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(en) Red & Black Revolution #7 - Open Borders: The case against immigration controls by Teresa Hayter (Pluto Press 2000) reviewed by Conor McLoughlin

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Mon, 22 Dec 2003 12:37:45 +0100 (CET)

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"Excellencies, gentlemen - members and those responsible in Europe.
It is to your solidarity and generosity that we appeal for your Help in
Africa. If you see that we have sacrificed ourselves and lost our lives
it is because we suffer so much in Africa and need your help to
struggle against poverty and war - Please excuse us very much for
daring to write this letter"
Note found on the body of one of two teenagers from Guinea who were
found in the landing gear of a plane when it arrived at Brussels airport
in August 1999

I suppose it goes without saying that anarchists are opposed to all
borders and frontiers. These things could never form any part of a free
society. However every activist realises there is a difference between
long term ambition and what is immediately possible. The question for
many antiracist and pro-immigrant groups is if such a demand can be
realised in the context of the system we now live in. Most mainstream
groups eventually come down clearly in favour of immigration controls
and deportations, though arguing for "generosity." This book takes a
position that so far has only won over a small but growing minority and
argues for the immediate ending of all border controls.
Migration in History

Migration has always been a part of human history but population bor -
ders and the nation state are a relatively new development. From the
sixteenth century to the present day twice as many Europeans have
moved to America and Africa than people from there have arrived in
Europe. In the process they wiped out Tasmanian aborigines, most of
the peoples of the Caribbean, decimated the Australian population by
80% and wiped out between 33% and 80% of native American people.
In total there have been roughly 4 major periods of movement since the
beginning of capitalism in the Sixteenth Century.

The first was the mass forced transportation of between 10 to 20
million people as slaves from Africa to assist in the development of
everyone's favourite free world democracy. Up to 100 million slaves, in
total, are estimated to have been transported from Africa throughout
the world. The second wave was that of bonded or indentured labour
from India and China. Though they signed a contract with their bosses,
in practise they were little better then slaves. 30 million of such
"workers" left India up to World War One and provided the work force
for mines and plantations in Burma, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore,
Mauritius, South Africa, Guyana and Jamaica. Several million Chinese
were moved through South East Asia, the Pacific islands, the
Caribbean and South Africa. Ironically the main use these workers and
slaves were put to was to replace the peoples already wiped out by
European colonists in the first place! The third major wave was the
mass economic migration from Europe to America which began in the
eighteenth century and peaked in the Twentieth. A total of about 60
million Europeans moved (or were transported) to America and
Australaisa. The fourth major migration has been the beginnings of
movement from South to North. According to UN estimates roughly 35
million people from the third world, including 6 million "illegals" have
immigrated to Europe between 1960 and 1990. Though this figure
seems relatively large it amounts only to 1% of the 1990 population of
the third world moving over the entire 30 years and increased the
population in the receiving countries by only 0.2% each year.
Open Your Borders

This sets the context for present day movements from South to North.
As can be seen they are still relatively small (especially given that the
present total world population is over 6 billion). What would happen if
border controls were to be dropped?

Most of Hayter's arguments against border controls are political and
moral. The book dwells in depth on how immigration controls are by
their nature racist (in that they always aim to exclude particular
distinct groups) in that they cause massive suffering, cost billions and
promote racism. This is indisputable and it is passionately argued from
the perspective of an activist closely involved in struggle for example
around Campsfield detention centre in England. Only in the last
chapter does she examine other arguments commonly put forward by
the other side as to how we would be swamped by tides of immigrants
etc. I think that a book addressed to the case against immigration
controls would be much better ammunition for activists if it took some
of these arguments at length.

