Lampedusa and Marketized Surveillance in the Mediterranean

Illustration by Tjebbe van Tijen, courtesy of Tjebbe van Tijen/Flickr

Following the latest deaths near Lampedusa on 3rd October and then again off the coast of Sicily on 11th October, what are we to make of the current and likely future European responses?

There has been, quite rightly, much talk of the tragedy experienced by the migrants, families and survivors. Yet, in the fortnight since the 3 October, the political cycle has offered little comfort in its unedifying spectacle of member states blaming one another for what is above all a European problem. This has led to media talk of policy deadlock and intractability. However, closer inspection reveals that the perceived political problem of the Lampedusa crisis is not tragic deaths at sea, but rather the irregular migration from the African continent to the shores of particular EU member states. In the face of other member states’ intransigence on responsibility-sharing, we can see that policymakers’ logical response is not deadlock, but a further rationalization of the only European ‘solution’ on the table: increased surveillance and militarization of the Mediterranean.

Immigration and American Power

A pier near Fort Clinton at Battery Park, New York City. Photo: Astro Zhang Yu/flickr

CAMBRIDGE – The United States is a nation of immigrants. Except for a small number of Native Americans, everyone is originally from somewhere else, and even recent immigrants can rise to top economic and political roles. President Franklin Roosevelt once famously addressed the Daughters of the American Revolution – a group that prided itself on the early arrival of its ancestors – as “fellow immigrants.”

In recent years, however, US politics has had a strong anti-immigration slant, and the issue played an important role in the Republican Party’s presidential nomination battle in 2012. But Barack Obama’s re-election demonstrated the electoral power of Latino voters, who rejected Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by a 3-1 majority, as did Asian-Americans.

As a result, several prominent Republican politicians are now urging their party to reconsider its anti-immigration policies, and plans for immigration reform will be on the agenda at the beginning of Obama’s second term. Successful reform will be an important step in preventing the decline of American power.

Europe’s Immigration Challenge

Young men in Morocco, Europe on the horizon. Photo: moritz_siebert/flickr.

LONDON – Europe faces an immigration predicament. Mainstream politicians, held hostage by xenophobic parties, adopt anti-immigrant rhetoric to win over fearful publics, while the foreign-born are increasingly marginalized in schools, cities, and at the workplace. Yet, despite high unemployment across much of the continent, too many employers lack the workers they need. Engineers, doctors, and nurses are in short supply; so, too, are farmhands and health aides. And Europe can never have enough entrepreneurs, whose ideas drive economies and create jobs.

Deportation Mania

Leaving Switzerland behind bars, image: Nicolas Macgowan/flickr

Zurich Airport, 18 March 2010. A Nigerian immigrant, convicted of drug dealing died shortly before boarding the plane on which he was to be deported to his home country. As a consequence, deportation of illegal immigrants was stopped. Diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Nigeria became strained.

Of the 1800 Nigerians who immigrated to Switzerland last year, only 1 percent were granted asylum. The rest are asked to leave the country. Those who refuse to move are deported forcefully.

Last week the Swiss government announced that a memorandum of understanding  with Nigeria had been signed, allowing for “special flights” to be resume on 1 January 2011. A Nigerian state secretary insisted that Nigeria agreed “voluntarily” and his Swiss counterpart talked of a “win-win-situation.”

What’s the deal?

The Death of “Multikulti”?

Is it really ‘us’ versus ‘them’? photo: Alejandro Angel Velásquez/flickr

When the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, spoke on Saturday about the “utter failure” of German attempts to foster a multicultural society, the move was widely seen as an attempt to bolster her position in a coalition increasingly focused on the issue of immigration.

In the aftermath of Thilo Sarrazin’s controversial book that accused Muslim migrants in particular of sapping the country of its intellectual vigor, her comments to young Christian Democratic Union (CDU) members seem particularly opportunistic.

Meanwhile, prominent members of Merkel’s coalition, chief among them the premier of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, have called for a halt to migration from other cultural spheres. Claiming to reflect the popular will, Seehofer has chosen to frame a thorny, complex and multifaceted issue in starkly populist terms.

While clearly immigration is a problematic issue in many European countries that struggle with economic uncertainty and immigrant populations of varying degrees of integration (and facing a variety of challenges from entrenched unemployment, language barriers and discrimination), the increasing acceptability of xenophobic rhetoric is a deeply worrying phenomenon that is taking root beyond the geographical margins of Europe. In addition to the well-documented cases in Holland, Switzerland and most recently Sweden, German politics seem to be lurching in a similar direction.

Instead of debating the issue constructively, and engaging positively with those immigrants (whether Muslim or not) that seek to integrate- the public debate across Europe seems to be moving towards the blanket-stigmatization of immigrants. A sense of xenophobic dread and a wish to turn back the time on increasingly diverse and ethnically, socially and religiously diverse societies seems to underlie this trend.