Tag Archives: Refugees

Global refugee crisis worst since World War II

By Joseph Kishore
June 16, 2015
World Socialist We Site


The global refugee crisis is more dire than at any point since the end of the Second World War, according to a report released yesterday by Amnesty International.

The report provides a partial picture of the disaster produced by global capitalism and the operations of imperialism in different parts of the world, with a focus on Syria, North Africa and the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Dadaab camp in Kenya now holds nearly 50,000 refugees [Source: UN Refugee Agency]

Tens of millions of people have been forced to flee their homes, traveling great distances in an attempt to escape war, economic devastation and political persecution. Refugees often face deplorable conditions in the countries to which they flee, and with increasing regularity are turned away or perish during the journey.

Amnesty notes that in 2013, for the first time since the 1940s, the number of refugees was estimated at more than 50 million. In the ensuing two years, millions more have become refugees.

The situation in Syria and its neighboring countries in the Middle East is particularly dire. “More than half of Syria’s population is displaced,” including those displaced internally, according to the report. “Some four million women, men and children have fled the country and are refugees, making this one of the biggest refugee crises in history.”

Amnesty castigates the major powers for failing to provide assistance to the surging refugee population, many of whom have ended up in neighboring Lebanon (where 20 percent of the population now consists of Syrian refugees), Jordan and Turkey. It notes that the United Nation humanitarian appeal for $4.5 billion to aid Syrian refugees had reached only 23 percent of its goal by early June.

The entire UN emergency fund for Syrian refugees is less than one percent of the annual budget of the US military.

“The total number of places offered to refugees from Syria is less than 90,000, only 2.2 percent of the refugees in the main host countries (Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey),” the report states. Faced with a surging population and limited funding, the World Food Programme has been forced to reduce its level of food assistance to less than $0.46 a day to Syrian refugees in Jordan and $0.62 a day to refugees in Lebanon.

The desperate situation facing refugees from Syria exposes the “humanitarian” pretenses of imperialist operations in the region. The crisis is a direct result of the US-stoked civil war in the country, which has included the financing of Islamic fundamentalist organizations in the campaign to topple Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.

The Obama administration is now utilizing the crisis created by American imperialism to justify the expansion of military operations in both Syria and Iraq, ostensibly targeting the Islamic State. The 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq itself produced millions of refugees.

Amnesty also points to new restrictions on border crossing imposed by Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan, all US allies. Turkey has closed almost all of its border gates to Syria. Over the weekend, Turkish military forces used water cannon against refugees fleeing fighting across the border from the southeastern Turkish town of Akcakale.

The report says nothing about the origins of the crisis. The civil war in Syria is also a main driving force behind the sharp increase in the number of refugees seeking to cross the Mediterranean. Many Syrians have fled to Libya where they, along with refugees from other parts of the Middle East and Africa, face disastrous conditions in a country torn apart by the NATO war in 2011.

Libya is riven by rival Islamist militias, many of which were financed and armed as part of the US-led campaign to overthrow the government of Muammar Gaddafi. Refugees in Libya are subjected to harassment, torture, sexual assault, extortion and forced labor while seeking access to boats to take them across the sea to Italy.

In April, two boats packed with refugees sank in the Mediterranean, killing over 1,200 people. In the first five months of this year, 1,865 people have died attempting the journey, compared to 425 during the same period last year. The report notes that the “dramatic increase in the number of lives lost” is “partly due to the decision by Italy and the European Union (EU) to end the Italian navy operation Mare Nostrum at the end of 2014 and replace it with a much more limited EU operation.”

The response of the European imperialist powers, which backed the war in Libya as part of an attempt to reassert control over their former colonies, has been to strengthen “Fortress Europe” and block the flow of refugees. Last month, the EU agreed to a quota system to house 20,000 refugees, a tiny fraction of those seeking to flee Libya.

At the same time, the European powers are citing the refugee crisis as a rationale to prepare military strikes in Libya itself, aimed in the first instance at destroying the boats used to transport people across the Mediterranean.

A similar disaster has unfolded in Southeast Asia and the Asia Pacific in the first part of 2015, as boats filled with refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh have been turned away by Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Australia. It is estimated that 300 people have died at sea so far this year due to starvation, dehydration or abuse.

The Amnesty report notes that the initial refusal of governments in the region to accept the refugees was a “flagrant violation of their international obligations.” It states that “Australia’s offshore processing policy—whereby it takes asylum-seekers who attempt to reach Australia by sea to detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island (Papua New Guinea)—is particularly egregious… [T]he deliberately harsh, humiliating conditions at the Australian-run detention facility were designed to pressure asylum seekers to return to their country of origin, regardless of whether or not they were refugees.”

The Australian government of Prime Minister Tony Abbott is currently facing allegations that it has paid people smugglers to take asylum seekers back to Indonesia, allegations that the government has tacitly acknowledged. These illegal actions underscore Australia’s central role in spearheading the persecution of refugees throughout the region.

In Sub-Saharan Africa there is an estimated population of 3 million refugees, the result of waves of people fleeing wars and conflicts in different parts of the continent, including Nigeria, South Sudan, the Central African Republican and Burundi. These wars are invariably connected to struggles over natural resources, with the imperialist powers viewing the deeply impoverished region to be of interest only as a source of oil and minerals.

The Amnesty report’s conclusions are predictable, consisting of impotent calls for governments to do more. “The global refugee crisis will not be solved unless the international community recognizes that it is a global problem and deals with it as such,” the report states.

The catastrophic situation facing refugees, however, is one particularly horrific expression of a bankrupt social and economic system. The surge of refugees is a direct product of unending war and social counterrevolution. The persecution of those uprooted by imperialism is inseparable from the attack on the democratic and social rights of the working class in every country.

EU migrant crisis: WikiLeaked docs outline naval op, reputation risk management

May 27, 2015


5dbff8607cce8544a71882ff21758d75-051WikiLeaks has published two classified documents revealing details of a EU plan for military intervention to curb the influx of migrants from Libya, and an information strategy to “facilitate expectation management” and avert reputation risks.

The European Union foreign ministers agreed to form a naval mission in the Mediterranean Sea targeting gangs smuggling refugees from Libya to Europe on May 18.

One of the classified documents published by WikiLeaks on Monday reveals details of the planned year-long military operation against human traffickers. The 11-page document, drafted by the EU defense chiefs, outlines plans to destroy vessels along the Libyan coast as well as target transport networks and infrastructure within Libya’s borders.

The second, 6-page EU Politico-Military Group advice paper on the military intervention lists recommendations on tackling human trafficking networks in the Mediterranean and outlines propaganda initiatives to sell the military option to the public.

The EU military chiefs’ advice centers on the notion of drawing a “full range of surveillance” and other intelligence data from EU member states and making “systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers.”

