I wrote in defence of Britain’s membership of the EU in my previous post, but that does not mean that I endorse all EU policy; far from it. However, being a member would make it much easier for us to influence those aspects we disagree with and that brings me to the topic of this post; climate refugees and military spending.
The EU’s borders are becoming a major cash cow for arms companies with nearly 35 billion Euros in the budget for border security from 2021-27. That is a lot of money in anyone’s calculations, so the question has to be asked; “Who is the dangerous enemy that this massive spending is securing the people of Europe from?” Much as with Trump’s wall on the US border with Mexico, the answer is not hordes of dangerous people and terrorists, but desperate people who are willing to risk their lives to seek a better life for their families.
A 2017 report by the Environmental Justice Foundation found that since 2008, an average of 41 people a minute have been forced to leave their homes by extreme weather events. That is the equivalent of the entire population of Sri Lanka seeking shelter elsewhere as their homes become uninhabitable every year. As the planet heats further and sea level rise becomes more of an issue for those in low-lying lands, it is estimated that 1.4 billion people could be forced to migrate in order to survive by 2060. When you consider that 95% of displacement so far has been in developing countries, it’s not hard to imagine that people will be trying to move in even larger numbers from Africa and Asia into Europe.
There has been a reduction in the number of people attempting to reach Europe since the recent peak in 2017, when the conflict in Syria was driving huge numbers of people to seek safety, but for proponents of more militarisation of Europe’s borders to claim any success from this reduction is very misleading. Rather than deterring desperate people from trying to get here, this policy is just leading to the emergence of new and more dangerous routes. The Guardian reported that the number of people who’ve died trying to get to Europe was over 34,000 in 20 years if you look at detention centres and overland crossings, as well as the more widely reported drowning at sea. Amnesty also documented the massive problems faced by refugees trying to reach Europe through the Balkans last year.
Prejudice and profit
As I write this, the world is marking the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, but today refugees are dying in mine fields that still haven’t been cleared in that very same area. In 1995, right wing populists succeeded in spreading fear and hatred to justify the slaughter of many thousands of European muslims. Now arms companies are spending hundreds of thousands of Euros a year, so they can profit from the paranoia spread by right wing populists across Europe through lucrative border defence contracts.
If we are to take the message of Black Lives Matters seriously, that should mean on a global scale, not just looking at systemic racism and police violence in our own countries. Currently, inaction on reducing global carbon emissions is condemning billions of people in the poorer countries (those who would be considered BAME if they lived here) to losing their homes and livelihoods, then quite possibly losing their lives in trying to find a safe place to live. Meanwhile, conflicts over resources are happening more frequently across the world, so the same arms companies that profit from “securing” European borders are making massive profits from selling the arms that are causing people to flee their homes. War on Want report that The UK government approved £16bn of arms sales to states in the Middle East from 2010-16, while companies in the EU as a whole have sold hundreds of billions of Euros’ worth of arms to countries in the region over the past couple of decades. By continuing to approve the sales of weapons to the repressive regimes across the world and not dealing with the climate emergency, our governments are saying that these people’s lives do not matter.
A safer world where everyone matters
We must do better and create a safer world where justice and stability are actually felt in the lives of those who need it most. We cannot continue demonising the people whose lives and livelihoods are being destroyed by our economic model, while arms companies are making billions of pounds in profits both from wars in destabilised countries and from protecting the borders of rich countries.
Nobody can say “All Lives Matter” unless they really mean that. A global solution must be found that will ensure a just transition away from dangerous industries that threaten the lives of people on this planet. This needs to be combined with reparations for those who live in countries that will be ravaged by the extreme weather caused by burning fossil fuels over the last century or so. Treating climate refugees as profit-making collateral damage in a world of economic competition and ever-more militarised borders is totally immoral. It is our choice whether to continue this model. I say that we must change it now and stop all the lives being needlessly lost in this deeply racist global system.
Here are some of the organisations working on this area, whose websites contain more information on the subjects discussed:
The Photo in this article is from https://www.debatingeurope.eu/2019/04/17/is-europe-broken-how-would-you-fix-it/#.Xw9_e0ycGUk