On February 6, a broad coalition of Irish anti-racist, migrant-support and political groupings, now calling ourselves Solidarity Alliance against Racism and Fascism (SARF), staged a peaceful anti-racism rally aiming to secure a safe space for anti-racism on the streets of Dublin against the rise of anti-Islam and anti-immigrant groupings. We managed to succeed in preventing the extreme right group Identity Ireland from launching the Irish branch of Pegida. Apparently undeterred, and having failed to launch Pegida Ireland, Identity Ireland is now planning to organise a conference of ‘Fortress Europe’, a coalition of anti-immigrant parties across Europe, whose main aim is to stop the so-called ‘Islamisation’ of Europe.
The intentions of Pegida, a German group, whose name stands for ‘Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West’, are totally explicit: ‘We must succeed in guarding and controlling Europe’s external borders as well as its internal borders once again,’ PEGIDA member Siegfried Daebritz has recently told a crowd in one of the group’s many German rallies, to the chants of ‘Merkel must go!’
Media and many mainstream politicians across Europe have recognised Pegida as an extremist right wing group that uses rhetoric reminiscent of National Socialism. Pegida has been demonstrating against what it calls ‘criminal asylum seekers’, and its leader Lutz Bachmann has had to resign after calling immigrants ‘vermin’ and ‘trash’. Together with other extreme right groupings across Europe, Pegida and its Irish allies – Identity Ireland, which had a very poor showing in the last general elections, receiving just 183 votes and clearly representing an insignificant minority – is using Europe’s current refugee crisis as an opportunity to broadcast their anti-immigrant and anti-Islam message. Read more
The responses to what is being dubbed as Europe’s ‘worst refugee crisis’ since World War II, have been both overwhelming and perplexing, ironic and at times contradictory. As millions of refugees pour out of Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea, to mention but three so-called ‘sending countries’, towards the fences, walls and shores of the Fortress Europe ghetto, Europeans have mobilised in their hundreds of thousands. The outpouring of empathy and solidarity by ordinary people throughout Europe, citizens and non-citizens alike, has been a turning point in the bottom-up response to the plight of so many people fleeing western-sponsored wars, state oppression and deprivation. At the same time the politics of fear and Islamophobia is also rearing its ugly head, as people shout against Europe letting in Muslim people who, they are saying, will damage the precious nature of so-called ‘European civilisation’.
While the Hungarian authorities, aided by Israeli anti-refugee technologies, are erecting fences, ordinary Europeans – including Hungarians, Austrians, Germans, Greeks, Czechs and many foreign volunteers, are assisting refugees not only with food, clothes and blankets, but also with train tickets to the Austrian borders and to freedom. Ordinary Germans are responding to their government’s announcement it will take in 800,000 refugees, even though, as Angela Merkel said, this would change forever the nature of German society, by offering homes to refugees, some of whom, ironically, have been housed in former concentration camps. Read more
Last week we have again helplessly watched people drowning in the Mediterranean as they attempt to cross the sea to the safety of Europe. Migration NGOs say that more than 2,000 migrants and refugees have died in 2015 so far. However, the very use of the term ‘migrants’ by European governments and NGOs dehumanises their tragedy, occluding the fact that what the Italian-Jewish writer Primo Levi, speaking of Holocaust victims and survivors, called ‘the drowned and the saved’, are human beings, just like us. In 1972, during the migration of ‘guest workers’ to western Europe, the Swiss writer Max Frisch, whose work focused on issues of responsibility, morality, and political commitment, unforgettably wrote in response to the ‘guest workers’ controversy: ‘we asked for workers and human beings came’. Migrant workers, Frisch insisted, have lives, families, hopes and dreams, just like the citizens of the states they come to live in – an insight too easily lost in the current debates on migrants and refugees.
The people desperately trying to gain entry to Western Europe, be it through the fenced border between Hungary and Serbia, the Channel tunnel between France and Britain, or on rickety boats crossing the Mediterranean from Africa to southern Europe, are fleeing disasters – such as the catastrophic wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea and Sudan, or the dire poverty of African countries – all created or supported by the west. Lest we forget, these humans are fleeing because they want to feel safe and give their children a future, yet, although seeking asylum is totally legal, they are often criminalised by the European migration regime. Read more