to research evidence, a research paper on refugee integration.”  The undersigned scholars suggest that Patel look more deeply, as the plans being proposed “not only circumvent international human rights law, but are also based on claims which are completely unfounded in any body of research evidence.”

    The scholars also note that asylum seekers and refugees lack safe and legal routes, with countries across Europe, North American and Australasia going “to huge efforts and massive expense in recent decades to close down access to the right to asylum.”

    The markings of the New Plan resemble, all too closely, the Australian approach of discrimination which has become an exemplar of how to undermine the right to asylum: an obsession with targeting those people smuggling “gangs” and associated business rackets, merely code for targeting those fleeing persecution; distinguishing the method of arrival in order to demonise the plight of the asylum seeker; the decision that, irrespective of the claims of asylum, no sanctuary would ever be given to certain individuals because they chose to jump a phantom queue and not know their place.

    The open letter also notes the “distinct and troubling echoes” of “the Australian Temporary Protection Visa programme and the vilification of people with no option but to travel through irregular means to flee persecution and seek sanctuary.”

    Another unsavoury aspect of the British turn in refugee policy towards the antipodean example can be gathered by the possible use of offshore detention centres.  Canberra relies on the liberal use of concentration camps on remote sites in the Pacific, centres of calculated cruelty that serve to destroy the will of those whose governments have already done much to encourage their flight.  The official justification is one of killing asylum seekers with kindness: We saved you from almost certain drowning at sea, only to seal you within the confines of legal purgatory.  In the New Plan, one senses a touch of envy for it.

    In October last year, it was revealed that the UK Prime Minister’s office was considering the detention of asylum seekers in places as varied as Moldova, Morocco and Papua New Guinea.  According to documents obtained by The Guardian, the Foreign Office had been charged with a task by Downing Street to “offer advice on possible options for negotiating an offshore asylum processing facility similar to the Australian model in Papua New Guinea and Nauru”.  Patel herself had flirted with the idea of establishing centres at Ascension and St. Helena, though she has had to content herself with ill-suited military barracks on the mainland that facilitated the spread of COVID-19.

    Alison Mountz, in The Death of Asylum, makes much of this transformation of the island from a point of transit to that of hostile containment.  From field research conducted in Italy’s Lampedusa Island, Australia’s Christmas Island and the US territories of Guam and Saipan, Mountz argues that “the strategic use of islands to detain people in search of protection – to thwart human mobility through confinement – is part of the death of asylum.”  Officials such as Patel are happy to help matters along.

    The post Priti Patel and the Death of Asylum first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    How many is too many?

    The United States of America is victim of its own propaganda. Since being founded, the USA has always depicted itself as a beacon of democracy and liberty, a land of opportunity and hope where a person can accomplish rags to riches through hard work and initiative. For many the American Dream is viewed as a reality and can we be surprised that the Statue of Liberty’s inscription is taken literally:

    Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

    The impoverished peoples in countries south of the United States suffering deprivations unimaginable to the majority of Americans have sought escape from failed nation-states crime ridden societies and the encroaching effects of climate change to achieve a better life for themselves and their children.

    However, rather than a welcome, they meet with a wall, not just the physical one Trump tried to build but a wall of indifference and outright rejection. Political commentators declare that America can no longer afford to accept any more newcomers, no matter how ‘deserving’ or contrary to international treaties it has signed up to. The present pandemic is even being used as justification to turn away the needy and the vulnerable. The change of president has brought a superficial change of policy at the southern border but it has not departed from being one of deterrence, albeit Biden’s approach is ‘softer’ than Trump’s draconian hard attitude. Biden remains attached to the belief that the solution is better management to slow down and reverse the flow of peoples wishing to make the USA their new home. He still does not treat the migration of hundreds of thousands of Central Americans as a genuine humanitarian crisis where the proper response would be to facilitate and expedite the reception of these desperate people. America has dealt with mass migrations in the past such as the Dustbowl and the Black exodus from the Southern states, not to mention the influx of European migrants arriving at Ellis Island. The United States is now far better placed to allocate the necessary resources.

    A common argument made by the likes of Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity, but even by some on the liberal left, is that the United States is full, that it is already an over-crowded country and no longer able to take any extra people. Such claims are providing ‘intellectual’ succor to the mass-murderer, Patrick Crusius, who targeted Hispanics and killed 23 at El Paso in Texas.

    But just how many is too many?

    Using 2019 figures and the present migrant bottleneck US state of Texas as an example

    There is approximately 7,268,730,000 people on the planet. The land-mass of Texas is 268,820 square miles (7,494,271,488,000 square feet). If we divide 7,494,271,488,000 square feet by 7,268,730,000 people, we get 1031 square feet per person. This is enough space for everyone on earth to live in a town-house while altogether fitting on a landmass the size of Texas. And we’re not even accounting for the average four-person family who would most likely share a home.

    Of course, there are large tracts of Texas uninhabitable and we have not included the necessary space for the resources to support such a population. This is just to give an idea of how it isn’t actual space that is lacking but to show that America is not running out of room any time soon.

    Again, we can compare actual density of the United States by taking the example of New York City which is far and away the most populous city in the U.S., home to an estimated 8.5 million people in 2016. More people live in this one city than in the entire states of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico, Vermont, and the District of Columbia combined. For sure, New York City is rather crammed, but it is certainly not an uncomfortable place to live in terms of space as many New Yorkers would affirm. Besides, many cities in other countries are far more densely populated.

    New York City consists of five boroughs spanning five counties, the most densely populated of which is New York County. This county, which consists principally of the island of Manhattan, is far and away the most densely populated county in the U.S., housing 72,000 people per square mile. At that population density, the entire population of the United States could reside in the tiny State of Connecticut. Brooklyn has slightly less than half the population density of Manhattan. The top four most densely populated counties in America are all in New York City.

    If all Americans lived at the same population density as the average population density of all five of New York City’s boroughs (approximately 28,000 people per square mile), we’d all fit comfortably in the combined area of Delaware and Maryland.

    Or we can take the 10 million plus residents who call Los Angeles County home. If you are familiar with Los Angeles County, you know that life at this level of urbanization is not too uncomfortable nor unbearable, providing ample parks and open spaces. At a similar population density of Los Angeles County, the entire U.S. population could fit inside the state of New Mexico.

    Again in reality we would still need to figure in access to adequate water resources and would need much more land area to account for agricultural purposes, public services, transportation and, of course, sustainability and conservation. But, this is merely another thought experiment to demonstrate that if America has enough room to fit its entire population comfortably into an area the size of New Mexico, the US has enough space for far many more people from outside its borders unlike what the anti-immigration lobby assert.

    If truth is to be said, the USA’s fertility rate is falling below the replacement rate for the existing population and only because of immigration has an actual population decline been avoided and a future demographic problem averted. Rather than US politicians reacting with sanctions to turn away arrivals, for the health and wealth of the nation, they should be welcoming many more newcomers.