In this context, the European Union Military Committee (EUMC) highlights the need to create an information exchange and the “coordination of the use of military assets” between partners supported by Brussels (inter alia EEAS [European External Action Service] Single Intelligence Analysis Capacity – SIAC).

With regards to the use of force, the EUMC highlighted the need to layout Rules of Engagement, especially when it comes to the “seizure of vessels in a non-compliant situation, for the neutralization of smugglers’ vessels and assets, for specific situations such as hostage rescue and for the temporary detention of those posing a threat to the force or suspected of crimes.”

The plan also envisions possible engagement with Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) fighters “within the Libyan sovereign area.”

“The threat to the force should be acknowledged, especially during activities such as boarding and when operating on land or in proximity to an unsecured coastline, or during interaction with non-seaworthy vessels. The potential presence of hostile forces, extremists or terrorists such as Da’esh [ISIS] should also be taken into consideration,” the document highlights.

The authors of the leaked document admit that the operation should be backed by a clear information strategy that would “avoid suggesting that the focus is to rescue migrants at sea but emphasize that the aim of the operation is to disrupt the migrants smuggling business model.”

While the plan lists Libya and North African regional neighbors among the areas to be targeted by the information campaign, it also acknowledges the risks of negative international publicity “should loss of life be attributed, correctly or incorrectly, to action or inaction by the EU force.”

Consequently, PMG stressed the need for a public messaging campaign to “avoid misperception on the operation’s mandate and to manage expectations.”

To protect individual operation commanders from being held “personally responsible for an action executed under their command” as well as to avoid damaging “EU reputation,” the document noted the need to have “clear legal frameworks and protocols in place prior to Operation launch, ideally with a UNSCR under Chapter VII and a complementary invitation by a legitimate LBY government.”

At the same time the authors acknowledge that “the political End State [of the military intervention] is not clearly defined” and recommend that the European Commission issue further guidance. The document emphasizes the need to avoid destabilizing the political process or causing “collateral damage” in Libya that might result in disrupting “legitimate economic activity.”

While the classified material acknowledges the main goal of the operation is fighting traffickers, and not preventing the loss of human life, the EU Politico-Military Group advice (PMG) paper recognized that search and rescue, “while not part of the core mandate of the operation”, should be administered according to international law.

At the same time, the 6-page document notes that a visible EU naval force along the coast of North Africa could have a “counterproductive effect” in preventing human smuggling, noting that the “smugglers’ business model will invariably adapt.”

European Union’s “migrant mission”: War plans in a humanitarian cloak

By Robert Stevens
May 23, 2015
World Socialist Web Site


June 7, 2014 - Mediterranean Sea / Italy: Italian navy rescues asylum seekers traveling by boat off the coast of Africa. Photographer: Massimo Sestini/Polaris

Image from: amesnews.com.au

The flood of desperate refugees seeking to escape carnage and war in North Africa and the Middle East continues to swell. On Wednesday alone, more than 900 migrants were rescued from three overcrowded boats en route from North Africa to Europe.

Nearly all survived, but just this year 2,000 refugees have died gruesome deaths trying to make the Mediterranean crossing and an estimated 5,000 have perished in the last 18 months. The highest death toll was the drowning of nearly 900 men, women and children off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa on April 19.

In response, the representatives of the imperialist powers shed crocodile tears. But this was only a cynical cover for the overarching militarist and colonialist strategy now being enacted.

The European Union (EU) is rapidly moving to further subordinate and plunder their former colonies, under the guise of “solving the refugee problem” and fighting human trafficking.

On May 18 the EU approved Operation EUNAVFOR Med. It will establish a naval force in the Mediterranean and in Libyan territorial waters backed up with fighter jet support, under the excuse of clamping down on people smugglers. The plan should properly be understood as a launching pad for a renewed military intervention in Libya and the rest of North Africa—and as an extension of ongoing operations in Iraq and Syria.

The mission statement allows for the destruction of boats operated by “smugglers.” Ships can be intercepted, seized or destroyed even when they are in Libyan coastal or international waters. Such military action would require the agreement of the United Nations Security Council.

The remit of EUNAVFOR goes far beyond its stated aim of finding and stopping boats used by people traffickers. A Guardian report of a 19-page strategy paper for the mission notes that ground operations may also be needed.

The document states, “A presence ashore might be envisaged if agreement was reached with relevant authorities.” It continues: “The operation would require a broad range of air, maritime and land capabilities. These could include: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; boarding teams; patrol units (air and maritime); amphibious assets; destruction air, land and sea (sic), including special forces units.”

The paper refers to a possible “presence or tasks in the Libyan territory.” Land operations could include “action along the coast, in harbour or at anchor [against] smugglers’ assets and vessels before their use.”

This could result in significant casualties, with the planning document admitting: “Boarding operations against smugglers in the presence of migrants has a high risk of collateral damage including the loss of life.”

The Guardian leak gives the lie to Federica Mogherini, the EU’s chief foreign and security policy coordinator, who claimed, “We are not planning in any possible way a military intervention in Libya.”

Up to 10 EU countries have volunteered to take part in the campaign, including Italy, Britain, France and Spain. These countries are all opposed to taking in even a few thousand refugees. But they are united in staking out a place in what is in fact a war plan.

Any such operation would be sanctioned under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. In recent years Chapter VII has been used to sanction military interventions in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Somalia, Haiti, Iraq and Libya itself.

In addition the EU is also prepared to invoke Article Five of the NATO Charter, mandating action by the entire alliance when any individual member or its armed forces come under attack. Such an attack is highly likely and could provide the imperialist powers with a suitable casus belli .

The document even warns of “militia and terrorist’ threats to the EU forces. It states, “The existence of heavy military armaments (including coastal artillery batteries) and military-capable militias present a robust threat to EU ships and aircraft operating in the vicinity.”

Under conditions of raging civil war in Libya, the EU powers are preparing to use this tragedy, one entirely of their own making, to justify a military invasion.

According to reports, the operation will be launched from the June 25 EU summit in Rome. In preparation, Mogherini has lobbied the UN Security Council for support. NATO has also offered its help if requested.

The filthy imperialist operation being planned is as cynical as it criminal. The fact that millions of refugees in North Africa and the Middle East have been uprooted from their homes, and are desperately fleeing the carnage they face is due to decades of imperialist wars and intrigues in the region.

The imperialist powers have entirely absolved themselves of any responsibility. Indeed it was only due to massive public outrage against what is essentially a policy of mass murder of thousands of refugees that the EU countries even put into place the token rescue plan now in operation.

On Thursday Reuters reported on a proposed new European Commission draft plan to relocate across the continent just 40,000 asylum seekers who have arrived by boat in Italy and Greece. Reuters noted that the tiny figure had been likely “set to guarantee acceptance after some EU states, notably France, had initially baulked at the idea of opening their doors to migrants.”

