Externalizing the Borders: EU Politics in the Sahara

Beitrag der FFM auf der Pressekonferenz der International Sudan Conference, Berlin 22./23.11.19:

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,

FFM’s focus is on on migration movements around and across the Mediterranean Sea. At the moment we are also part of the Migration-Control project. I will speak about this in a minute.

Let me first address something which is happening right now in the desert zone of North Africa. EU is steering towards war in a whole region and entangle into a situation which observers say it might end in a new Afghanistan.

Up to our days huge parts of the Sahara have not really been enclosed into states. The French tried to colonise but were not really successful. The people in the remote areas of the Sahara have made special arrangements for their survival. There is a combination of oasis economy, mining, transport and trade, migration and marriage, connectivity and military arrangements. The state comes as tribute collector or as official governor, but there are no benefits. In recentt years states make borders which hinder the local traffic and trade, and the oases are drying out. This is especially so in Niger since 2016, moderated and financed by EU. One way out of this situation, for people in the Sahara, is sending their youth to the military or joining militias.

Take the example of Agadez. Until 2017 this was a vivid multiethnical town, living from trade, and transport of migrants to and from the labour markets in Algeria and especially Libya. After the western alliance had bombed Ghadaffi away, tens of thousands had returned to Chad and Niger. On the other hand now the borders were open, and migration movements recovered, until in 2016 EU paid one billion Euros to the Niamey Government for stopping migraton. This also affects regional migrations, and trade, and remittances to the families. Today Adadez is a calm town in crisis. Young people have few chances other than consume drugs, or to join the militias, which they are beginning to do right now.

Some thousand km south of Agadez, there is the Sahel region with climate change and drought, with more and more conflicts between peasant population and pastoralists, and with more and more people stuck and unable to migrate. This is the environment where Boko Haram and Islamic States militias grow, and where the Operation Berkhane and G5 Military and the armies of the states fight against them. But please be aware not to see this only in the frame of anti-terrorism. The latest attacks on military convoys have been carried out by young men on their motor bikes, and they follow their own logics of revolts. In this environment hundreds of thousands are no longer peasants or pastoralists, but turn to be refugees. They are too poor to migrate. They are driven out of their places, and Military, militias and agribusiness corporations take the best parts of their lands.

Meanwhile, in the north, there are these postcolonial state regimes trying to buy loyalty with oil revenues. All over the MENA region these regimes are besieged by uprising people. We do not know how many months more this long wave of uprising will endure. But we definitely know that oil prices and phosphate prices will fall in the next years and there will be no more money to buy loyalty. This will open the doors for conflicts of all sorts, but also for migrations. Just to mention Egypt. The cornerstone of European Migration Management is a card house with no stability.

To sum it up: There is half a continent under severe stress, and even more stress in sight. What will Europe do? At the moment, the European Solution seems to be Let people drown, Pay militias, Send surveillance technology and drones , Train Soldiers and Police, and Send more troops. If they go on this way and keep the borders closed and let the situation implode, then what has happened in Darfur, and other places, was only the beginning of something terrible. The European political class, and the coming Commission under von der Leyen obviously follows the strategy of sending military, closing the curtain and let things happen.

Opening the borders, and nudging the Europeans to accept that there will be a bit more colour among the people, and more cultural richness at the same time, is the only solution which will work out for European and African people as well. But we are far away from that.

My late parents always insisted that they had not known about Holocaust. They should have known. Our generation must know what happens.

We are trying to lift the curtain and let people know what happens and what EU does in our Migration-Control project. We document what happens in a Wiki and through reports out of the region affected. Also we let people who are directly affected comment on what is happening. Knowledge of this kind is important to build resistance, and Solidarity.

Thank you for listening.

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