Securitisation of European and American Borders

Photo source: The New Arab

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

By tightening national and security protocols, Greece is using Middle Eastern and South Asian refugees to carry out extrajudicial deportations. In a report by Human Rights Watch in April 2022, asylum seekers who crossed the Greco-Turkish border were stripped, beaten, robbed and forced to wade through chest-high freezing water back to Turkey. This is a sadistic twist on the European border regime. Known as refugee commandos, they work not on money, but on the promises of asylum.

No one should be surprised that the securitisation of Europe’s border has directly depended on the violence and humiliation of refugees. Since the Arab Spring happened, the European Union has shaped its border policy in such a way that it deflects people seeking safety inside Europe. No European leader condemns this. Member states are banding together their border defence forces which are now stronger than Frontex, the EU’s own border agency.

The right-wing government in Greece has also answered Ursula Von der Leyen’s call to act as ‘the shield of Europe’. It accuses journalists and NGOs of spreading fake news when they reveal the human cost of halting refugee arrivals.  While on the Evros land border, refugees are tortured and sent back across the river, in the Aegean Sea crossing, the coast guard systemically pushes back refugees by shooting at them and puncturing their boats.

There was also an infamous footage broadcasted in the press in June 2021. Filmed on Croatian soil, armed men wearing balaclavas can be seen beating Afghan and Pakistani asylum-seeking men with batons, forcing them into the river Korana to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Analysis of the footage reveals that the masked men were equipped, and had uniforms consistent with the Croatian riot police, which receive funding from the EU to assist with border security.

Separate footage from Romania even showed border guards undertaking pushback operations at the border with Serbia. The investigation gathered testimony from men and women who were caught up in these pushbacks, testifying that they had been violently assaulted during the same operation.

Traditionally, the EU has paid others to commit human rights violations to keep ‘fortress Europe’ in order. In the central Mediterranean, the 2017 Italy-Libya agreement used EU funding to transform Libyan militias into coast guards, holding back refugees trying to reach Italy. In the Aegean, the 2016 EU Turkey agreement ensured that refugees attempting the passage to Greece were intercepted and returned to Turkey by Turkish border forces. While these agreements came at an immense financial cost, they had the benefit of keeping both the EU’s territorial integrity and its ‘European values’ intact.

In 2020, Turkey threatened to stand down as Europe’s border protector. It thus created a dangerous gamble in vesting its faith, political reputation and financial resources as a third-party custodian of Europe’s borders. According to an article by Chloe Haralambous in The New Arab: ‘Turkey’s periodic belligerence has dispelled Europe’s colonial illusion that it can count on the continued obedience of its neighbouring countries, and today it falls increasingly on the EU’s own member-states to do the dirty work necessary for vouchsafing Fortress Europe.

No official record exists of the thousands of people who made it to Europe and were illegally sent back. This is, in fact, a grave inhuman strategy on brown people, as the invention of these squads speaks of a certain sadistic mindset. The brown people are bad immigrants who are ought to be despised, according to many Europeans.

Although, in the aftermath of the Ukrainian war, the securitisation of the European border debate has come under the limelight. It is because white refugees are being welcomed by the Europeans, even their pets are given preferential treatment over blacks, thereby criminalising non-white refugees seeking the same protections. It is also a direct violation of United Nations conventions, as anyone fleeing war has an equal right to safe passage, regardless of nationality, skin and colour. Unlike Ukrainian refugees, who have been taken on board even by President Joe Biden, non-white refugees are met with hostility and a shameful lack of empathy. They were also not offered a fast-track way to legal status, education or the job market, unlike Ukrainian refugees. 

This stance by Biden is also shameful, much like his European counterparts, because he sent back Haitians to their country, who were fleeing a natural disaster and political turmoil. Among all the denialism and political obfuscation in our chaotic world, the simple fact is that there is a much greater value placed on the lives of white refugees.


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