When she does get on to some of these arguments she deals with
them well. There are several examples of countries which had open
border arrangements with former colonies. For example the USA
allowed open migration from the Caribbean. Between 1950 and 1980
when borders were closed only 0.6% of the Caribbean population
moved to the US and England, despite the obvious economic
attractions. If this figure were to be applied world wide now the figure
would be about 24 million per year or a growth of about 2.4% in
population of the industrialised countries - probably under the
anticipated labour demand in several European countries. The truth is
just because people can go doesn't mean they will. In general no
matter how bad things are, very few people have the desire, the ability
or the wherewithal to just uproot, leave every thing and move. Often
the pattern is small groups of young able bodied men (usually) who
can get the fare move over for a number of years, send money back
and then return home in their old age. Ironically when England decided
to take away citizenship rights for former colonies there was a huge
last minute increase in migration as people realised this was the last
Immigration Yes Welfare No

What about jobs? Unemployment is mainly a cyclical problem
associated with the boom and bust system in which we live. It reached
its highest level in Europe in the 1930s with almost no movement of
peoples but there was barely any unemployment in the post war boom
despite massive immigration levels. Developing economies absorb
labour voraciously. When Algeria gained independence in 1962 -
900,000 white settlers moved back to France. Unemployment in
Marseille rose to 20% within in months but was back down to 6%
within a year and 4% in two years. Right now according to the OECD
by 2050 the ratio of working people to over 65s will be 2:1 to keep this
ratio at its current level of around 4:1 Italy would need 2.2 million
immigrants - Germany 3.4 million. In fact it looks like the capitalists
are already well aware of this and wish to keep large numbers of
"illegals" around as a cheap and easily exploitable labour source. The
Financial Times of 23rd February 2000 went so far as to attribute to
economic boom at the end of the 1990s to the "illicit angels of
America's Economic miracle" specifically the 3- 12 million Mexican
and South American "illegals" doing all the shitty jobs. "Immigration
Yes welfare No" is the unspoken watchword of Wall Street.

There's a lesson here for workers in the host countries as well. If they
feel their wages are being devalued by immigrants it is surely in their
interests firstly to argue for full union membership and to fight for
equal terms and conditions but secondly to smash border controls and
end the situation where people can be made "illegal" and subjected to
sweatshop conditions..
The cost

Finally the North is spending vast amounts on keeping the borders
shut. This cost is massive, both financially and in terms of human
rights. The Schengen Information System was set up by the EU in in
1985 and now has more then 30,000 terminals with vast amounts of
personal information. 90% of those on it are termed "unwanted
immigrants." According to OECD estimates fro the early 1990s
European governments spent between $4 and 8 billion per year on
refugee control and assessment. Meanwhile the cost of detaining 800
people in British detention centers and prisons, based on government
figures, is estimated by Hayter at £48 million per year or twelve
times what it would cost if they were on income support and housing

Similarly in Ireland a system of direct provision is administered at
massive cost to the tax payer. In fact governments are prepared to
spend many times more on making life difficult for refugees then they
would gain under full welfare entitlements! The idea that people would
travel thousands of miles, pay over every penny they have to
smugglers and give up well paid jobs to "milk our system," living in a
bed and breakfast on less then 20 euro a week, hardly merits
discussion especially in the light of the above figures.

The cost in human lives is also rising. Between 1993 and 2000 an
estimated 2063 people died trying to get into Europe
(http://www.united.non-profit.nl/pages/List.htm for the full, gruesome
list). Without doubt this rate of death is accelerating. It's not just
asylum seekers who bear the costs. In England fingerprinting and ID
cards have been introduced for asylum seekers. The system is in place
and now it is quite easy to begin to introduce it for other groups.
According to the Guardian (12/09/02) this "salami slicing" approach is
the way to introduce "entitlement cards." Mean time the massive
Schengen Information System contains information not just on
immigrants and asylum seekers but "political subversives" and other
undesirables. The crack down will effect us all EU or non-EU !

To sum up, this is a well written nonacademic book. But it focuses too
much on making the moral case for abolishing immigration controls and
too little on refuting the scare stories. Also, at 21 Euros, it is fairly
pricey though I would still highly recommend it as a collective
purchase for anti-racist groups who wish to begin to open their minds
as a prelude to opening the borders.

More information

* Refugees & Asylum seekers in Ireland
* An anarchist analysis of racism


This page is from Red & Black Revolution
(no 7, Winter 2003)
Print out a PDF file of Issue 7

Most recent Red and Black Revolution

Part of the pages of the
Workers Solidarity Movement

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