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13 December 2001 Edition

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Death of refugees

Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin described the death of eight refugees, in a freight container in Wexford, last weekend, as an "international scandal" and has called for action from the Dublin government and the EU.

Offering his condolences to the relatives of the victims, he pointed that "it was only a matter of time before the type of fatalities, which have occurred en route to other EU countries, happened here also."

Ó Caoláin slammed the "unscrupulous" traffickers for the tragedy, but also said that the immigration system in the 26-County state and throughout the EU has to assume some responsibility. "The Irish government and the EU need to re-examine and reform their policy with regard to labour from outside the EU. Otherwise the walls of 'Fortress Europe', like the Berlin Wall in the past, will continue to claim victims," he said.


Fortress Europe exacts its Toll

There can be no doubt as to where the blame lies for the death of 8 people from Turkey, Algeria and Albania, who died in the container deposited in Wexford Business Park on Saturday morning. And it is certain that blame extends to more than "the rogues who traffic in refugees" targeted by Minister O'Donoghue in his subsequent commentary this week, writes ROISÍN DE ROSA.

False protestations

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has protested that "he would do all in his power, and spare no effort, to catch and punish the criminals who traffic people". Fianna Fáil's Dick Roche added, on Monday nights's Questions and Answers (RTÉ), a further 'explanation'. People were in the container because there weren't enough sniffers at Zeebruge roll-on-roll-off port to carry out 'properly' their obscene practice of sniffing out the human beings who hide inside these steel boxes.

And Dick Roche was anxious to tell us that the Italian Prime Minister, Berlusconi, who had vetoed, last week, the all-EU extradition warrants, was really to blame. Without these EU warrants, people traffickers would not face prosecution.

In fact the Italian Prime Minister, Berlusconi, has no objection to EU warrants for people traffickers. He has a problem with common EU warrants covering financial irregularities because, it is alleged, he fears they might apply to himself. Such are the scoundrels that make and unmake EU laws.

Minister O'Donoghue, by way of exoneration from blame for the deaths on RTE's Morning Ireland show on Monday, wanted to assure us, and "to give his absolute guarantee", that whomsoever arrived in this country was always allowed to apply for refugee status. This, of course, is irrelevant to those who are dead and irrelevant to those who are stopped by an Gardaí Síochána (illegally, because the Gardaí are outside of their jurisdiction), the other side of the Channel, attempting to take a boat across to Ireland.

Walls get higher

Blame lies, quite simply, with the "Fortress Europe" policy, which EU governments have jointly conspired to create. Fortress Europe is there to protect the EU's riches from 'the hordes waiting at the gates' - those people who are driven to desperation by poverty, starvation, or being hunted down by death squads, torturers or paramilitary and state police who detain people without any regard or respect for the human right to life.

They are people, sometimes whole families, who often, knowingly of its dangers, take the trip to get to the West, to Europe, in the hope of survival. They take that risk in desperation.

As the EU member states build the walls higher and higher it becomes more and more difficult to access EU countries and to exercise an internationally 'guaranteed' human right to apply for asylum. The harder access becomes, the greater the risk people have to take to get here. The 'traffickers' exist simply because the EU governments have made it so hard to get into this little corner of the World.


Why did those eight people die? Because the trucks were sealed. They asphyxiated in the dark and the cold, as they struggled to get heard. Why did they take such a desperate risk? Not because of Minister O'Donoghue's illegal traffickers, but because, in their own country, survival was not possible. Why?

Some came from Turkey, where the US government and IMF are 'loaning' a colossal $19 billion to preserve a nice base for the NATO exercises in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

In Turkey, the mass of the people live in abject poverty, without employment or the means of survival. In Turkey human rights don't exist. Huge trade union protest marches in the country, which go unreported in the EU's press, are beaten off the streets, their leaders arrested and imprisoned. 47 people have now died on hunger strike protesting at inhumane prison conditions. Men and women prisoners were burned to death by blast and gas bombs, when 2000 security forces attacked the prisons last December 19th.

Torture is widespread. There is no freedom of speech. Opposition parties are imprisoned. Death squads are common. The number of political prisoners in Turkey is10,000 people.

Ultimate Blame

And the ultimate blame lies squarely at the door of those rich countries that spend billions making war, and supplying weapons of destruction, in order to misappropriate the wealth and resources of countries outside of their own.

The EU and the US never had any problem with the export of capital, the import of raw materials. Its only when it comes to the free movement of labour that the rich nations want to stop at 'Gast Arbeiter', a moveable feast of exploitation, which can be sent home when the times and government require it.

That, Minister O'Donoghue, is why those 13 people were in the container truck, that and this government's obscene policy of keeping refugees out of our rich little country, and keeping it for ourselves.

And that is why, last Friday, there were at least four people in Mountjoy jail, locked up in cells, to be deported - back to Nigeria.

That is why Elizabeth Onasanwo, a Nigerian lady and her five beautiful children is threatened with deportation back to Nigeria where, technically, she may well face the same death as that of Safiya Huseini, who this week appeals her sentence to die by stoning, because she committed adultery. Sex out of wedlock, under Sharia law in Nigeria, carries a death penalty.

And this is why at least 4 people, immigrants, (those who are known about) have died through suicide in this state, awaiting powerlessly the enforcement of Mr. O'Donoghue's order for deportation. One of these was a young Nigerian girl who lay for months in the morgue because no one knew of her, or who she was. There have been over 2,300 deaths since 1993, in Fortress Europe. They were all people seeking a way to survive in another land. They died quite unnecessarily. Eight died last weekend because they weren't allowed to travel on deck.


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