Necropolitics is at the Center of Migration Policies

Juan Hernández Zubizarreta
Internationalist 360°

Refugees and migrants are being left to die in the Mediterranean and are abandoned in the Sahara desert.  This  is necropolítics in action.

Javier de Lucas believes that necropolítics is a “conception of politics in which the lives of others are the object of calculation and therefore lack intrinsic value insofar as they are not profitable or cease to be so.” In the same direction, Achille Mbembe understands that “de facto leaders exercise their authority through the use of violence and arrogate to themselves the right to decide the fate of the lives of the governed.” It is evident that violence is revealed as an end in itself and is used to discern who is important and who is not, who is easily replaceable and who is not.

For example, the alleged lack of coordination between the Italian coast guard and that of Malta cost the lives of 268 people – including 60 children;  The blockade of immigrants on the high seas by the Spanish Civil Guard and its subsequent return to Morocco,  caused 388 deaths and disappearances (122 minors between September 2015 and December 2016);  Or the destruction by the agents of the US Border Patrol of the carafes of water that solidarity people leave in the Arizona desert –  are just three of the multiple practices of necropolítics that abound today.

44 migrants died of thirst in the middle of the Sahara desert when they were transported from Niger to Libya; 10,000 children have disappeared while crossing European borders according to Europol; thousands of Nigerian girls are sold year after year as sex slaves; seven women drowned in the southern border on August 31, 2017; 15 Syrian refugees died of cold when they tried to enter Lebanon at the end of January 2018, and on this same date, the United Nations Agency for Refugees (UNHCR) confirmed the death of migrants in Europe from exposure to cold.

90 people died on January 2, 2018 off the coast of Libya after their ship in which they sailed capsized. Two days later, the greatest migratory tragedy took place on the southern border, with the disappearance of 47 people off the coast of Ceuta. Meanwhile, on November 4, 2017, a boat was found with 319 Eritrean migrants. In the lower hold of the ship, 69 women were traveling. Almost all were sick and almost all had been raped.

While this data can be coldly analyzed, it can not make us forget the emotional pain and destruction in the lives of millions of people whose only crime is trying to survive. How can you assess so much pain? When we lose a loved one, only one, we feel that time and space take on another dimension, that is why we do not want data and analysis to obscure the true dimension of this tragedy that comes with multiple political responsibilities.

How do we evaluate the statements of the head of the European border agency Frontex, Fabricce Legerri, who in February 2017 declared that NGO rescues embolden traffickers? And the report of Frontex published at the end of 2016, which stated organizations in solidarity with refugees work in alliances with trafficking networks? And the statements of the leader of the parliamentary group of the European People’s Party, Manfred Webwer, in favor of a “final solution to the question of refugees“, an expression with Nazi reminiscences? And the words of the current Interior Minister of Spain, Juan Zoido, who said that those who decide to flee their countries are not our responsibility, and that NGOs collaborate with networks of illegal trafficking of people? And how to assess that the Italian Prosecutor’s Office of Catania does the same with the organizations that rescue people in the Mediterranean? And the attacks of the Libyan coastguards trained by the EU to police ships in the Mediterranean? And the murders on Tarajal Beach in the Southern Border, where fourteen people died on February 6, 2014, between the boats of the Spanish Civil Guard?

The deaths and disappearances of refugees and migrants on the border between the US and Mexico, in European countries, in the Mediterranean and in the Sahara desert result in thousands and thousands of broken migrant bodies due to necropolitics. In addition, security protocols, not humanitarian ones,  are applied to survivors of shipwrecks. And all these are not isolated events, they are systematic policies carried out in the heart of Europe. As Arturo Borra affirms, “far from constituting a tragic fatality, the repeated shipwreck of thousands of people in the Mediterranean is as dramatic as it is foreseeable and avoidable“. The successive shipwrecks are the result of policies that prioritize migratory control over the protection of human rights. We are talking about true murderous politics.

We think that in the Mediterranean, true crimes against humanity are being committed. However, it is our abandoning those fleeing war, misery, sexist violence, in supposedly peaceful territories such as the Mediterranean, that is the new typification of  “crimes of peace”.

On the other hand, real international crimes are taking place in a perverse alliance between the criminal economy and the legal economy, between the mafia economy that launders its money in the legal economy. And leaders of the ecologist, feminist, LGTB, peasant and indigenous movements are assassinated for defense of their rights and lands, against large hydroelectric projects -300 activists murdered in 2017-, but ordinary people are also eliminated, simply because the economic system cannot support them. People who can not consume or produce impede the capitalist system and become human waste, as Bauman says.

Undoubtedly, the rich have declared war on the poor, a social war that does not pursue an absolute victory, since it is linked to a new phase of long duration within the current system of domination. Violence against the poor is not a threat, it is a fact that forms part of the essential core of the capitalist and patriarchal model.

We are facing a situation of social emergency and we believe that providing assistance to those who need it, beyond their administrative situation, is in line with the philosophy of International Human Rights Law. Sharing struggles with refugees and migrants is – in the current situation of repeated institutional non-compliance and absence of policies in favor of human rights – perfectly legitimate. We have no choice but to disobey the unjust rules to defend human dignity, and as Emmeline Pankhurst said in 1908 to the jury that was judging her, “we are here not for breaking the laws, but for our efforts to create new laws.”