This follows last week’s announcement by the EU that it would take in just 20,000 asylum-seekers currently living outside the bloc. In Libya alone nearly two million refugees—more than a quarter of the population—have been forced to flee to Tunisia.

The drive to war and attacks on democratic rights, including the freedom of immigration, is being driven by the global crisis of capitalism. The struggle against war and its attendant evils must be led by the working class, the only class that has no interest in the maintenance of militarized borders, prison camps for desperate refugees, and the entire apparatus of repression that constitutes the nation-state.

The only way to prevent this drive to war is through the overthrow of the capitalist system, based on the perspective of uniting the working class internationally in the struggle for socialism. Central to this is the struggle for the United Socialist States of Europe, as part of a world socialist federation. This is the perspective advanced by the International Committee of the Fourth International.

EU approves military operation against Mediterranean refugees

By Johannes Stern
May 21, 2015
World Socialist Web Site


The European Union is putting its plans for a military intervention in the Mediterranean and North Africa into action. The decision was made by EU foreign and defence ministers at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.

A press release states: “The Council has agreed today (18 May) to establish an EU military operation—EUNAVFOR Med—to break the business model of smugglers and traffickers of people in the Mediterranean. This decision, which is one element of the comprehensive EU response to the migration challenge, will enable the formal start of the operational planning for the naval operation.”

The first phase of the mission to uncover the smuggling networks and their routes will begin immediately, to be followed by a second and third phase “that would work to search, seize and disrupt the assets of smugglers.”

According to the press release, the Italian Rear Admiral Enrico Credendino will direct the intervention. Rome will be the headquarters of the operation, which will initially last 12 months. The costs of a two-month “preparatory phase” are estimated at €11.82 million.

The appointment of Credendino alone makes clear the nature of the mission. The Italian Admiral has been in command of Operation Atalanta, the EU’s military intervention off the coast of Somalia. Warships of EU member states hunt for suspected pirates, attacking not only ships, but also supposed pirate camps ashore.

Although initially only the first phase is to be implemented, it is clear that the EU is prepared for much more extensive action. According to the press release, the operation will “tackle the root causes of irregular migration as requested by the European Council on 23 April 2015.”

At that time, following a series of terrible disasters in the Mediterranean with more than 2,000 deaths, the EU leaders had adopted the infamous “Ten-Point Plan for Migration.” It includes stricter police and military operations against refugees and lays the foundation for a massive military intervention in Africa.

Since then, the plans have advanced further. Prior to the meeting on Monday, Spiegel Online reported a concept developed by the EU High Representative Federica Mogherini: “What Mogherini has prepared over six pages, is no less than the possible launch of a new EU military mission.” Its mandate relies on Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which authorizes the use of military force.

The text of Mogherini’s document suggests a far-reaching plan of attack. “The mandate should expressly allow operations in the waters of Libya and on Libyan territory to destroy the smugglers’ infrastructure there,” it states. Threats from the weapons in the possession of Libyan militias, including air defence systems and ground-to-air missiles should be countered with a martial “Force Protection” operation prepared for a “hostile environment.”

The EU’s plans are as revealing as they are criminal. Of course, the European elites and their henchmen in the mainstream media fail to make any mention of the fact that the chaos in Libya and the dramatic refugee disaster in the Middle East and North Africa are a direct result of Western policy. The wars conducted and supported by the US and the European states—including the NATO bombing of Libya in 2011 and the arming of Islamist militias to overthrow Gaddafi—have destroyed an entire region and turned millions into refugees.

Now, the imperialist powers are using the disaster to once again prepare military interventions behind the backs of the population.

Over the weekend, Bild am Sonntag published an “exclusive interview” with the German Commander Alexander Gottschalk, on board the frigate Hessen off the Libyan coast. While the paper tried to present the naval action as a “humanitarian” operation to rescue small refugee children, it is clear that military actions have already begun.

Asked what would happen to the boats after the refugees were rescued, the captain responded: “We must destroy the boats because they are a maritime hazard to other boats on the open sea. On the other hand, it could be that we erroneously regard an empty boat from the air as a boat in distress and go to save it. That can cost valuable time lost in saving occupied boats. Therefore we let the air out of inflatable dinghies and set them on fire. We also sink the less common wooden boats.”

Even Die Zeit, which publishes war propaganda in weekly instalments, noted under the headline “German frigate has license to sink” that using the military to destroy smugglers’ boats was “controversial.”

In addition to legal questions, it was “also unclear how the boats are to be detected. The military access powers were still open, with an eye on the position of the UN Security Council.”

To put it plainly: without a UN mandate, the military operation is in violation of international law and has even less legal cover than the criminal NATO attack on Libya four years ago!

Nevertheless, in contrast to its hesitation to intervene in Libya then, Germany stands at the head of the intervention today. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD, Social Democratic Party) declared in Brussels that the mission could begin quickly, adding that this was the consensus within the EU. At the same time, Steinmeier, who has repeatedly demanded a greater role for Germany in the world, warned that military action alone would not change the situation.

What is envisaged by Steinmeier and the German elite is a much broader EU engagement in Africa. Even before the recent EU foreign ministers’ meeting in April, he had declared to the press: “I think we need to see that we are faced with a daunting task … We know that the migration pressure will not relent as long as we have instability in North Africa and therefore what needs our attention, and it will be not be resolved in the short term, are the transit routes and countries of origin, and the most important transit country is at the moment Libya, a country that is falling apart if we do not interrupt and reverse the process.”

On Monday, at a joint press conference with Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU, Christian Democratic Union), he urged the “bringing to power of a government of national unity” in this resource-rich country.

A WSWS perspective, “The refugee catastrophe and the new ‘scramble for Africa,’” explained what the real objectives of Brussels and Berlin are.

To understand this, one needs only to look at the “Africa Policy Guidelines” adopted by the German government in the spring of 2014. The document speaks of the “growing relevance of Africa for Germany and Europe,” stemming, in part, from the growing economy and “rich natural resources” of the continent. The statement calls on the German government to act “early, quickly, decisively and substantially,” and to “use the full range of its available resources.”

The worldwide persecution of refugees

By Bill Van Auken
May 14, 2015
World Socialist Web Site


Boat filled with refugees from Libya. Image from: crossedcrocodiles.wordpress.com

From Europe, to Asia, to the Americas, the world is witnessing growing numbers of refugees and a corresponding wave of state repression and violence directed at denying them their fundamental democratic rights.

The European Union this week has moved on two tracks to confront the flow of refugees from northern Africa, which has led to the drowning deaths just this year of nearly 2,000 of those seeking to make the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean.

The first is a scheme unveiled Wednesday to parcel out between the EU member states a combined quota of 20,000 refugees over the course of two years. The number is pathetic in relation to the estimated half a million refugees believed to be gathered in North Africa in their flight to Europe, not to mention the 170,000 refugees who made the crossing last year alone.