    Numbers don’t matter, the type of system matters. It is not overpopulation that is the problem but the chronic underproduction that is a built in feature of capitalism.

    The ‘overpopulation problem’ is really a misuse of resources problem. Capitalism, as a system of rationing via the market, is justified in people’s minds by a belief in scarcity. ‘There isn’t enough to go round’, so we must be restricted in what we are allowed to consume. It has become a cliché to speak of, ’this overcrowded country.’

    We should not give the impression that everything is easy, that a massive expansion of available resources is a simple matter. For one thing, there may be environmental implications. But a socialist society is the best-equipped to handle these implications and to strike a balance. Not only is capitalism in effect a system of artificial scarcity, it is also a system of organised waste. Socialist society will use the resources of the Earth to ensure that every man, woman and child is amply fed, clothed and sheltered. Capitalism cannot do this — it does not exist for this purpose.

    The post How many is too many? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    No, no si se puede, hombres: That’s how the cookie crumbles!

    Someone said, “If you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything.”

    Oh, the idiocy of America!!

    Shit-dog, this country, now, and going back when I was in my teens (13 when my family moved us from Paris, France, to Arizona – of all places), well, lying, cheating, achy-breaky heart, don’t you know, thieving, scamming, and, well, bombing (military and economic), that’s what it is, but you won’t get that from those lying cheating bullshitting PR-spinning, pass-the-hat, money-loving politicians on both sides of the manure pile.

    Literally, most Americans really believe this is, at its core, a great country. Honest. Pretty darned exceptional. God-granted. Great White Hopey Dopey.

    The lies, in school, and the lies, in families, and the lies, within the culture – every single flyover of the blue angels (sic) and the parachute drop of the golden knights, more ramification of the emptiness of the country.

    A view of the Elysian Park Heights area filled with houses, and a road through the middle and another on the hillside on the right.

    I remember learning about Chavez Ravine, in the Los Angeles area, where amazing Mexicans and Mexican-Americans set up a community – homes, churches, schools, and community center. That started in 1910, and the reason Mexicans ended up creating a self-sufficient neighborhood of up to 1,800 families was because of the racism declared by and emanating from those great lords of capital – restrictive housing covenants they called them. In Oregon, where I live now, they just got rid of Sundown Laws, another way to say, “If you are caught being black after sundown, well, anything goes . . . . bring in the nooses (not clowns).” Alas, the planners in LA sold them out, the politicians screwed them and the Dodgers professional sports stinkers, from New York, to LA, ripped them off in a really screwed typical North American manner.

    More than 3,000 people living in three communities, in a rural setting, they eventually got tossed and evicted, a la LA County Sheriff Department ghouls, again, evidence of the pigs or coppers or whatever you want to call the thugs of oligarchy.

    Stealing Home: Los Angeles, the Dodgers, and the Lives Caught in Between tells the story of how a cluster of longstanding Mexican-American neighborhoods in Los Angeles was destroyed through the exercise of newly expansive state powers. The author, sportswriter Eric Nusbaum, demonstrates the caprice with which municipal leaders used that power, shifting their priorities rapidly from a project aimed at expanding the city’s housing stock to one aimed at assuring its big-league status. Nusbaum employs the well-known story of Dodger Stadium’s origins to craft a compelling social, political, and cultural history of postwar Los Angeles. The result is a cautionary tale about the dangers of eminent domain, and of municipal authorities’ power to reshape communities in the name of grand civic enterprises.  Source. More information here.

    Now, this was a high school English class, in Tucson. The 15-year-old Paul was already steeled against robber barons, against the military, against the capitalists, against the entire project of death by a thousand pollutants. I was introduced to Silent Spring, too, at age 13. I learned about what happened to Rachel Carson. Hell, even Cousteau gave me a sense of the oceans and humanity’s razing and dazzling exploitation,  and more of that.

    You know, the winners write the history. Eminent domain for the greater good. All that taxpayer money and all that land and all of the other graft associated with “professional sports,” well, the high school class wasn’t so much divided, as it was me and a couple of other students decrying this system of theft and eviction.

    I hated the University of Arizona basketball teams and football teams because the coaches and staff and all the money thrown into that it was a shining example of conservative thievery, and then all those “liberal” college profs loving the NCAA Sweet Sixteen and all of that. Overpaid thugs in the sports business, while part-time faculty live in their minivans, going from campus to campus. Fuck America (and it is the same in all the white countries, Canada, Australia, and in Korea, Mexico, all over) — real teachers not only do not get paid squat, but they get killed.

    Oh, that racism! Who was here before the whites ended up in California?

    Might makes right. That’s how the progress cookie crumbles. These idiotas have a thousand little homilies to the criminality of USA and Capitalism!

    Go Team. Give me a “C.” Give me an “R.” An “I” . . . “M'” . . . “I” . . . “N” … “A” … “L”!!!!!! Oh yeah, -ality . . .  CRIMINALITY! C for Capitalism/Criminality!

    Even after living in Europe and UK, with a mother from Canada, grandparents from Germany, my namesake, Paul Haeder, a WWI pilot for the Keiser, and the others a Scotsman and Scotswoman forced to live in Canada a la Salvation (starvation) Army … after all the pro-union discussions when my Scots grandfather ended up working in a paper-pulp mill in B.C., a union job … after years of learning the history of my Irish roots, too … the bombing of relatives in Dresden, well, I had a real sense of how capitalism was a whore’s game of extreme exploitation.

    One of my relatives showed me the wee book, “War is  Racket.”

    All it takes is one example to drive a person to understand the systemic criminality of this country tis of thee, and the absurdity of what, calling Turtle Island, “America,” after another thief of time from Florence, Amerigo Vespucci.

    “Who was here before the sick boys and girls from Europe came in pillaging, prostituting, pimping and polluting the land with their ministers of money, military and religions?” Deeper questions for a 15 year old.

    In that class, in Tucson, in a school, called Canyon del Oro, with our mascot called, The Dorados. This is valuable underpinning for a radically progressive and leftist human’s progenerating. Sure, the mascot looked like a Conquistador, in that weird way of making us on the football team and wrestling squad look like ancient warriors, in a school named for a desert canyon with no gold – on this very land, usurping everything about the very fruit of the races and tribes that were, or course, here, way before the DNA mutants, called Europeans, slogged over to the so-called New World, the New Eden.

    That was 1973, decades before the ugly racists fought to ban classes in the school system in Tucson that gave a history of Mexicans and Chicanos in this part of the world.

    On Tuesday, May 11, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed into law HB 2281, which “prohibits a school district or charter school from including courses or classes that either promote the overthrow of the United States government or promote resentment toward a race or class of people.”. The classes now banned are the ‘La Raza studies’ courses—also called Chicano studies or Mexican American studies—that have become popular in Arizona public schools.

