New Age Islam Edit Bureau
19 September 2015
• Don’t Blame The Isi
By Vappala Balachandran
• Fortress Europe
By Manish Tewari
• Limiting The Free Movement Of People: Why Border Walls Fail
• Ailing Against The Rising Tide Of The Refugee Crisis
By Hiranmay Karlekar
• Compassion Vs National Identities: Europe At Wits’ End Over Migrant Crisis
By Makhan Saikia
• Food Governance Or Good Governance: Open Letter To Mr Fadnavis
By Rajdeep Sardesai
Don’t Blame the ISI
By Vappala Balachandran
Sep 19, 2015
Some commentators have described the late General Hamid Gul as the father of the Taliban. Gul was no doubt the most virulent anti-Indian face among all ISI chiefs. But it is not true that he created the Taliban, which was the brainchild of General Naseerullah Babar, Benazir Bhutto’s interior minister during her second tenure as prime minister (1993-96). Benazir did not trust the ISI. She tried to cut it down to size by firing Gul during her first tenure (1988-1990) for the ISI’s failure to oversee mujahideen operations to capture Jalalabad after the 1989 Soviet withdrawal. Also, contrary to conventional wisdom, it is not the Pakistan army that first introduced the deadly cocktail of religion and terrorism to inflame its neighbourhood. This was done by popularly elected governments. In 1973, PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto asked Babar, then chief of the Peshawar Frontier Corps, to train an Afghan Islamic students’ group to undermine the Daud Khan regime in Kabul. Among those trained by Babar were future mujahideen leaders like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Habibur Rahman, Burhanuddin Rabbani and Ahmad Shah Massoud. The ISI was not kept in the loop according to Babar’s own admission. Babar replicated this strategy in 1993-94. He trained religious students from border seminaries and unleashed them as the “Afghan Taliban”. There was American pressure on Benazir to find an alternative to the fractious Afghan mujahideen, who continued infighting even after President Mohammad Najeebullah’s fall in April 1992 — Hekmatyar was fighting with Massoud; diverse militias were controlling the highways. The Kabul government, first headed by Sibghatullah Mojaddidi, later by Rabbani, was unable to control the hinterland. Also, commercial considerations to open the Afghan highways to connect Central Asia were overwhelming. In 1994, this anarchy was checked by a group of mysterious young men who suddenly appeared as sentinels to maintain order by rendering instant punishment to the repressive warlords. In the beginning, we did not know the identity of this group. Towards the second half of 1994, we received an enigmatic visitor from war-torn Afghanistan, Abdur Rahman, then civil aviation minister, he was also a close ally of Massoud. Rahman revealed that the young sentinels were Pashtun students from Af-Pak border seminaries. We naturally thought they were created by the ISI. Late in 1994, we were in for a surprise when chatter was picked up between Pakistan President Farooq Leghari and Babar. We heard Leghari congratulating Babar for taking the young religious soldiers to open up the Afghan highways. We initially wondered why Leghari should congratulate the interior minister for a suspected foreign intelligence operation, but later found out that Babar was doing this through his ministry’s “Afghan cell”. Former US foreign service official Dennis Kux’s 2001 Disenchanted Allies prominently mentioned Babar’s role. In 2003, the US National Security Archives published a heavily redacted secret telegram of December 6, 1994 from the US embassy in Islamabad. It quoted a source saying the Taliban was supported by the interior minister. The source told the embassy’s political officer he had accompanied then ISI chief General Javed Ashraf Qazi to Kabul, where he had “vehemently denied that his agency had any role in supporting the Afghan Taliban movement”. The source added Qazi had strongly recommended to Benazir not to support the Taliban as it “could become a dangerous and uncontrollable force which could harm both Afghanistan and potentially Pakistan”. But neither Benazir nor the US paid heed. Kux describes the US enthusiasm to support the Taliban for commercial interests. In October 1995, Babar personally led a convoy of trucks from Quetta to Turkmenistan, passing through Kandahar and Herat, with a Taliban escort. Several foreign envoys, including US Ambassador John Monjo, were in the party. Oil company Unocal was trying to lobby with Pakistan, the US government and also the Taliban for the Central Asia pipeline project. Robin Raphel, then assistant secretary of state for South Asia, reportedly believed that the Unocal pipeline could help bring peace and jobs to Afghanistan and gas to India-Pakistan. The US changed its strategy only after the deadly 1998 Tanzanian and Kenyan embassy bombings. The FBI found evidence that al-Qaeda was fully in the picture over Taliban-US government negotiations. Since then, the Taliban has splintered into more deadly groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan, some threatening regional peace by aligning with the IS. Who would have thought that democratically elected governments would have laid the foundations of these sanguineous movements? The writer is a former special secretary, cabinet secretariat
By Manish Tewari
Sep 19, 2015
Europe is besieged. Millions are on the march. They are fleeing to its shores escaping the beastiality of the nine odd civil wars raging across Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, southeast Turkey, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and northeast Nigeria.
Syria and Libya have almost ceased to exist as Westphalian entities that cartography comprehends them as. Half of the 23 million Syrians have been rendered homeless and are on the move seeking refuge. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has rendered another three million odd Iraqis refugees. Another million and a half have been displaced in Southern Sudan.
The waves of humanity are just roiling into Europe causing both social and political turmoil. The stampede that left hundreds injured on the Serbian-Croatian border is but the latest manifestation of frontiers getting overwhelmed by the multitudes.
The response is also conflicted. Initially, European nations welcomed the refugees with German Chancellor Angela Merkel even clicking self-serving selfies with the evacuees. However, soon the sheer numbers swamped even the efficient German response system as trains continued rolling into Munich and other cities. Under pressure from the politicians of Bavaria and other states, the government was compelled to set up controls along its borders with Austria, to regulate the incoming human traffic. Austria in turn has pretty much done the same on its Hungarian border and Hungary has fenced its border with Serbia and now Serbia has put its Army on high alert on the Croatian border.