Nonetheless, the proposal has triggered a sharp crisis within the EU, with the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark opting out of the refugee quotas. The very proposal provoked denunciations from Britain’s Tory government. The quota system acts, in the words of Home Secretary Theresa May, as a “pull factor,” encouraging people to attempt the Mediterranean crossing. Instead, she indicated, the migrants must be forcibly pushed back to Africa.

The quota scheme notwithstanding, the EU as a whole is concentrating on strengthening Fortress Europe and even preparing to carry out military action to halt the flow of refugees.

As the British daily Guardian revealed Wednesday, the EU has drawn up a 19-page strategy paper that calls for the use of naval, air and even ground forces to stop refugees from leaving Libya. Envisioned are not only a naval blockade, but air strikes against boats and boatyards involved in smuggling migrants across the Mediterranean, along with the potential deployment of special operations troops on Libyan soil.

The document acknowledges that such operations pose “a high risk of collateral damage, including the loss of life.”

It should be lost on no one that the imperialist powers of Europe are threatening to use military force in response to a crisis that they and their American ally created, aided and abetted by the “left” champions of “human rights imperialism.”

The flow of refugees is driven by the decimation of entire societies at the hands of the US and its allies, first in Iraq and Afghanistan through direct invasion and occupation, then in Libya through the US-NATO bombing campaign and support for an Islamist-led proxy ground force in the war to overthrow and murder Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. Simultaneously with the Libyan intervention, the US and its Western European allies backed a proxy Islamist-led war for regime change in Syria, seeking the overthrow of the Assad government, an ally of Russia and Iran. These wars have produced millions of refugees, including large numbers of African migrant workers trying to flee the bloody chaos created by imperialism in Libya.

Amnesty International issued a report this week documenting that refugees trapped in Libya are confronting “widespread abuses by armed groups, smugglers, traffickers and organized criminal groups in Libya as well as systematic exploitation, lawlessness and armed conflicts.” The country’s social infrastructure has collapsed and it is being fought over by rival militias and two competing governments. Migrants in detention centers face torture, sexual assault, beatings, slave labor and summary killings. These are the conditions to which the European powers want to drive the refugees back.

Unfolding simultaneously with the tragic fate of the refugees in the Mediterranean, is a similar crisis in Asia, with an estimated 8,000 refugees stranded aboard small boats in the Andaman Sea and Malacca Straits. Most of them are members of the Muslim Rohingya minority fleeing persecution in Burma (Myanmar) and Bangladeshis escaping the impoverished conditions in their country.

The governments of Malaysia and Indonesia have been forcing these boats back to sea—a policy pioneered in the region by Australia. Many of the refugees have been on the water since March and face the threat of death by hunger and disease.

Finally, in the United States, whose government routinely postures as the champion of “human rights” to justify its endless military interventions abroad, the Obama administration has put forward a new immigration policy that is worthy of a dictatorship.

Faced with a court order to shut down massive new detention camps that it created to imprison child and family refugees fleeing north from the rampant violence in Central America, the administration has declared that its response will be to separate the mothers from their children. The mothers would remain imprisoned under this policy, while their children would be handed over to foster homes.

As in the flow of refugees from North Africa, Central Americans have been forced to flee their home countries by the murderous conditions created by decades of US imperialist interventions, from the “dirty wars” of the 1970s and 1980s through to the “drug war” violence that followed. The end result is that these countries now have the highest homicide rates in the world, and those turning up on the US border are literally fleeing for their lives.

As elsewhere, the response of the US authorities to this crisis of their own making is one of inhuman and illegal repression. In setting up its massive new detention centers—run for profit by private prison corporations—the Obama administration violated a previous court settlement that mandated standards of care and treatment of child migrants, barring their confinement to such centers.

The issue has come to the courts once again because of the protests, including hunger strikes, by mothers imprisoned with their children in these illegal and abusive camps. Treating refugees seeking asylum like criminals and locking up traumatized children is Obama’s method for dissuading other Central Americans from attempting to reach the US. Also crafted as a deterrent is the militarization of much of the US border, forcing migrants into ever more hostile territory, where many die. These deaths, like those in the Mediterranean, are meant to “send a message.”

The roots of both the surge of refugees and the repressive policies being unleashed against them lies in the global crisis of capitalism and the increasing turn by the major imperialist powers to militarism. At the same time, the assault on refugees is inseparable from the attack that is unfolding in every country against the democratic rights and social conditions of the working class as a whole.

A fight against the ruling class and its policies of war and counterrevolution is not possible without a defense of immigrants and refugees. This entails a relentless fight against the attempts of the ruling establishment in every country to scapegoat these most oppressed layers of the working class for the destruction of jobs and wages, and to pursue a policy of divide and conquer by whipping up anti-immigrant chauvinism.

The Socialist Equality Party and the International Committee of the Fourth International unconditionally defend the right of workers from every part of the world to live and work in whatever country they choose, with full democratic rights and without fear of police repression and deportation.

The defense of the rights of refugees and of the working class as a whole means a struggle to unite workers of every country in a common struggle to overturn the capitalist system, abolish the nation-state system and establish the foundations of a socialist world economy, rationally organized on the basis of social need, not private profit.



European powers seek to bomb Libya to stop migrants

By Patrick Martin
May 11, 2015
World Socialist Web Site


The European Union is preparing to bomb targets in Libya to stop migrants from attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea in small boats. EU foreign policy coordinator Federica Mogherini is to brief the United Nations Security Council Monday on plans for a “Chapter VII” resolution that would give a UN green light for the use of force.

The plan is the outcome of several weeks of high-level consultations among the 28 EU members, including a foreign ministers’ meeting, held in response to a series of incidents of mass drowning of refugees. The worst such tragedy took place April 19, when some 900 drowned when their small boat capsized after colliding with a freighter.

The wreck of that boat, only 25 meters long, was found last Thursday by the Italian Navy at a depth of 375 meters, 190 kilometers northeast of the Libyan coast. Many bodies were seen in or near the wreckage, according to Giovanni Salvi, prosecutor in the Sicilian town of Catania, who is interviewing the relative handful of survivors.

The “bomb the boats” plan is driven, however, not by the number of deaths by drowning, but by the even larger number of refugees who have successfully reached the Italian island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily, or have been picked up by merchant ships or the Italian coast guard and navy.

In the most recent tragedy, 40 migrants drowned May 3 when their rubber boat deflated and sank before an oncoming merchant ship could reach them. But another 160 were rescued from the sea. Over that weekend, a total of 4,800 refugees were rescued or reached Lampedusa, while another 2,000 were detained by the Libyan coast guard before their boats left the shore.