    I interviewed one of the faculty who helped set up this engaging set of courses, Mexican-American Studies, in the Tucson Unified School District. Sure, a federal judge deemed the governor’s and legislature’s HB2281 racist, years later, but what needs to be emphasized – those students who took all the other core courses as well as the Mexican-American Studies classes were motivated to learn more, motivated to break some cycles of poverty, and not drop out before graduation.

    Dodger_Stadium-Downtown_L.A.jpg

    We are talking about students defending the Mexican-American studies program who were then attending the University of Arizona.

    So, 1973, a punk wrestler/football player/scuba diving freak already got the memo of how racist the entire system is, from the Democrat-voting freaks in high office, to the GOP, Great Oppressors Party. And my own classmates telling the teacher that Chavez Ravine just shows how backwards “those people were, and how smart Walter O’Malley was to get the Dodgers there and to win championships.”

    To the victors go the spoils. Foreclosures, illegal evictions, dark clad figures in the night with torches, an army of lawyers out to scrape every cent from the poor working class. Ahh, America, what would that Florentine say, uh?

    The white lords of capital, the winners, and, unfortunately these white kids mostly were the losers, for the most part, of that white lords’ game of wealth and power accumulation.

    Ironically, when I was a faculty union organizer (part-time college instructors) with SEIU-925 in Seattle, my supervisor’s old man had just written a book on Chavez Ravine.

    Michael Laslett was my boss’s name (SEIU-925), and his old man, John, had a book coming out soon, from the U press at my old stomping grounds, University of Arizona (Press) –

    Many historians have contributed to our understanding of Chavez Ravine, the forcible evictions that took place there, and the impact that these evictions had on the Mexican American community that once lived there. Some of these historians, like John H.M Laslett, focus their research on how the Red Scare impacted the Los Angeles City Council’s decision to not go through with the public housing that was promised to the residents of Chavez Ravine. In his book, Shameful Victory: The Los Angeles Dodgers, the Red Scare, and the Hidden History of Chavez Ravine, Laslett provides an analysis of what life was like for Chavez Ravine residents before the evictions, and as they were resisting the evictions. One of Laslett’s main arguments is that of the anti-communist sentiment that was sweeping the nation and rearing its head into Los Angeles City Council politics. He describes a correlation between the growth of anti-communist sentiment and the opposition of public housing, ultimately resulting in the 1953 decision to cancel the public housing, and instead use Chavez Ravine land for “public purpose.”

    Chavez Ravine: A Story of Mexican American Female Resistance in Mid- 20th Century Los Angeles

    Chavez Ravine eviction

    Ahh, the same old same old, 2020, and the forced evictions. The Gestapo sheriff deputies playing turnkey for the dirty management companies, the banks, the mortgage holders. And where oh where are those women, those Cesar Chavez types during this lockdown? Please, dear reader, there is good reason why they, the paymasters of this country, call it a lockdown.

    That is the process of locking out people, locking up the food, locking away the profits, getting a lock on all the benefits of a war profiteer’s wet dream. Imagine, any company making profits hand over fist, during this time of Covid Reset.

    Zero talk about a tax on profits during 2020. No talk of reappropriating the profits made on locked down and locked out and lock and unloaded Americans. Job after million jobs after ten million jobs, ended. Restaurant after store after coffee shop after even biggish chain, closed.

    Talk about neutered and spayed Americans. This bye-bye to 2020 will usher in the decade of continuing criminal enterprises, on a huge scale, and usher in more meaningless cult of celebrities, more meaningless business story after business story on this or that next or ex Titan of business.

    Zoom and Amazon and a thousand other companies making money hands over fists, while USA citizens en mass are starving, soon to be starving, and, then, the heroic vaccinators, now, with this or that experimental RNA vaccine, and oh how the year 2022 is now on the lips of the profiteers. By 2022 the LMIC’s might get some version of the arm stab. Low and Middle Income Countries, they are acronymized.

    The predictions are there – all businesses that are deemed mom and pop, they are on the chopping block. All workers will have the Scarlet Letters, VV, on a passport or little tattoos, but not VV for Valued Victory, not VV for Victorious Vendetta, but VV for Vaccinated Victim.

    Victims of criminal profiteers, criminal millionaires in Congress and the Senate, and the destroyers of all safety nets and public services – the unqualified, deceitful, deliriously dumb anointed assholes of all those government agencies.

    Yeah, no need for FEMA, no need for OSHA, no need for veterinarians and ag inspectors and fish biologists and climate experts and transportation wonks and housing authorities and the like to be honest, there for, by and because of the people. Hell, how many education secretaries from either side of the political manure pile deemed teachers as commies or ingrates or spoiled? I lived under many of them since 1979 when I began teaching.

    We don’t need robust research on the thousands of new chemicals (read, poisons and toxins) coming out of the war profiteer sectors. No need for oceanographers and wetlands experts in the employ of the public. No need for seismologists, hard rock geologists, holistic medicine wonks, and all the other people who should be protecting us as individuals, communities, collectives, states, regions and the country as a whole.

    We are all – the 80 Percent of us – future Chavez Raviners. We are now the Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. We all are illegal aliens.

    Map0026_medium

    Leading me to think how shallow Americans are now, and how flagrantly philandering the media are. There is no So-Called Liberal Media, and many a conservative has admitted they call NPR and PBS liberal just to get headlines, to get their goat. No one believes NPR and PBS are liberal outlets. Neoliberal, sure, but neoliberal ain’t progressive. Does anyone reading Dissident Voice really need a primer on how bad NPR and MSM have been, way before Si Se Puede Obama?

    The omnipresence of the ads hour after hour has irritated many NPR listeners around the country. By way of comparison, a major commercial station in Hartford – WTIC – clocked 18 advertisements in that 8am hourly slot – albeit they were longer than the NPR ones.

    They invite guests on air who ideologically oppose public broadcasting—that’s fine, but then they minimize the appearances by leading progressives.

    It seems that NPR and PBS, often by their omissions and slants, bend over backward in order not to offend right-wing lobbies and corporations. They invite guests on air who ideologically oppose public broadcasting – that’s fine, but then they minimize the appearances by leading progressives.

    Occasionally, I speak with the NPR and PBS Ombudsmen. The purpose of the ombudsman is to maintain proper standards and ethics as well as to consider audience complaints. A while back, an NPR Ombudsman volunteered to me that NPR was giving far more time to representatives of conservative evangelical groups than to representatives of liberal religious organizations.

    Charlie Rose on PBS had many more CEOs on his program than civic leaders. — “The Realized Temptations of NPR and PBS” – Ralph Nader

    Allow me to circle around to the germ of this screed — Mike “Rooster” McConaughey. He went off on his soap box last week (he has more than $200 million listed, but there is always more and more offshore, as the Fiddler on the Roof might sing). Again, this is America – giving this putz airtime. Big bad McConaughey, working as a 12-year-old in his old man’s oil field ventures in Texas.

