by New Worker correspondent
PROTESTERS gathered in London on Sunday 26th April outside the London office of the European Union in Westminster to express anger at the EU policy towards migrants from Africa and Asia, which led to the deaths of around 900 desperate people in a shipwreck last week – and many more over the last few years.
Imperialist interventions in the Middle East and Africa have smashed the elected governments in Iraq and Libya and are attempting to do the same to Syria, inflicting war, devastation and destabilisation throughout the region.
The oil-rich Gaddafi government in Libya gave economic support to many impoverished North African countries and now it is gone the people there are destitute and the whole area is filled with warring extremist religious factions.
Hundreds of thousands of families have been forced to flee their homes. Many try to cross the Mediterranean to Europe using overcrowded and unsafe boats.
But the EU is doing its best to discourage this influx of desperate refugees by reducing the number of Mare Nostrum search and rescue operations – which rescued 150,000 migrants in 2013. EU powers claim that allowing some to drown will discourage other migrants from trying to make the crossing.
The Migrant Lives Matter protest in London was organised by the Movement Against Xenophobia and supported by groups including Stop the War Coalition, Unite Against Fascism and Stand Up To Racism.
The recent and deadliest migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean cost between 800 and 900 lives. Another 400 were lost in a similar boat sinking the previous week. These repeated tragedies expose the appalling human cost of the “Fortress Europe” immigration policy imposed by [the] EU and the British government, the organisers of the rally said in a statement.
Activists blame figures like the Sun newspaper columnist Katie Hopkins and the anti-immigrant UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader, Nigel Farage for a rise in anti-immigration sentiment in Britain.
The United Nations condemned Hopkins on Friday after she described migrants as “cockroaches” and “feral humans”, comparing her words to Nazi propaganda.
At least, 800 people fleeing Africa through Libya lost their lives on April 19 when a migrant boat capsized and sank after leaving Tripoli. The incident was preceded by a similar shipwreck, in which 400 drowned a week earlier. The migrant death toll in the Mediterranean has already reached 1,700 this year; 4,000 bodies were recovered from the sea in 2014.
UAF joint secretary Weyman Bennett said: “We’ve seen far right racist and fascist parties around Europe attack migrants and, disgracefully, mainstream party leaders have often echoed this anti-immigrant rhetoric.
“The tragic deaths in the Mediterranean show where this rhetoric, and political decisions based on migrant-bashing, can lead. We need to stand together and say migrants are not to blame for the economic crisis and austerity. We are backing the demo because we believe migrant lives matter. We need unity and not division in our communities. We have to say no to scapegoating.”