EU military intervention would be aimed at stopping the vast majority of refugees now seeking transport across the Mediterranean from even setting foot on board a ship. As for preventing deaths by drowning, it would merely assure that future atrocities would take place along the Libyan shoreline or in the country’s coastal waters, rather than further out in the Mediterranean. “Precision” bombing would not be restricted to empty boats, but would strike Libyan fishermen or even boats fully loaded with refugees.

Italy is to have command of the operation, while at least 10 EU countries would contribute military assets, including Britain, France and Spain. NATO would be kept informed of the military actions but would not initially be directly involved.

EU ships would enter Libyan territorial waters, along with aircraft and helicopter gunships, to identify ships and help “neutralize” them, i.e., blow them to bits. These would reportedly include HMS Bulwark, a helicopter carrier that is the flagship of the British Royal Navy, now deployed at Malta.

In the event that any of the myriad warring factions in Libya fires on EU vessels or aircraft—the country has two governments and multiple militias, many heavily armed by the CIA, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar or other countries—NATO forces, including those of the United States, could then become involved.

This would be carried out under Article Five of the NATO Charter, the same provision invoked by President Obama during his visit to the Baltic States last year, mandating action by the entire alliance when any individual member or its armed forces come under attack.

Libyan ambassador to the UN Ibrahim Dabbashi told the Associated Press that the EU had not consulted his government, which has been driven from the capital Tripoli and reconvened in the eastern city of Tobruk. Neither the parliament in Tobruk nor its Islamist-dominated rival in Tripoli has agreed to the entry of EU forces into Libyan airspace, coastal waters or territory.

It is not clear whether the UN Security Council will endorse an EU military mission in Libya without some Libyan entity giving its approval. Russia and China, which have veto power, have publicly suggested that they regret their actions of March 2011, when they did not block a Security Council resolution that became the basis of the US-NATO bombing campaign against Libya.

On May 7, Lithuanian Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite, the current Security Council president, said the Tobruk-based government would back the EU operation, and even request it, but Dabbashi poured cold water over that suggestion. “They never asked anything of us. Why should we send them this letter?” he asked, adding, “We will not accept any boots on the ground.”

The Libyan ambassador suggested that instead of EU military forces, the Security Council should lift its embargo on weapons shipments to Libya and let the Tobruk government build up sufficient military forces to retake Tripoli and the western half of Libya, where most of the refugee boats to Europe originate.

The Tobruk government has named General Khalifa Haftar as commander of the Libyan Army. A former Libyan chief of staff who broke with Gaddafi in the 1980s, Haftar spent a quarter-century on the CIA payroll, living near Langley, Virginia, before returning to Libya during the US-NATO bombing campaign.

EU officials have presented the plan to bomb small fishing boats as an effort to attack so-called people smugglers rather than the migrants themselves. The resolution drafted by Great Britain speaks of the “use of all means to destroy the business model of the traffickers.”

But the real attitude of the EU leaders towards the refugees is demonstrated by the conflicts that have broken out over what to do with the relative handful of refugees who have succeeded in reaching European soil—a few hundred thousand people on a continent of 740 million.

All 28 EU members support the military intervention. However, there are sharp disputes over rules being drafted by the European Commission to set quotas for each of the countries to share refugees who survive the perilous sea voyage. Germany is the main force behind the quotas, which have been rejected by Britain and many east European countries, where right-wing parties are whipping up anti-immigrant racism.

Germany and Sweden have taken nearly half of all the current wave of refugees, and want to offload many of them onto the other EU member states.

The author also recommends:

The refugee crisis and the new “scramble for Africa”
[23 April 2015]

Mass drownings in the Mediterranean: A crime of imperialism
[20 April 2015]

Deadly Disinformation: War, the Mainstream Media and the Tragic Death of African Refugees

By Julie Lévesque
April 29, 2015
Global Research


imperialism-refugee-boatThe tragic death of hundreds of refugees last week in the Mediterranean Sea has once again brought to light the deadly hypocrisy of Western leaders and their mainstream press. Omissions and distortions are disconnecting the catastrophic event from its roots, preventing the real culprits from being publicly exposed. Were the victims Libyan “migrants seeking a better life in Europe,” or rather refugees fleeing a war zone created and fueled by Western powers?

The way the story is told and the wording are deceptive. Swedish scholar Jan Oberg explains:

In various media reports and political statements the word ”refugee” is increasingly being replaced by ”migrant”… A migrant, according to the UN, is a person who is engaged in (seeking) a remunerative activity in a state of which he or she is not a national. A refugee is an entirely different person who is outside his or her home country because of having suffered (or feared) persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, or political opinion; because he or she is a member of a persecuted social category of persons; or because they are fleeing a war… Using ”migrants” instead of ”refugees” takes away our attention from why they flee, from our own complicity in all this and it reduces our responsibility to protect refugees….

Because most of these refugees come from zones where Western military interventions and arms exports have failed miserably their officially stated purposes and caused only more problems.

Like with so many other problems these years, there is a psycho-political denial of the fact that Western militarism is the single most important cause of the problems we are facing. (Jan Oberg, Behind Every Refugee Stands an Arms Trader, TFF Associates & Themes Blog, April 28, 2015)

Johannes Stern and Bill Van Auken add:

The American press, led by the New York Times, writes of refugees fleeing poverty and violence in the Middle East and North Africa without so much as mentioning the actions of the United States and its European allies that have caused the humanitarian catastrophe. What is unfolding in the Mediterranean is not a tragedy; it is an imperialist war crime. (Johannes Stern and Bill Van Auken Blood on their Hands: Libya’s Boat Refugees and “Humanitarian” Imperialism, World Socialist Web Site, April 21, 2015)

Robert Parry blames the media itself for its key role in selling the war:

The mainstream U.S. news media is lambasting the Europeans for failing to stop the humanitarian crisis unfolding in the Mediterranean Sea as desperate Libyans flee their war-torn country in overloaded boats that are sinking as hundreds drown. But the MSM forgets how this Libyan crisis began, including its own key role along with that of “liberal interventionists” such as Hillary Clinton and Samantha Power. (Robert Parry, The US Hand in Libya’s Tragedy, Consortium News April 21, 2015)

Since the 2011 French-led NATO intervention destroyed Libya, the most prosperous African state, the number of people literally dying to reach Europe has exploded:

Although there was outmigration from Africa and the Middle East prior to 2011, the crisis has recently surpassed anything seen in modern history. Just since the beginning of 2015, it is estimated that over 1,800 people have died in the Mediterranean in route to southern Europe. (Abayomi Azikiwe, African, Asian Migrants Dying in Mass in the Mediterranean, Global Research, April 28, 2015)

According to the IOM [International Organization for Migration], the number of people dying in the attempt to reach the shores of Europe rose by more than 500 percent between 2011 and 2014.