    He went off on that vapid line of how there are two bad same sides of the same coin – the extreme right and the extreme left. This libertarian Hollywood puke, again, he gets on TV, British TV, too. It’s all nonsense, and yet, he takes himself seriously, and the world listens to this nincompoop.

    He said we need “the liberal and conservative side” to be present in our society but that “the extreme left and the extreme right completely illegitimize the other side.” McConaughey explains that “the two extremes illegitimize those two sides or they exaggerate that side’s stance into an irrational state.”

    The division in America will not be fixed without “confrontation.” McConaughey said, “you’ve got to have confrontation to have unity.” He said, “I would argue we don’t have true confrontation right now, confrontation that gives some validation and legitimizes that opposing point of view. We don’t give legitimacy or validation to an opposing point of view, we make it persona non grata, and that’s unconstitutional.” — Source.

    These are the rich people, speaking for the, well, both sides their mouths? False balancing, manufactured lies, and to say the extreme right is the same extreme as the socialists, and that’s what these multimillionaire entertainers see the left as. Liberal to him is neoliberal, and conservative to him, well, in his cannabis haze, is, who, Dwight Eisenhauer?

    Cancel culture is not socialist, communist or anarchist. Yet, the billowing bag of wind, he represents much of Holly-Dirt, much of the vaunted class, the millionaire and investor class. As they produce endless crap, movies, the same old “character actor” who is the same old “dude or gal” in yet another film.

    These people hang with each other, and I just saw Mel Gibson and Sean Penn have a new movie Nuts Flicks!. Oh, two sides of the same coin.

    These are charlatans, and their lives are meaningless to that working class or underclass human being.

    Mister Mike knows nothing of the real cancel culture, knows nothing of the real world, no matter how many days he worked in the oil fields with his old man.

    That’s how the idiotic cookie crumbles in the USA – vultures of capital, the same investing gurus, these folk who have money thrown at them, in an industry (sic) that is around to propagandize the exceptionalism of this global terrorist country, and then oh they wax poetic, nostalgic and crocodile tear eyed about this bloody country built on the backs of slaves and over the bones of Original Peoples.

    I think just skimming suck goofball Bing News or Yahoo News, something, that’s what got my ire, and there are another million Michael McConaughey’s out there or John Malkovich’s to fill a septic field from Portland to Peoria.

    Long live the memory of Robert Fisk, and this is, again, another nutshell of the nutty Americans in Holly-Dirt, or Politics, or Business, or Tech, you name it:

    There was always, in the past, a limit to this hatred. Letters would be signed with the writer’s address. Or if not, they would be so-ill-written as to be illegible. Not any more. In 26 years in the Middle East, I have never read so many vile and intimidating messages addressed to me. Many now demand my death. And last week, the Hollywood actor John Malkovich did just that, telling the Cambridge Union that he would like to shoot me.

    How, I ask myself, did it come to this? Slowly but surely, the hate has turned to incitement, the incitement into death threats, the walls of propriety and legality gradually pulled down so that a reporter can be abused, his family defamed, his beating at the hands of an angry crowd greeted with laughter and insults in the pages of an American newspaper, his life cheapened and made vulnerable by an actor who – without even saying why – says he wants to kill me. — Robert Fisk

    The post No, no si se puede, hombres: That’s how the cookie crumbles! first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Democratic Party Fascism: 2020 Edition

    Now that Joe Biden will be America’s next president, it might be worthwhile to take a closer look at some of the choices for his cabinet, White House staff, and national security positions. There are some real crazies here, as we shall see. As we dig deeper and deeper, what emerges is a network of people whose views can quite literally be defined as fascist. This is not to deny that in many ways Trump and his administration were worse than many of these officials profiled below. What is noteworthy is that Biden’s team of imperialists is potentially more competent at wielding power and using the machinery of empire; or the national security state as it’s sometimes called, to further the genocidal and ecocidal agendas of US foreign policy, by advocating for more disastrous “interventions” abroad.

    Again, to reiterate, I am in no way arguing that Republicans are the better choice. In fact, the Democrat foreign policy agenda is slightly better, but that is not saying much. The point is that both parties are two sides of the same coin in support of capitalism and empire, and that Democrats harbor many of the same fascist ideas as their Republican colleagues; they are simply better at hiding it and are more subtle about their intentions. The point of this essay is to expose that Democrats are also culpable in advancing neo-fascist ideology and there are many more similarities than differences between the parties. It’s slightly painful to have to point this all out, but the abysmal political discourse and low level of critical thinking, the polarization of politics, and the reactivity of those who think about politics as binary choices between good and evil leads to the inevitable “you’re criticizing x; you must be a supporter of y”. Just because this essay focuses on Democrats does not mean the same problems don’t also apply to Republicans.

    Starting with the president-elect, Biden claims to have learned from his past “mistakes”. The mistakes are many — being against school integration in the seventies, sponsoring the 1994 crime bill, leading Democrats to favor going to war in Iraq in 2003, and the continuation of the global war on terror (even if the name was changed) during the Obama presidency. Biden is a war criminal and a depraved person — so if it were possible for him to change, he would not allow for the appointment of the nefarious individuals profiled below. But he’s not going to change, and his underlings in power aren’t either.

    Spinning through the revolving door of public bureaucracy and corporate executive and board member positions in the private sphere, the individuals profiled below define one of the core features of fascism: the fusion of public and private life in the service of nationalist and imperialist conquest. In no particular order, here are some of the most fascistic and egregiously awful ideas and life choices from a few of Biden’s appointments.

    Anthony Blinken

    Anthony Blinken is Biden’s pick for Secretary of State. He has worked in various foreign policy positions in the Obama administration. From the beginning, he supported the war in Libya and the genocidal US-backed Saudi Arabian war against Yemen. So he is a very typical bureaucratic, hawkish, liberal interventionist apparatchik. He’s just another boring psycho who probably sleeps like a baby while people are sold into slavery in Libya and kids die of starvation and cholera in Yemen every day due to policies he devised and continues to advocate for.

    What makes him interesting are his connections, and many are documented in an article in The Prospect titled “How Biden’s Foreign Policy Team Got Rich”, as well as a Politico piece entitled “The secretive consulting firm that’s become Biden’s Cabinet in waiting”, both of which I rely heavily on here. Along with Michele Flournoy (who was floated as Biden’s Defense Department pick before Lloyd Austin was chosen, both of whom we’ll get to) Blinken worked for a consultancy firm called WestExec Advisors. One of Blinken and Flournoy’s paymasters was one John Thain, a former Merrill Lynch executive, who like Trump, once had a golden toilet and conned his company out of millions.

