Missing in the Mediterranean – refugees & the racist policies of Fortress Europe 

By Jonathan Diebold

Vast resources were expended in the Atlantic in the wake of the disappearance of five wealthy tourists whose submersible vanished on the way to the Titanic, dominating headlines over days, while over a hundred times as many are still missing in the Mediterranean and receiving a fraction of the coverage. Caught between the greed of smugglers and ruthless, uncaring authorities, an estimated 568 people, adults and children, are missing off the coast of Greece. Of the estimated 750 people aboard the Andriana, a fishing ship which sank 80km from the mainland in the early hours of 14 June, barely more than a hundred have been rescued. 

Those aboard were migrants fleeing the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Libya. They and tens of thousands of others embarked on what is the most dangerous migration route in the world, where over 27,000 have died since 2016: the Mediterranean Sea. This is a result of policies actively pursued by European authorities which has been dubbed “Fortress Europe.” As Greek Health Minister Thanos Plevris said, “Border security cannot exist if there are no casualties, and to be clear, if there are no dead.”

Authorities’ lies exposed

Greek authorities say that they approached the vessel, and it refused help, and when they finally did receive a plea for help, the boat, without a functioning engine, began weaving through the water erratically and capsized. They state that prior to this it had been moving steadily toward its destination in Italy and refused any offers of assistance. This bizarre account has already been contradicted by survivor testimony and a BBC investigation which found that, according to maritime traffic data, the vessel had not moved for almost the entire 16 hours that Greek authorities and Frontex, the EU’s border enforcement agency, were tracking it. Activist Nawal Soufi said: “I can testify that these people were asking to be saved by any authority.” 

Indeed, evidence seems to be emerging that the boat capsized as a result of an illegal pushback – where those exercising their legal right to claim asylum are violently pushed back over borders. Frontex is notorious for this, having been involved in thousands in recent years. One investigation even found that in at least 22 incidents between 2020 and September 2021, asylum seekers were taken off dinghies, put into Greek life rafts and left adrift at sea.

EU’s racist policies

The EU has increasingly doubled-down on racist immigration policies which have led to the deaths of tens of thousands. According to Frontex budgetary documents, funding for the organisation has doubled since 2020 to €754 million – but within that, the organisation’s spend on equipment has skyrocketed nine-fold, from €17 million to €152 million, primarily a result of the acquisition of military hardware, drones, helicopters, and so on. At one EU Council meeting this year it was agreed, with the support of the Irish government, for EU funds to be spent on border walls for the first time ever. The Council of Europe’s anti-torture committee this year identified “clear patterns of physical ill-treatment” against asylum seekers by European border forces. 

The racist ideology of the capitalist establishment, while beating and drowning refugees on the EU’s borders, also seeks to blame them for all the ills of their system. A housing crisis which has lasted a decade is blamed on the increase in the refugee crisis over the past year. Meanwhile enough houses to house the country’s homeless population ten times over sit empty. Only be rejecting this ideology, which seeks to divide working-class people on the basis of their country of birth and the colour of their skin, can we form a united movement for a socialist alternative to this abominable system

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