Of course, 2011 was the year that the US and its NATO allies, principally France and Britain, launched their war for regime change in Libya, under the fabricated pretext that they were intervening to prevent a massacre by the government of Muammar Gaddafi in the eastern city of Benghazi. (Stern, Van Auken, op. cit.)

This military intervention in support of Al-Qaeda militias is intrinsically linked to the misfortune of these people and the mainstream media failure to connect the dots can only be voluntary. In fact, their of the situation in Libya ended with the “victory of the Libyan people” and the end of a “brutal dictatorship.” The reality on the ground is far from the manufactured success story we were fed. What happened, however, after the fall of Gaddafi, once NATO left the country in the hands of terrorists, was not considered newsworthy:

This “humanitarian” mission initiated a six-month US-NATO bombing campaign that killed at least 10 times the number who died in the scattered fighting between government troops and armed rebels that had preceded it…

Nearly two million Libyan refugees—more than a quarter of the population—have been forced to flee to Tunisia to escape an unending civil war between rival Islamist militias and two competing governments… According to the web site Libya Body Count, some 3,500 people have been killed just since the beginning of 2014—three years after the US-NATO intervention.

The escalating barbarism in Libya has included mass executions… There were no such mass sectarian murders in Libya before the US-NATO war for regime change, nor for that matter did Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militias exist as any more than a marginal force. These elements were promoted, armed and backed by massive airpower after the major imperialist powers decided to topple and murder Gaddafi and carry out a new rape of Libya.

The disastrous consequences of this predatory neocolonial intervention are now undeniable. It is only one in a growing number of imperialist wars and interventions in the oil-rich Middle East and North Africa that have destroyed entire societies and turned millions into refugees…

According to Amnesty International, the escalating conflicts in Africa and the Middle East have “led to the largest refugee disaster since the Second World War.” (Ibid)

Sadly, an atrocious fate awaits thousands of others. The Western “humanitarian intervention” in Libya has created the monster we now call ISIS and which is used as a pretext for more military interventions in the Middle East and North Africa. ISIS terrorists are being used to wreck havoc and bring down regimes the same way they did when they were NATO terrorists in Libya, but were branded as pro-democracy rebels and used to overthrow Gaddafi.

“Who are you?” the late Muammar Gaddafi once rhetorically asked in a famous speech of his towards the end of his reign; (rightly) questioning the legitimacy of those seeking to over-throw his government at the time, calling them extremists, foreign agents, rats and drug-addicts. He was laughed at, unfairly caricatured, ridiculed and incessantly demonized;

Gaddafi knew what he was talking about; right from the get-go, he accused the so-called Libyan rebels of being influenced by Al-Qaeda ideology and Ben Laden’s school of thought; no one had taken his word for it of course, not even a little bit.

Gaddafi called them drug-addicted, Islamic fundamentalists; we know them as ISIS… it doesn’t seem much of a joke now, does it? And ISIS is what had been in store for us all along; the “revolutionary” lynching and sodomization of Muammar Gaddafi amid manic chants of “Allahu Akbar”, lauded by many at the time as some sort of a warped triumph of the good of popular will (read: NATO-sponsored mob rule) over the evil of dictatorship (sovereign state), was nothing but a gory precursor for the future of the country and the region; mass lynching of entire populations in Libya, Syria and Iraq and the breakup of key Arab states into feuding mini-statelets. (Ahmad Barqawi, Libya, ISIS and the Unaffordable Luxury of Hindsight, Counter Punch, March 12, 2015)

As incredible as it seems, Western leaders can use the same terrorists for treachery over and over and over again, just by changing their name. The media will repeat the state propaganda and people will invariably be fooled into wars. Gaddafi was laughed at when he claimed he was fighting terrorists. But the ones laughing were the real fools. Abdelhakim Belhadj, the Al Qaeda commander in Libya and NATO’s ally, is now leading ISIS in Libya:

According to recent reports, Abdelhakim Belhadj (picture, holding frame with McCain) has now firmly ensconced himself as the organizational commander of the ISIS presence inside Libya.

The information comes from an unnamed US intelligence official who has confirmed that Belhadj is supporting and coordinating the efforts of the ISIS training centers in eastern Libya around the city of Derna, an area long known as a hotbed of jihadi militancy.

While it may not seem to be a major story – Al Qaeda terrorist turns ISIS commander – the reality is that since 2011 the US and its NATO allies have held up Belhadj as a “freedom fighter.” They portrayed him as a man who courageously led his fellow freedom-lovers against the “tyrannical despot” Gaddafi whose security forces at one time captured and imprisoned many members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), including Belhadj. (Eric Draitser, Washington’s Al Qaeda Ally Now Leading ISIS in Libya, New Eastern Outlook, March 10, 2015)

The mainstream media can no longer be trusted. They have proven time and time again to be nothing but propaganda outlets for the military-industrial complex. The only way we can stop this flow of deadly disinformation is with the truth. Please share this article.

For more information on Libya visit our In-depth report.

For more on the theme of ISIS and the US-NATO War Agenda, click here.

For a list of articles on Media Disinformation click here.

African, Asian Migrants Dying in Mass in the Mediterranean

European Union, United States attempt to distance imperialism from crisis

By Abayomi Azikiwe
April 28, 2015
Global Research


Migrants MéditerranéeAn accident on a substandard boat resulted in the deaths of over 900 refugees from Africa, the Middle East and Asia on April 19. Many of the passengers seeking asylum in Europe, were locked in the lower decks of the vessel which was overloaded with people fleeing Africa from Libya, a nation which is a source of instability throughout the region.

This recent tragedy has brought attention to the growing problem of out migration stemming in part from the imperialist wars of regime-change in Libya, Syria and other states in the region.

Four years ago, the United States and NATO engineered and carried out a dreadful war against the people of Libya. After financing and coordinating counter-revolutionary militias to attack and seize cities and villages in the east of the country, the-then Jamahiriya government headed by Col. Muammar Gaddafi mobilized military forces and volunteers to take back areas overrun by the rebels.

By March 19, 2011, the rebels were in retreat and the Pentagon-NATO alliance embarked upon a massive naval blockade, arms embargo and aerial bombardment of Libya, at the time the most prosperous state in Africa. After over seven months of bombing and rebel activity, the imperialists declared victory placing in government many individuals who had not been in Libya for decades.

Although there was outmigration from Africa and the Middle East prior to 2011, the crisis has recently surpassed anything seen in modern history. Just since the beginning of 2015, it is estimated that over 1,800 people have died in the Mediterranean in route to southern Europe.

Libya has two rebel regimes claiming authority over the state with additional militias which act as the law unto themselves. The economic status of the country has deteriorated while the country which had once chaired the African Union (AU) under Gaddafi is now shunned as a haven for criminal activity and reactionary political trends.