    Like most consulting firms getting fat and rich off helping military contractors, their “work” involves helping large corporations secure contracts by flashing their credentials and contacts, navigating tricky international trade laws and using legal loopholes to secure contracts for clients, leveraging diplomatic intricacies to work with unsavory/unstable/dictatorial foreign powers, as well as using cloak and dagger skills honed as US diplomats to secure backroom deals for multinationals and foreign governments. Sitting at the intersection of banking, military defense, advanced technology, and international relations, these consultants exercise a whole lot of power and influence that the ruling classes cannot do overtly — so they use lowly, greedy, corrupt diplomats like Blinken and Flournoy who function basically as lobbyists and middle-men for the military industrial complex; doing the dirty work of greasing trading partners and dealing with corrupt foreign leaders and the comprador class abroad.

    Now, as The Prospect points out, Flournoy’s private sector consulting firm was tied almost exclusively towards defense contracts. Another WestExec employee, one Robert Work, is a former Marine officer who sits on the board of Raytheon. Yet another employee of WestExec is Avril Haines (profiled below), who worked in the CIA under Gina Haspel and approves of CIA torture and assassination programs. Flournoy also worked on the board of Booz Allen Hamilton, who, by the way, consults directly for the Saudi government in military, engineering, and logistics as it massacres civilians in Yemen. As business partners, Blinken and Flournoy are joined at the hip: they both approve and preside over the most pernicious and destructive aspects of the imperial directives within the national security state.

    Neera Tanden

    Neera Tanden is Biden’s pick for director of Office of Management and Budget. In 2011, following the US and NATO bombing of Libya, an internal email from Tanden to her think tank Center for American Progress was leaked to The Intercept. Here is what Tanden wrote:

    We have a giant deficit, they have a lot of oil. Most Americans would choose not to engage in the world because of that deficit. If we want to continue to engage in the world, gestures like having oil rich countries partially pay us back doesn’t seem crazy to me.

    This is exactly how fascists talk. This is exactly what Donald Trump said about seizing Syrian oil fields for US control and profiteering. Just like Trump, Tanden is infamous for being a notorious Twitter addict and a toxic online personality. She’s also been accused of punching a journalist.

    Of course, what she’s advocated for, the stealing of another nation’s natural resources, is a gross violation of international law, and it’s not exactly a secret that she wrote this. So why is there no outrage from Democrats? Are they that narrow-minded that they’re unaware, or simply don’t care, or believe that Tanden can learn from her “mistakes”, or what? Probably a combination of all of the above, yet it doesn’t matter, as the Democrats just like Republicans, cannot be bothered to be held responsible for the horrible things they say and do. The leadership of both parties believes that they are the elect; great beings that while fallible ultimately are destined to rule regardless of the stupidity or destructiveness of their whims. Apparently nothing disqualifies them.

    Ezekiel Emanuel

    Mr. Emanuel has been picked to be a part of Biden’s Covid-19 task force. He is the brother of the one and only Rahm Emanuel, a real piece of work in his own right (who was Obama’s chief of staff, and Chicago’s former mayor). Ezekiel is a medical doctor, and chair of Medical Ethics (this is relevant) at University of Pennsylvania.

    He managed to write a piece in The Atlantic in 2014: “Why I Hope to Die at 75“. He lists quite a few reasons, such as the declining quality of life for seniors. Then, he shows his true colors, because he explains that one of the major factors in his view is how seniors are no longer contributing to society, and therefore create strains on health care, the economy, etc. He writes that “but the fact is that by 75, creativity, originality, and productivity are pretty much gone for the vast, vast majority of us”. Oh, really now? He continues: “The deadline [of dying at 75] also forces each of us to ask whether our consumption is worth our contribution.”

    Hang on, there’s more. In a 2019 interview with MIT Technology Review, Emmanuel doubles down and says that:

    When I look at what [the elderly] do, almost all of it is what I classify as play. It’s not meaningful work. They’re riding motorcycles; they’re hiking. Which can all have value—don’t get me wrong. But if it’s the main thing in your life? Ummm, that’s not probably a meaningful life.

    Yes, you are reading this right. Our elders who’ve worked their asses off their entire lives for corporations and a government that does not give one single fuck about them should not be entitled to enjoy their retirement because they “play” too much. They are no longer contributing in a manner considered productive or meaningful to this super-genius doctor and bioethicist, therefore, he questions their right to exist, because they are useless consumers in his view.

    So, just to be clear here, this is straight up fascist and eugenicist rhetoric. The elderly (and by extension the disabled) are not worthy of life because they no longer work. As he repeatedly implies in both articles, the elderly are a drain on societies’ precious resources. The best he can muster not to sound like a complete ass is he acknowledges the communal ties and “mentorship” the elderly provide, yet even when he tries to seem empathetic it comes off as phony and cold. Elder’s aren’t just mentors teaching us how to contribute more and be more “productive”, they are role models who impart wisdom on how to live a decent life. How about instead we honor, cherish, and look up to our elders not only because they have lessons to teach us, but because they are human beings and worthy of dignity and respect regardless of how “productive” they are. How about we acknowledge that seniors have much more to teach us than can be quantified in a research paper, Dr. Emanuel? How about we realize that seniors are one of the only groups left in our narcissistic society that truly embody the humility, gratitude, and reverence for life that we all claim to want to emulate?

    Lloyd Austin

    Lloyd Austin is a retired 4-star general who once headed Central Command (CENTCOM) in the US military. Now, he serves on the board of Raytheon, one of the largest defense companies in the world which self-reinforces the belief that our modern war machine is necessary to “create jobs” and “stimulate the economy”, and which sells billions in weapons to various dictatorial regimes around the globe.

    Once again, notice the revolving door phenomenon. You acquisition a crap-ton of weapons as a general, use them to kill and maim a whole lot of innocent people on the other side of the world, and you are rewarded after leaving “public service” with a “job” where you show up to a meeting every six months for a hefty salary and a golden parachute of stock options.

    This is modern day fascism. There are no more gas chambers, but there are slave-labor private prisons, concentration camps for undocumented immigrants, multiple wars raging abroad, and trillions of dollars flowing into defense, intelligence, and security agencies which only make things more dangerous and insecure for the vast majority of the world’s population, even in the West. The only difference is the media is much better at propaganda today, with much greater capabilities to convince people to rationalize and compartmentalize the immense devastation of today’s lone imperial and colonial superpower, the USA.

    Avril Haines

    Haines has been nominated for the position of Director of National Intelligence (DNI). In this role she would oversee the alphabet soup of intelligence agencies, most notably, of course, the CIA and NSA. She previously worked her way up through the State Department before becoming the Deputy Director of the CIA in the Obama administration. Obviously only a very dangerous and deluded person would take on such a role anyways, and what’s notable is she supported Gina Haspel as CIA director, who was an architect of the CIA’s torture program. She also worked directly with Obama and John Brennan in the extra-judicial assassination drone bombing program.

