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Opinion: The Current Migration Debate – Resetting the Frame

Images of people escaping their homes to search for safety have in a very short amount of time become part of our daily routine. The most severe humanitarian crisis since the Second World War is challenging nation states as well as civil society organisations and reinforces the question of immigration with a vehemence, which for a long time has not been seen.

Being inside or outside, being part of something or not has irrefutably become an existential lot of millions of people. Right-wing parties and extremist groups, such as Alternative for Germany, in several European countries are using this moment to channel the public debate around immigration into a politics of division.

In light of these alarming signs, there should be no doubt that European countries need to review the roots of their migration policies. We, the European Network of People of African Descent (ENPAD) as well as other leading think tanks and grassroots organisations representing the people directly affected by these decisions, see this as the only way to end the dehumanising consequences of a failing migration politics. 

In contrast, the media currently detaches the people who are fleeing from their reasons to flee. We are for this reason demanding a new discourse about immigration, which shows it as an inevitable product of globalisation and international politics instead of an unfortunate condition.

The dialogue of the media blaming the immigrants is especially set, when it is about people leaving from Africa to Europe. During these public debates, Africa is represented as a static continent with no history and no future. Refugees seeking safety in Europe are shown as the sad results of a miserable continent. Even relatively recent interventions like the structural adjustment programmes from the IMF from the 1980s – supported by industrial countries – which have left many African countries in deep debt, are excluded in these debates. 

The same applies to the agricultural subventions of European products. NGOs and development research institutes have repeatedly stated that the subvention of European agricultural products would destroy subsistence farms and are for this reason one of the major factors for Africans to leave their homes. Mainstream media and politics however seem to be blind to all these obvious causes of flight.

Furthermore in the last months we have observed that people of darker complexion are almost not to be found in the media coverage about migration any longer. There is a distinct difference in the reporting of the African refugees and those from the Middle East. 

In 2015, the UK mounted a wide campaign to support the Syrian refugees while months before that a racist attack from a popular/unpopular mouth piece, namely Katie Hopkins, asked the media to ‘show the bodies, I still don’t care’, while the Prime minister described the drowning as cockroaches referring to the people coming from places like Somalia. This goes along with the idea of the secondary economic refugee and the primary refugee coming from Syria which is currently promoted in mainstream media.
We stand in full solidarity with the Syrian people, who are now forced to leave their homes to search for safety in a dangerous journey. It is at the same time equally important for us to state that this human right, of which various cultural, religious and ethnic groups make use of since centuries, should be available to everybody.

We demand an end of this hierarchical depiction of immigration groups. We demand media as well as politics to stop bleaching migration. Our work in the field will be focussing on these two points in the future: Counter simplistic, one-dimensional discourses; fighting racist categorisations.

We invite civil society organisations to join us to free the immigration dialogue from racist and sexist imagery in order to develop an honest conversation starting with the ongoing consequences of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, creation of systematic racism, colonisation and neo colonisation.

Furthermore we pursue the following overall goals with our network:

  • To work towards the full implementation in Europe of the objectives of the UN International Decade for People of African Descent 2015-2024 and its three themes; recognition, justice and development.
  • To raise civic awareness of anti-Black racism in Europe, through an informative website and more importantly transnational actions.
  • To start a Pan-European Black movement for the empowerment of People of African Descent in Europe and their equality of dignity and human rights.
  • To advocate for National Action Plans against Racial Discrimination and an EU-wide Framework for People of African Descent in Europe.
  • To develop and stabilise a long-term European Network of People of African Descent.

For more information about our work and member organisations, please visit one of our platforms below:

twitter: https://twitter.com/EUNetworkPAD

tumblr: http://bethechangenetwork.tumblr.com/

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bethechangenetwork

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