In addition to the destruction of Libya by the West, the Middle Eastern nation of Syria has been subjected to a similar destabilization campaign through a U.S.-NATO funded and strategically-directed civil war prompting the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands from the country.

In the Horn of Africa, war is still raging in Somalia and spilling over into Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti through the failed attempts by Washington to shape the political structures which govern Mogadishu and its environs. The 22,000-member African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somalia Federal Government are largely subsidized by the U.S. and the European Union.

Hundreds of thousands of additional internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees are re-locating out of the East African states of Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Pentagon maintains a large military base in Djibouti at Camp Lemonnier where the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) directs its operations in the region.

The Atlantic Slave Trade in the 21st Century 

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi likened the current situation in the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Slave Trade. Italy, the former colonial power in Libya, Somalia and Eritrea, is a relatively underdeveloped southern European state in comparison to the countries of the north and west of the continent, nevertheless is taking the majority of migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Renzi has called upon other European states to assist his country in addressing the migration issue. During the same week that the 900 migrants perished, some 1,200 others were retrieved by Italian vessels in the Mediterranean.

The prime minister said that the rest of Europe must take an active role in the crisis of migration, urging the United Nations to become more involved. Renzi urged Europe to invest in countries where migrants originate, calling on the EU bloc to make a “long-term investment” on the continent.

“We are asking for this to be a priority for an EU that wants to be something other than an assembly of member countries in an economic club, something other than a club of learned technicians that knows all the geopolitical dynamics and forgets to respond to the pain of our times,” the prime minister told parliament.

Nonetheless, other more developed countries are speaking about the situation in the Mediterranean and Libya as if it is an accident of nature. However, some western media outlets have drawn attention to the root cause of the horrendous situation involving migrants.

The Guardian newspaper noted that “a large number of these people are displaced by wars. The top three nations from which maritime refugees to the EU come are Syria, Afghanistan and Eritrea. The country where they are most likely to start their journey is Libya, which is now effectively a failed state. In other words, many are running for their lives through countries we have bombed. Those in the west who insist we cannot take in ‘the world’s misery’ must, at the very least, acknowledge how much of that misery we are responsible for.” (April 26)

Imperialist War and Genocide

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said in the response to the situation in the Mediterranean that “Gangs of criminals are putting people on a boat, sometimes even at gunpoint. They’re putting them on the road to death, really, and nothing else.”

It’s “genocide — nothing less than genocide, really,” Muscat told CNN. (April 19). Nonetheless, the EU at an emergency summit in Brussels called for the further militarization of the Mediterranean. Several countries held a meeting on April 23 where further assistance was requested to destroy the vessels that transport migrants.Such an approach will only cause more deaths. The flow of migrants from these regions cannot be halted by utilizing purely military means.The problems stem from the crisis of world capitalism and burgeoning racism in the foreign policy of western states. In attempts to control the regions of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, the U.S. and its allies are creating deeper crises through dislocations and deaths.Within Europe there is a fierce debate and political struggle over immigration from African and Asian states. Numerous political parties and fascist groups have sprung up to oppose migrants from countries of the South.The ruling parties in Europe and North America have also stepped-up their attacks on migrants. At the same time the wars of regime-change utilizing aerial bombardments and surrogate armies are fueling the desperation and shattering of post-colonial nations and communities.

In the same above-mentioned article in the Guardian its points out that:

“Around 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. The global 99% did not come about by accident. It’s the result of centuries of colonization, decades of imperialism and the current corruption that has allowed a handful of people, in different ways at different times, to steal natural resources and pilfer public goods. As Winston Churchill once said of Britain, ‘This small island is dependent for our daily bread on our trade and imperial connections. Cut this away and at least a third of our population must vanish speedily from the face of the earth.’”

In the U.S. the narrative surrounding the migration crisis is also framed within the context of criminality devoid of any serious reflection on the character and impact of the foreign policies of Wall Street and Washington. Only when there is a redistribution of wealth, resources and political power as it relates to international relations, the problems of migration and mass death on the seas will continue.

The refugee crisis and the new “scramble for Africa”

By Johannes Stern
April 23, 2015
World Socialist Web Site


At their summit in Brussels today, the European Union heads of state and government will adopt a ten-point plan negotiated at a special meeting of EU foreign and interior ministers held in Luxembourg on Monday.

The plan calls for an extension of police/military operations to keep refugees fleeing poverty and violence in North Africa and the Middle East from reaching “Fortress Europe.” That, however, is only its immediate aim. Under discussion are much broader plans for the former colonial powers to reassert control in a new “scramble for Africa.”

The EU’s response to the refugee crisis is as cynical as it is criminal. The European powers, having collaborated with Washington in devastating Libya and much of the Middle East in a series of “humanitarian” wars and regime-change operations, turning millions into refugees, now use the chaos they created to further subordinate and plunder their former colonies under the guise of “solving the refugee problem” and fighting human trafficking.

Politicians and media commentators in Brussels, Berlin, Paris, London and Rome are with increasing openness discussing military action. They are seeking a UN mandate for operations to destroy refugee boats off the Libyan coast and deploy Special Forces to hunt down traffickers within the country.

Other, more extensive operations are envisaged, including the seizure of oil refineries in Libya, the installation of a pro-imperialist “unity government” in Tripoli, the “stabilization of Tunisia and Morocco,” and the creation of refugee camps in sub-Saharan Africa.

Germany, which abstained from the NATO air war against Libya four years ago, is now at the forefront of discussions of a coordinated military intervention in Africa. Following the call by President Gauck at the beginning of 2014 for Germany to rearm and more aggressively assert German imperialist interests, the ruling class is eager to demonstrate the return of German militarism on the world arena and secure a share of the spoils from the subjugation of Africa.

We need to “bring more stability to Libya” and “put a stop to trafficking organizations” on the ground, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the ARD program “Report from Berlin.”

Roderich Kiesewetter, the Christian Democratic representative on the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, said in an interview with broadcaster Deutschlandfunk that while a UN mandate was needed for a “police action in North Africa,” such an operation would be “easier to achieve than in Iraq or Syria.”

In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière called for “a robust mandate to take action against traffickers,” including intervening “in ports and their infrastructure.”

“Robust mandate” is code language for a United Nations Security Council resolution under Chapter 7, Article 42, which sanctions “such action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security,” i.e., an open-ended mandate for war. The NATO war that overthrew the government of Muammar Gaddafi and left the country at the mercy of warring militias was similarly sanctioned under Chapter 7, Article 42 of the UN Charter.

According to Spiegel Online, preparations are under way in the German Defence Ministry “for possible German participation in both an EU rapid rescue mission and a long-term…military operation against the trafficking gangs in the Mediterranean.”

The web site reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has asked her defense minister, Ursula von der Leyen, to prepare “a list of possible German contributions to both operations” for today’s EU summit. Spiegel Online continues: “The military has already presented the minister with lists of German ships that are available for the two options.”