    As noted above, Haines worked for WestExec Advisors as a consultant. It’s also been reported that one of her clients was Palantir. Palantir, for those who don’t know, is owned by libertarian billionaire and Trump supporter Peter Thiel, and most of their work is tied in with military and intelligence contracts. Palantir was started with CIA money, as the New York Times and others have reported. It’s been reported widely that one of Palantir’s clients is, in fact, the Department of Homeland Security and ICE, which has used its secretive computer surveillance programs to hunt down, arrest, and deport undocumented immigrants. Thiel is also connected to AI facial recognition software start-ups, and Palantir software can also be used by domestic police forces to spy on potential suspects and “criminals”.

    So, yet again the Democratic “good guy/gal” spooks like Haines have been caught red-handed working for the same fascistic authoritarians that fund Trump, that lock up innocent Latinos who come to the US in search of a better life, and that brutally murder civilians on the other side of the globe while they get rich off military contracts, in which they set the policies for in the public sector, and then consult for in the private sphere. Is this not as depraved as anything we’ve heard in the past four years about Trump and his administration? Again, where is the outrage? This is such a blatant double-standard, and the lack of any real serious reporting on these issues once again blows out of the water any notion of a “fair and balanced” political stance in the media.

    Jake Sullivan

    Sullivan has been tapped as Biden’s National Security Advisor. Much like Blinken, he is a liberal-interventionist-imperialist, boring law-nerd psycho who worked in the State Department under Clinton and shifted to Biden’s advisor under Obama after Clinton left State.

    There is not much to go on with Sullivan. He is a model liberal elitist national security state technocrat, a faceless drone, a cipher. In case one thought that, since he worked under Obama, he would have some sense of restraint or at least “respectable” liberal decorum, his wife, as it turns out, used to advise John McCain and Joe Lieberman, two of the most bellicose US senators of the past few decades. According to liberal and conservative logic, you’d think that would make for some awkward dinner conversations. But these are not people with any real convictions or beliefs. They are hollow, empty vessels, nihilists in a sense. This guy is an archetypal centrist bureaucrat.

    Biden referred to Sullivan as having a “once in a generation intellect”. Coming from such a mediocre mind, that’s really not saying much, but what it means in empire-speak is that this dude actually possesses levers of power and influence to play multiple sides of government in order to smooth over differences in service of America’s imperial ambitions.

    In Conclusion

    For the love of all that is holy, don’t get it twisted and think that these people were somehow chosen for their positions in spite of these “mistakes”. The paper trail shows a blood-drenched path where they are willing to plan and commit whatever war crimes it takes for their self-aggrandizement, personal enrichment, and to better serve their oligarchic masters. Further, they are actually competent at what they do, which is piloting the death machine that we call the US Empire. These are not good people on the sidelines or the fringes of developing US domestic and foreign policy. These are the architects of a modern-day neo-fascism cloaked in the guise of “liberal democracy”.

    Rather, each of these individuals have been selected precisely because they espouse such dangerous and deadly views, are willing to advocate for them without any ability to critically examine their actions or what the consequences will be. They are all well trained at leveraging their connections within the military industrial complex to serve the ruling classes and their capitalist, colonialist, and fascist agendas.

    The post Democratic Party Fascism: 2020 Edition first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    Biden Urged to Adopt a Good Neighbor Policy Toward Latin America

    Election season is a difficult time to develop good policies towards Latin America, since both Democrats and Republicans cater to the small, but organized, conservative factions of the Latinx community in Florida, vying for their votes. But if Biden wins the White House, there is a chance to reverse the Trump administration policies that have been devastating for Latin America, policies that punish innocent civilians through harsh economic sanctions, destabilize the region through coups and attempts at regime change, and close our borders to desperate people fleeing north in search of safety and opportunity, often as a result of U.S. security and economic policies.

    The Trump administration openly calls its Latin America and Caribbean policy the “Monroe Doctrine 2.0.” The Monroe Doctrine — asserting U.S. geopolitical control over the region — served as a pretext for over 100 years of military invasions, support for military dictatorships, the training and financing of security forces involved in mass human rights violations and economic blackmail, among other horrors.

    President Franklin D. Roosevelt distanced himself from this doctrine, outlining a new vision for relations in the hemisphere. His “Good Neighbor” policy temporarily ended the gunboat diplomacy that characterized U.S. foreign policy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although the policy had its flaws, such as FDR’s support for the Somoza dictatorship in Nicaragua, his administration’s failures were often the result of not adhering to the Good Neighbor principle of non-interference.

    That is why over 100 organizations that work on issues related to Latin America and the Caribbean sent a letter calling for the next administration to adopt a new Good Neighbor Policy toward the region based on non-intervention, cooperation and mutual respect. Among the organizations calling for a new approach are Alianza Americas, Amazon Watch, the Americas Program, Center for International Policy, CODEPINK, Demand Progress, Global Exchange, the Latin America Working Group and Oxfam America.

    The letter to the presidential candidates warns that in January 2021, the U.S. president will face a hemisphere that will not only still be reeling from the coronavirus but will also be experiencing a deep economic recession, and that the best to help is not by seeking to impose its will, but rather by adopting a broad set of reforms to reframe relations with our neighbors to the south.

    First among the reforms is lifting the brutal economic sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua that are causing widespread human suffering, especially during a pandemic. These sanctions have not fulfilled their objective of regime change; the past 20 years of U.S. wars in the Middle East has taught us that U.S.-imposed regime change brings nothing but death and chaos.

    Another reform is to put a stop to the hundreds of millions of dollars of police and military equipment and training that the U.S. provides Latin American and Caribbean countries each year. In many cases, such as Honduras and Colombia, U.S. funding and training have supported troops involved in corruption and egregious human rights abuses, including numerous extrajudicial killings and attacks targeting local activists and journalists. Much of this militarized “aid” is transferred in the name of the decades-long war on drugs, which has only fueled a vicious cycle of violence. The letter asserts that the “war on drugs” is a counterproductive way to deal with a US public health issue that is best addressed through decriminalization and equitable legal regulation. It also calls for scaling down US “security assistance” and arms sales, as well as the removal of US military and law enforcement personnel from the region.

    The letter points out that although the U.S. public has been rightly condemning any sort of foreign interference in our own country’s elections, the U.S. government has a history of flagrant interference in the elections of our neighbors, including training political groups it favors and funding efforts to marginalize the political forces it opposes. In Venezuela, the Trump administration has gone to the extreme of anointing a legislator, Juan Guaidó, as the unelected “president” of Venezuela and putting a multi-million dollar bounty on the head of the UN-recognized president, Nicolas Maduro. The letter denounces such blatant interference and calls on the U.S. to respect the sovereignty of other nations.

