Keeping Them Out
Monday, October 15, 2007.
By Sokari Ekine
Iran is the latest country to sign up to “wall building” borders - in this case along the Iranian-Pakistan border in the Baluchistan region. Iran’s justification for the wall is a familiar one. To prevent smuggling of drugs and guns and movement of illegal immigrants.
Whilst the Apartheid wall being built by the Israelis is probably the most well known there are other walls that have been built, are being built and will be built in the future.
Morocco built one in the 1980s during the war of independence with the Polisario Front. To maintain their occupation of Western Sahara the Moroccan government built a wall of 2700 kilometres with mines, across the desert with the help of their good friends the Israelis.
The wall prevents the Saharawi from crossing back into their lands from the refugee camps in Tindouf, Algeria.
Then there are the new fences recently built between the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco.
Here Morocco acts as a proxy police force for Europe to prevent migrants from West Africa and Morocco from entering Spain. The fences are barbed wire with razor edges. Recently Spanish PM, Zapartero announced a third parameter fence as the present two are proving insufficient to stop people climbing over despite the dangers.
This 3rd parameter fence will be “equipped with state-of-the-art infrared cameras, sensor pads and sound detectors” and be able to detect potential jumpers from a distance and prevent them from “swarming” over the fences - presumably by shooting at them or how else will they do this?
The mostly West Africans and Moroccans trying to enter Europe have circumvented Morocco after a series of horrendous vicious acts by the Moroccan security forces when they dumped 100s of West Africans in the Sahara without food or water. They were found because they were able to sms their friends in the cities to alert human rights organisations.
Crossings from Africa to Spain have now moved to Mauratania where the migrants cross in small wooden boats to southern Spain and Grand Canaries
Despite the anti-immigration rhetoric coming from the Spanish government the reality is that it is the cheap migrant labour that supplies the food for the supermarkets of most of northern Europe.
When you see Spanish tomatoes, strawberries etc it is from the toil of Moroccans and West Africans (Nigerians and Ghanaians) working on the plastico green houses of southern Almeria. The second largest group of Africans are Senegalese but they mainly work as hawkers trying to sell on the streets of Spain in between being harassed by local police.
When I first arrived the hawkers used to work the bars and restaurants of Granada but this has almost stopped due to police harassment but it does not stop people from coming. There is always some work to be found. The South Americans work in the kitchens and look after the elderly as well as work as hawkers - all for a pittance.
Many Senegalese, Nigerians, Moroccans and Ecuadorians also work on the coasts serving the never ending construction industry that again supplies Northern Europe with their cheap holiday destinations in poorly built accommodation where corruption between local governments and local builders is high.
What will the Spanish and Italians do to stop crossings over the Mediterranean? Build a water wall?
A couple of weeks ago Dibussi’s Scribbles reported the 27 African migrants left in the water for three days holding on to a tuna fishing net whilst the ship’s captain refused to allow them on board after their boat had sunk. That too is a kind of wall - a wall of water. The boats used to cross are too flimsy so the water becomes the wall to climb and hundreds have drowned crossing to Italy and Spain.
In Europe, the Schengen agreement together with Europol are the two main instruments used to keep out or detain non-white migrants, asylum seekers, homeless, travellers, Romas and any other group considered undesirable by the white Euro nations.
Apart from the walls, there are the prison camps in the UK, France and Germany (many run by private contractors) where “illegal people” are kept often for months and in violation of their human rights and UN refugee laws they are held as criminals.
New laws across Europe are being implemented giving migrants short term entry permits so that they work as long as the state needs them then they are thrown back into the sea or desert like disposable nappies.
Whilst in the “host” country they live in sub standard accommodation sometimes in tents sometimes outside under plastic covers, no medical care, no access to the community in which they live and at the mercy of their employers whims.
Drive along any coastal back roads in southern Almeria and you will see groups of North and West Africans huddled together. People have told me that the working conditions in the plasticos are horrendous where in the desert summer temperatures reach 45c - the heat mixed with the fertilizers causes chest and breathing problems.
has an excellent diagram that spells out the policies of the North towards the South. African and other non-white migrants and asylum seekers have yet to organise themselves like their counterparts in the US. But it is only a matter of time. For countries like Spain and Italy this is just the beginning.
The children of migrant workers born in Europe and now reaching their teens are not going anywhere nor do they feel they have to eat chorizo just because they have Spanish passports. Neither will they accept the cheap labour that their parents worked for. In just 5 years in Andalucia, Spain the demographics have changed and are continuing to change. The arrogance, disdain and racism of the Spanish towards Africans, Latinos and Gitanos will not be tolerated by the youth living on the margins of Andalucian society.
The US government that supposedly opposed the building of the wall by Morocco but supports Israel’s Apartheid wall has now passed a Bill that will enable the government to build a wall along it’s Mexican border to prevent everyone south of Texas from entering the country.
US$2.2 billion worth of fences along part of the southern border. The Secretary of Homeland Security was required to provide for least 2 layers of reinforced fencing, the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors at five locations:
Another wall being built by the Americans is the Baghdad wall Adhamiyah wall to separate and to use the US language “to protect” Sunni and Shia from each other.
A doctor in Adhamiya, Abu Hassan, said the wall would transform the residents into caged animals.
“It’s unbelievable that they treat us in such an inhumane manner,” he said in a telephone interview. “They’re trying to isolate us from other parts of Baghdad. The hatred will be much greater between the two sects.”
The wall is 3.5 meters high and like all the walls emphasise difference and create even more hostility as people are physically separated, everyone affected as movement for all is restrained and controlled. Kuwait has built an electric fence on it’s 200 kilometre border with Iraq and Saudia Arabia is planning to build an 800k fence.
India too is in the process of building a 4000k wall on its Pakistan and Bangladesh borders.
Again the same language is used, smugglers, terrorists and trafficking but the borders divide people, exclude people.
The mentality of barriers of barbed wire and obsession with concrete and metal is extending itself as Europe creates fences to keep thousands of insiders out. The latest fence to be built is the 7 mile one around the G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Germany built with a solid steel underground to prevent tunnelling.
Insiders, outsiders anyone from a different world or who is trying to make a different world. Will you be inside the wall living as a caged animal or outside, excluded and destitute? The G8 wall has shown that WALL BUILDERS are capable of constructing internal walls - walls that criminalise the poor, migrants, unwanted people and to keep them away from the the acceptable amongst their nations.
The walls are symbols of a concrete and metal apartheid as nation after nation seeks to divide those who are legal and those who are illegal; those who are the right religion, colour, class, gender, have the right sexual preference. For the preferred insiders there is the superiority of knowing you are inside looking out.
You have what THEY, the other, want as in Castillo’s diagram. The newer walls include sophisticated surveillance technology that can sense people approaching the fence/wall and prepare for attack.
One wonders if the Spanish walls in Ceuta and Melilla will be able to pick up the colour of the approaching people and trigger some sort of automated reaction of bullets to shoot would be wall jumpers? In a sense Spain has taken it’s wall ideology to the source.
It has made an agreement with Senegal to jointly patrol the seas of Senegal and stop migrants before they even leave their own waters.
Maybe I am moving into the realms of fantasy but I can imagine a time when the wall builders with all their military surveillance and metallic power will find themselves locked inside their self imposed cages as the economic gap between the insiders and outsiders grows and the great storm of people begins. Remember there are insiders who are outsiders so the wall builders will be trapped.
The Nigerian-born Sokari Ekine is arguably the best female writer in Blogosphere. Educated in Britain and America, Ekine is a human rights and feminist activist. She blogs frequently at Black Looks.
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