Under the headline, “What our Navy can achieve in the Mediterranean,” the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung calls for Germany to play a leading role in any military operation. The newspaper writes that Atalanta [the EU’s antipiracy operation in the Horn of Africa] shows “what role German forces could play in such a multinational formation in the long run.” It continues, “German frigates would be able to lead such a flotilla of warships or patrol boats.”

That what is being proposed is not humanitarian assistance, but a new war, is so obvious that the Süddeutsche Zeitung has felt obliged to admit, “This is not a humanitarian initiative.”

The “Africa Policy Guidelines” adopted by the German government in the spring of 2014 provide insight into the real aims behind the plans being discussed by the European powers. The document speaks of the “growing relevance of Africa for Germany and Europe,” stemming, in part, from the growing economy and “rich natural resources” of the continent. The statement calls on the German government to act “early, quickly, decisively and substantially,” and to “use the full range of its available resources.”

Germany’s ruling elite, 70 years after the end of the Second World War and the horrific crimes of the Nazis, views the deaths of more than a thousand refugees over the past week as an opportunity. It and its counterparts in France, Britain and Italy are exploiting the human disaster in the Mediterranean—for which they are responsible—to advance their competing geostrategic and commercial interests.

The return of German militarism and the new “scramble for Africa” raise critical historical questions. At the beginning of the 20th century, the struggle of the imperialist powers for control of the continent not only led to crimes against the indigenous population, it also exacerbated the inter-imperialist tensions that exploded in the First World War. Today, the global capitalist crisis is once again fueling a frenzied drive for imperialist conquest and plunder and creating the conditions for a new world war, this time carrying the risk of nuclear incineration.

Renewed military aggression in Africa and the danger of a Third World War can be averted only by the mobilization of the international working class on the basis of a socialist and revolutionary program. Hence the crucial importance of the International Committee of the Fourth International’s International May Day Online Rally to be held Sunday, May 3.

Its central slogans are: Down with capitalism and imperialism! For the international unity of the working class against war, dictatorship and poverty! For peace, equality and socialism! We urge all readers and supporters of the World Socialist Web Site to register for the rally today.



Blood on their hands: Libya’s boat refugees and “humanitarian” imperialism

By Johannes Stern and Bill Van Auken
April 21, 2015
World Socialist Web Site


The horrific death toll of African and Middle Eastern refugees and migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe is a damning indictment of all the major imperialist powers, and most particularly the United States.

The American president, Barack Obama, and his former secretary of state, Hillary “We came, we saw, he died” Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, have blood up to their elbows. They set the present catastrophe in motion through brutal wars for regime change waged under the hypocritical and discredited banner of “human rights.”

At least three more boats packed with refugees from North Africa and the Middle East were reported to be in distress in the Mediterranean on Monday, with a minimum of 23 more people said to have drowned.

This adds to the many hundreds of people, perhaps 1,400, who have lost their lives over the past week in a desperate bid to escape military violence by the US and its European allies, civil wars stoked by Washington and the European Union, and pervasive poverty exacerbated by the machinations of imperialism in the region.

On Monday, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said distress calls had been received from an inflatable life raft carrying 100 to 150 migrants and a second boat with some 300 people aboard. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said a caller reported that 20 people died when one of the vessels sank in international waters.

In a separate incident, at least three migrants, including a child, died when a boat, apparently coming from Turkey, ran aground off the Greek island of Rhodes. Video footage showed the wooden boat, with people crowded on the deck, heaving in the Aegean Sea just off the island. Eyewitnesses told the local radio station that there were many Syrians, but also people from Eritrea and Somalia.

The latest drownings follow the deaths of close to 950 people on Sunday in the sinking of a refugee boat off of Libya. According to the Italian Coast Guard, the completely overloaded boat capsized about 130 miles off the Libyan coast.

“We were 950 people on board, including 40 to 50 children and 200 women,” a survivor from Bangladesh told the Italian news agency ANSA. Many people were trapped in the hold of the ship and drowned under horrible circumstances. “The smugglers had closed the doors and stopped them leaving,” said the man.

Over 500 more people died the previous week in two separate sinkings of boats attempting to reach Europe across the Mediterranean.

Since the beginning of the year, at least 1,700 people attempting to immigrate to Europe have died in transit, 50 times the number for the same period last year. According to the IOM, the number of people dying in the attempt to reach the shores of Europe rose by more than 500 percent between 2011 and 2014.

Of course, 2011 was the year that the US and its NATO allies, principally France and Britain, launched their war for regime change in Libya, under the fabricated pretext that they were intervening to prevent a massacre by the government of Muammar Gaddafi in the eastern city of Benghazi.

This “humanitarian” mission initiated a six-month US-NATO bombing campaign that killed at least 10 times the number who died in the scattered fighting between government troops and armed rebels that had preceded it. This imperialist intervention, which utilized Islamist militias with ties to Al Qaeda as its proxy ground forces, left Libya descending rapidly into chaos and destruction.

Nearly two million Libyan refugees—more than a quarter of the population—have been forced to flee to Tunisia to escape an unending civil war between rival Islamist militias and two competing governments, one based in Tripoli and the other in the eastern city of Tobruk. According to the web site Libya Body Count, some 3,500 people have been killed just since the beginning of 2014—three years after the US-NATO intervention.

The escalating barbarism in Libya has included mass executions. The latest, made public in a video released Sunday by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), was of some 30 Ethiopian migrants. This follows by less than two months the similar mass beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians at the hands of ISIS, which has seized Libya’s eastern port city of Derna as well as parts of the city of Sirte.

There were no such mass sectarian murders in Libya before the US-NATO war for regime change, nor for that matter did Al Qaeda-linked Islamist militias exist as any more than a marginal force. These elements were promoted, armed and backed by massive airpower after the major imperialist powers decided to topple and murder Gaddafi and carry out a new rape of Libya.

The disastrous consequences of this predatory neocolonial intervention are now undeniable. It is only one in a growing number of imperialist wars and interventions in the oil-rich Middle East and North Africa that have destroyed entire societies and turned millions into refugees. These include the wars in Iraq, Syria and now Yemen, as well as interventions by the imperialist powers or their regional proxies in Mali, Somalia and Sudan.

According to Amnesty International, the escalating conflicts in Africa and the Middle East have “led to the largest refugee disaster since the Second World War.” Amnesty estimates that 57 million people have been forced to flee worldwide in the last year, 6 million more than in 2012.

The American press, led by the New York Times, writes of refugees fleeing poverty and violence in the Middle East and North Africa without so much as mentioning the actions of the United States and its European allies that have caused the humanitarian catastrophe. What is unfolding in the Mediterranean is not a tragedy; it is an imperialist war crime.