    The endorsing organizations also denounce U.S. intervention in domestic economic policymaking, which occurs in large part through its enormous influence within multilateral financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Inter-American Bank. In order to obtain credit lines from these institutions, governments typically have to agree to austerity measures and other policies that lead to the downsizing of welfare states and a weakening of workers’ bargaining power. Moreover, as Latin American economies are reeling from the pandemic, the U.S. must cease demanding the implementation of neoliberal models and instead support public health, education and other basic needs.

    Regarding human rights, the letter notes the U.S. has a role in advocating for them across the hemisphere. However, it warns against the instrumentalization of human rights for political gain, since too often human rights violations in the U.S. or in allied countries are ignored, while violations in countries considered adversaries are magnified. It says the U.S. should focus — both at home and abroad — on the rights of historically excluded communities, including indigenous and Afro-descendant communities, LGBTQ+ individuals, women, and migrants and refugees. It urges the United States to speak out when human rights defenders, including environmental and land rights activists and labor organizers, are in danger—a situation all too frequent in Latin America and the Caribbean today. It also calls on the U.S. to help depoliticize and strengthen existing multilateral institutions that defend human rights.

    With respect to immigration, the letter insists that the next administration must undo the brutal harms of the Trump administration, but also reject the status quo of the Obama administration, which deported more people than any administration ever before and built the infrastructure for the Trump administration to carry out violent anti-immigrant policies. The next administration must hear the demands for immigrant justice, including a moratorium on all deportations; an end to mass prosecutions of individuals who cross the border; the re-establishment of asylum procedures at the border; an immediate path to citizenship for the Dreamers and for Temporary Protected Status holders; defunding the border wall; an end to the “zero-tolerance” (family separation) policy and other policies that prioritize migration-related prosecutions; and an end to private immigration detention.

    As the region — and the world — anxiously awaits the outcome of the U.S. presidential elections, groups in the U.S. are gearing up for the possibility of a Biden win, and the need to push a new administration to make a positive contribution to the well-being of people throughout the hemisphere.

    The post Biden Urged to Adopt a Good Neighbor Policy Toward Latin America first appeared on Dissident Voice.

    A Labor and Immigration Policy that Empowers all Workers

    Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, and Part VIII.

    Workers are the bedrock of every nation on earth. Even autocratic and fascist societies and those that repress workers depend upon them nevertheless. The nature of work may change with technology, and the dichotomy between worker and management may blur, especially in societies where the workers hold greater power, but the fundamental fact is that workers are the ones that make every society function.

    In fact, societies where workers have powerful unions and are an important political force tend to be the ones rated as the most desirable places to live. These are societies where the benefit of labor and natural resources is shared equitably by all. Marxist-Leninist systems like China and Cuba are ostensibly worker-run, but worker power is arguably greater in the Nordic countries, which have socialist parties and practices but no official socialist system.

    It does not matter whether we call a system socialist or not. What matters is that power is not concentrated among a minority of the population, and is instead distributed widely. That is the basis of this Manifesto, which is concerned with practical means of achieving a society that is run by the people and for the people. Labor unions and other workers organizations and political parties have shown that they have a very important role to play in the transition from a society controlled by the few to one controlled by the many.

    But in order to do this, workers must be empowered in ways that are lacking at present in the U.S. Labor unions have in fact been losing ground for decades, and many undocumented workers are still not included, despite the efforts of Cesar Chavez and others. In addition, many workers are in newer, non-unionized forms of work. Exploitation of workers is currently becoming more widespread rather than less so, and this is due to both a reduction in union membership and a weakening of the power of unions. Obviously, marginalized members of society, including many Blacks, Native Americans, Hispanics and women are among the most heavily exploited.

    Some of the previous installments of this Manifesto included provisions that may help. When, for example, all persons have a Universal Basic Income, there is less pressure on workers to find work just to pay the bills. In addition, Medicare for All eliminates the need to become part of an employer-bssed medical plan. Nevertheless, workers need well-known additional safeguards and resources, including the following:

    1. A minimum wage must be established, with cost-of-living increases, that equates to a monthly full-time income that is at or above the poverty level, not including overtime. As I stated in the initial installment of the Manifesto, this may become superfluous with a Universal Basic Income, since a UBI will obviate wage exploitation and require employers to offer a wage that raises their income significantly above the minimum. Nevertheless, such a minimum assures that workers are not exploited, and must be applied to visiting foreign workers, as well, so that they are not at a disadvantage and that they are on a level playing field with U.S. citizen workers.
    2. Unions must be permitted and encouraged to organize groups of workers not currently organized, including many considered “independent contractors” that are competing with other unionized workers. Also included are some that perform work on their computer or telephone at a location of their choosing, but who are part of a larger class of workers who perform the same or similar function.
    3. OSHA must be given greater resources to inspect and levy meaningful and effective fines and penalties against violators, and its inspectors must be vetted by both industry and labor oversight bodies.
    4. We must ban or place import tariffs on products produced with heavy pollution or unsafe workplace practices or worker exploitation so that U.S. workers are not subject to unfair competition and that unfair practices are not simply exported. Similarly, we must legislate and enable oversight by an independent agency or a labor union to verify that foreign workers’ rights are protected and therefore eligible for importation to the US, or reduced tariffs. In addition, U.S. investment must be limited to countries that mandate and protect labor’s right to organize, create unions and negotiate with management, and U.S. corporations that operate in other countries must to adhere to the core labor standards established by the International Labor Organization (ILO) Declaration of the Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

    The laws governing immigration have been too long used to exploit workers who wish to come from other countries to work in the US. The dirty secret is that making it illegal for them to enter is used to exploit and take advantage of them. Many would prefer not to live in the US long term, but fear that if they go to their home countries they might not easily return to the U.S. As with Blacks, Native Americans and other groups, they are often the ones doing work that the rest of the population is unwilling to do. We should welcome these workers and treat them properly.

    1. Immigration policy must be reformed so as to allow entry of non-U.S. citizens for temporary and multiple-entry work visas for those who do not wish to immigrate, as well as a path to citizenship for those who do. The work conditions, wages and protections for all must be the same as for U.S. citizens. These protections should be made available not only to newcomers but as another option for those who are undocumented but currently in the US. Let’s eliminate the need for “coyotes”.
    2. We must stop forcing undocumented young people who have spent most of their lives in the US (“DREAMERS”) to be deported to countries they don’t know and possibly where they don’t even speak the language. Give them citizenship.
    3. Stop forced separation of families. Let them stay in the US as residents or citizens.
    4. Stop incarcerating undocumented persons under cruel and inhuman conditions, waiting for deportation, and above all do not separate families at such facilities, which must be comfortable and humane if needed at all.

    If you have read the other installments of this manifesto, it has probably occurred to you that all of the proposals interact and reinforce each other, and that some provisions become less needed as others are implemented. I have mentioned previously that the last of the proposals will deal with policing, and by the time we get to it, a lot of the techniques of policing that currently seem essential, such as the use of pain holds and weapons, may seem almost superfluous in an equitable society. Hopefully this is also a society where class divisions and racism can be more easily and successfully addressed and dissolved.

