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Promote equality to end migration – Analysis

Dec 18 2003

The Answer Is Social Equality, Not Walls
Analysis – By Tito Drago

MADRID, Dec (IPS) – Walls, electrified barriers, military operations and
police presence are not enough to stop the waves of migrants from
impoverished countries to rich, industrialised, or at least less poor
nations.

The migrational flows that the major news media cover most are those that
head towards industrialised countries: from Latin America to the United
States, and from Africa, the Arab world, Latin America and Eastern Europe to
the countries of the European Union.

But little attention is paid to the flow of migrants within the developing
South, with Argentina (despite its economic crisis), Egypt, Jordan, Morocco
or South Africa drawing people from their neighbouring countries who seek a
better life.

Spanish judge Francisco Serrano Castro is clear in his opinion about these
phenomena. He lives in Seville, capital of Andalusia, the southern Spanish
region on the Mediterranean that receives a flood of immigrants from Arab
countries and Sub-Saharan Africa, many who lack proper documents or visas.

Crossing the Mediterranean in small, unseaworthy boats, the illegal
immigrants “only objective is to flee hunger, extreme poverty, misery and
desperation,” he said in a conversation with IPS.

Often the final destination of these journeys is death by drowning. Many
more would-be immigrants are taken into custody by police.

If they are able to get past the obstacles, the new arrivals must wander
about, looking for jobs — and will be paid low wages precisely because they
do not hold legal immigrant status.

The southern coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, including the Spanish enclaves
of Ceuta and Melilla in Africa, and the Canary Islands are the areas where
most of the irregular migrants enter Spain by sea.

Some European governments are taking extreme measures to stop the influx of
foreigners. Britain and Spain this month began to dispatch combat aircraft
to patrol the Strait of Gibraltar and neighbouring areas.

These patrols come in addition to those already conducted by warships.

Furthermore, Spain has constructed walls — complete with radar and
electronic surveillance equipment — along the Ceuta and Melilla borders
with Morocco.

Stricter laws, beefing up border patrols and building walls along borders
have not reduced the flow of immigrants, but rather have pushed up the
number of drowning deaths associated with the increased attempts to cross to
Spain aboard precarious boats.

In the first 10 months of this year, the bodies of 88 would-be immigrants
were found along Spain’s coastline, 383 shipwreck victims were rescued,
17,061 people were intercepted and 78,000 more were detained after entering
the country. The death toll is twice what it was in the same period in 2002.

Manuel Pimentel, former minister of labour and social affairs for the José
María Aznar government, underscores that Spanish society bends over
backwards to help those who arrive in the country with money, but rejects
the immigrants who are not rich.

He asserts that Spaniards “are not necessarily racist, but we are classist.”

A similar opinion is held by José Chamizo, a Catholic priest, historian,
poet and people’s defender in Andalusia. “It is not rejection of the
immigrant, but of the people who do not have money.”

“The Spanish coast is full of drug traffickers from other countries, and I
don’t think anyone has ever asked them for their immigration documents,”
said Chamizo.

The priest agrees with judge Serrano Castro that what motivates people to
make the often-perilous journey to Europe is hunger, that they cannot
survive in their home country, so seek a better fate in another.

To confront this phenomenon, repressive or dissuasive measures have proved
useless. And frequently among the migrants crossing the Mediterranean to
Spain are women who are pregnant or who are travelling with newborns.

According to Serrano Castro, the key — or one of the keys — to halting the
migrational flows is to “foment development in the Third World…
development that is sustainable over the long term would also be beneficial
for the First World.”

If the living standards of potential irregular migrants can be improved,
these individuals would be more likely to remain in their home countries, he
said.

An association of non-governmental organisations specialising in development
cooperation maintain that this objective should prompt immediate compliance
with the United Nations goal for industrialised countries to set aside 0.7
percent of their gross domestic product for international development
assistance.

Those contributions, says the association, should be made without strings
attached, or trade requirements or any obligation to use the funds for
contracts with companies from the donor country.

The organisations also argue that it is essential to begin a process for
opening up the markets of the industrialised world to products from
developing countries, and to fight the monopoly of industrial patents.

They also demand changes in the international financial system in order to
balance out the rights and obligations of the developing South and the
industrialised North.

The current U.S. foreign debt tops 2.2 trillion dollars, while the combined
debt of developing countries is 2.5 trillion, says Ann Pettifor, head of
Jubilee Research, an organisation that is a leader in the global campaign
for cancelling the debt of poor countries.

A country with nearly 300 million people has a debt almost as great as the
entire developing world, which is home to five billion people, she said.

The difference, explained Pettifor, is that the average annual interest on
U.S. debt is three percent, while the average interest for developing
countries is 18 percent.

On the eve of International Migrants Day, Dec. 18, and given these figures
and the international reality, it can be argued that the only way to stop
the waves of migration towards the North is to promote development in the
South.

And this can be achieved with the help of the 0.7 percent GDP development
aid and the democratisation of the multilateral financial system.

*****

+ Jubilee Research (http://www.jubileeplus.org)

(END/IPS/

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“Other News” is a personal initiative seeking to provide information that should be in the media but is not, because of commercial criteria. It welcomes contributions from everybody. Work areas include information on global issues, north-sutrh relations, gobernability of globalization. The “Other News” motto is a phrase which appeared on the wall of Barcelona’s old Customs Office, at the beginning of 2003:â€?What walls utter, media keeps silentâ€?. Roberto Savio

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