    The Plight of Refugees and Migrant Workers under Covid

    In a world where nationalism and social division is increasing, bigotry growing, are the words refugee, asylum seeker, migrant worker, derogatory labels triggering prejudice and intolerance? Such terms create an image of ‘the other’, separate and different, strengthening tribalism, feeding suspicion, our common humanity denied.

    Under the shadow of Covid-19 those living on the margins of society have been further isolated; the refugees and migrants of the world, those displaced internally or in a foreign land, people living in war zones, and the migrant workers in the Gulf States, India, Singapore and elsewhere.

    Refugees/migrants and migrant workers are among those most at risk from Covd-19, the economic impact of the pandemic as well as xenophobic abuse linked to the virus. Migrant workers (who universally have few or no labor rights) from Qatar to India have been discriminated against, discarded and ignored. Migrants, particularly those of Chinese or Japanese appearance in the US and elsewhere subjected to violence and abuse, and in refugee camps across Europe and the Middle East, including Gaza, thousands have been left in unsafe camps without medical support.

    Homeless, hungry and at risk

    Even before the pandemic erupted, to be a refugee, migrant, or migrant worker was commonly to be mistrusted, marginalized and in danger. Whether working as a maid in one of the Gulf States, an internal migrant worker in their homeland or living inside an overcrowded refugee camp these men, women and children are amongst the most vulnerable people in the world. In Europe, where thousands of refugees (many from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan) are packed into camps, their lives already swamped by uncertainty, the fear of the virus hangs heavy. Lacking sanitation and essential services these overcrowded tarpaulin cities are unsafe; the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, for example, was designed to accommodate 2,840, but now has 19,000 people; 40% are under 18, self-harming and attempted suicides are widespread. Compounding the heightened risks Covid has created, since July 2019 asylum seekers throughout Greece no longer have free access to the healthcare system, other than emergency support.

    Meanwhile, in countries with large populations of migrant workers Covid-19 and the economic impact of the pandemic is adding additional layers of suffering to already arduous lives, not just of workers, but the families migrant workers support. According to the UN, round 800 million people globally are supported by funds sent home by migrant workers. Families depend on such payments to pay rent and buy food; when this flow stops, as is the case for many now, poverty and the risk of starvation is made more acute. The World Bank is warning of huge drops in global remittance payments of around 20%, resulting from the economic downturn triggered by the pandemic, which they say has impacted on migrant communities particularly hard.

    In the Gulf States, which depend on millions of workers from Africa and Southeast Asia, Covid-19 is intensifying discrimination and increasing abuse against migrant domestic workers, including abrupt termination of their contracts. In Kuwait suicide among migrant workers has surged; Saudi Arabia has deported thousands of Ethiopian workers (A total of 2,968 migrants were returned in the first 10 days of April, UN state), without any medical screening, which the UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Ethiopia said, is “likely to exacerbate the spread of Covid-19 to the region and beyond.” And in Lebanon (where the majority of migrant workers are Ethiopian) and elsewhere across the region, lower income families unable to cover salaries, cover food costs or provide accommodation have laid off domestic staff; resulting in migrant workers being at high risk of forced labor, including prostitution.

    Worse still is the case of freelance (‘live out’) workers, whose work has stopped, leaving them with no income, no food and nowhere to go. In Qatar, (one of the richest countries in the world, with over two million migrant workers) which has one of the highest rates of infections per capita, many of those suffering from the disease are migrant workers. Foreign workers from Nepal, Bangladesh, the Philippines are being laid off or remain unpaid, as the economic impact of the virus hits. Some domestic workers (women) have been made destitute. In Singapore, widely thought to have responded well to the pandemic, migrant workers, employed mainly in the construction industry, were thrown to the wolves. And in India following the hasty decision by Prime Minister Mahendra Modi to lock the country down on 25th March, (giving people four hours warning!) tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of internal migrants working in cities were forced by their landlords to vacate their homes and had no choice but to head back to their native village. Without funds and with transportation suspended, huge numbers were forced to walk the hundreds or thousands of miles home.

    Homeless, hungry and at risk of contracting coronavirus, migrant workers were ignored by the Modi regime. Reacting to this wholesale neglect, the UN Special Rapporteurs on the right to housing and on extreme poverty said (4th June), “we are appalled at the disregard shown by the Indian Government towards internal migrant laborers, especially those who belong to marginalized minorities and lower castes…..the Government has failed to address their dire humanitarian situation and further exacerbated their vulnerability with police brutality [which is commonplace in India] and by failing to stop their stigmatization as ‘virus carriers’.”

    Contemporary Slavery

    Covid-19 has highlighted a raft of social inequalities and destructive practices throughout the world. As such issues float to the murky surface of human affairs an opportunity presents itself for reform, for changes in attitudes and practices.

    There needs to be a fundamental overhaul of employment rights for migrant workers throughout the world, with migrant workers receiving the same protections as native employees, including access to health care, limits on the hours of work, rates of pay, days off etc.

    The Kafala System is used throughout the Gulf States, where the UN estimates there to be “35 million international migrants in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, and Jordan and Lebanon, of whom 31 per cent were women.” Under Kafala a migrant worker, many of whom are domestic staff and therefore out of sight, cannot resign if an employer is abusive, the work exploitative or the conditions unacceptable. Amnesty International relates, that it “ties the legal residency of the worker to the contractual relationship with the employer.” The system enables employers to essentially own workers, giving them total control of workers’ movements. This legitimization of modern-day slavery must be brought to an end immediately.

    Refugees and migrants are human beings fleeing violent conflict (are often traumatized), persecution and economic hardship. The journey into an unknown future is often treacherous, always uncertain. In the vacuum left by governments and regional authorities like the EU, that should be processing asylum applications in designated centers and offering safe passage, criminal gangs control migration routes and methods of travel, which are unsafe and extortionately expensive. Deaths are commonplace, abuse and exploitation widespread. If they survive the dangers and arrive in their destination country, all too often they are viewed with distrust and antagonism, instead of being warmly welcomed. They are pushed into the shadows, the margins of society, offered little or no state support and made to feel unwanted.

    This must change; all should be embraced, not only those with skills in short supply.  The idea of judging who can and cannot enter a country based on some discriminatory points system related to national need (the Australian way – a country with a shameful immigration record), as the UK government is proposing, reduces human beings to commodities, some of which are more valuable on the ‘open market of immigration’ than others – and is completely abhorrent.

    Deal with the causes of migration, help construct a world at peace by cooperating, sharing and building relationships; reject competition and nationalism in favor of unity and tolerance and see a dramatic fall in the numbers of people forced to leave their homeland, whether in search of safety or opportunity.