Greece and Italy, the first ports of call for refugees fleeing across the Mediterranean sea, may just be compelled to opt for more coercive measures in the near future as they too are swamped. Overnight, the open borders policy of the European mainland has regressed to the old days of ingress and egress checkpoints at national borders. Xenophobia, racism and anti-immigrant violence may be the logical corollary of the influx as the loony fringe on the right of European politics may find a renewed raison d’être.
As the interior ministers of the European Union nations got together in Brussels to wrap their arms around the conundrum, a poignant full-page open letter in the newspapers by a non- governmental organisation, Médecins Sans Frontieres, underscored the enormity of the worst displacement crisis the world faces since the Second World War.
Urging the EU ministers to dismantle the fences and provide safe passage to the migrants, the first and the last paragraph of the letter are worth reproducing: “We send you this letter today, together with a life jacket belonging to one of the 15,000 people rescued at sea by the Médecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) since May. The poor quality life vest was the only security a man, woman or child had while trying to cross the sea to Europe.
These jackets sometimes feature handwritten prayers for a safe passage or phone numbers of relatives and friends to be contacted in case the person wearing it does not make it. This is a reminder that people embarking on these journeys are fully aware of the risks they are undertaking, and of the sheer desperation motivating to put themselves and their families in so much danger”.
The letter ends with a heart-wrenching plea: “Europe is faced with an increasing number of people seeking assistance and protection. These people are only a small portion of the millions who are fleeing intolerable suffering. No matter the obstacles, they will continue to come. They have no other choice. The current policies are untenable in the face of the situation. The only way that Europe can prevent a worsening crisis on its territory is to replace the smugglers with a safe, legal and free alternative. We ask you to provide safe passage.
Legal crossing of sea and land borders must be authorised for asylum seekers into and inside EU. All forms of legal avenues allowing refugees to reach Europe must be put in place urgently. Efficient solutions to relocate asylum seekers from one member EU state to another must be found. Effective access to coherent asylum procedures and assistance should be provided at entry points, throughout Europe and along migratory routes. Swift registration and access to temporary protection should be provided upon arrival. Legal migration pathways must be created. Dignified reception conditions must be offered to all. Make this life vest redundant. Provide humane dignified and safe alternatives.”
The underlying message of the missive is all but clear. It instructs the leaders of the European powers to take responsibility for the immense human suffering their actions over the past decade have caused in the greater Middle East. When you sow the wind be prepared to reap the whirlwind.
The responsibility for the current mass migration can be squarely laid at the doorstep of these eminences. The continuing tragedy in Afghanistan is the result of the Cold War rivalry between the erstwhile Soviet Union and the United States dating back to the early ’80s. It was renewed afresh by Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001. It is not that removing the Taliban-Al Qaeda nexus was wrong, but after their previous joust in Afghanistan the US should have had the stomach for the long haul once it decided to go in again.
The situation in Iraq, Libya and Syria is again the result of a disastrous attempt by the US and its allies to reopen the settlement of the Middle East frozen in time post the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War. If Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al-Assad were or are fiends, then those who have replaced them are not paragons of virtue.
They are in fact even bigger ogres. The current situation in Yemen is again the consequence of the assault by Saudi Arabia, UAE and other frontline allies of the US in the Gulf region. The perennial problem in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that has spawned the largest number of refugees in the world, again has an eternal Western and European dimension to it.
For the neo-conservatives of the 21st century, high on the success of the “end of history” with the disappearance of the iron curtain in Europe, the chickens have unfortunately come home to roost rather early in the day. That is not to say that 9/11 and all that followed in its aftermath should be condoned. The question that the “coalition of the willing”, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and thousand other acronyms, should ask themselves is, was there a smarter way of handling the situation? For the world is carrying the can for their Ramboism and the American electoral cycle may TRUMP up Bush 3.0. However there is no institutional introspection, much less a critique in mainstream Western media about the trigger of the current crisis.
For India the nightmare may have just about begun. If the fences in Europe keep becoming impenetrable by the day, the multitudes would inevitably be compelled to turn East. The events in the Spanish Enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco in 2005 are a menacing reminder. Imagine if a million people were to land up at the Wagah border demanding protection and asylum? And this may happen even without Pakistan unraveling.
Manish Tewari is a lawyer and a former Union minister. The views expressed are personal. Twitter handle @manishtewari
Limiting the free movement of people: Why border walls fail
Sep 18, 2015
Call this the Year of Border Walls. In 2015, Estonia, Hungary, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia all announced or began the construction of barriers on their frontiers. We may live in an era of globalization, but much of the world is increasingly focused on limiting the free movement of people.
At the end of World War II, there were only five border walls around the world. Today, according to Elisabeth Vallet of the University of Quebec at Montreal, there are 65, three-quarters of them built in the past 20 years. And in the United States, Republican presidential candidates are promising more. The Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, has repeatedly proposed building a wall along the entire border with Mexico. And on a Sunday morning talk show, another Republican candidate, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, described building a wall on the US-Canada border as “a legitimate issue for us to look at.”
And yet existing border walls are neither cheap nor effective. Israel’s wall in the West Bank cost more than $1 million per mile to construct. According to US Customs and Border Protection, building and maintaining the existing 670 miles of border fencing on the US-Mexico border would cost $6.5 billion over the barrier’s expected 20-year life cycle. At this price, fortifying the remaining 1,300 miles of the Mexico border would cost more than $12.6 billion. Erecting a wall along the 5,525-mile border with Canada would cost almost $50 billion and would cut through an airport runway, an opera house, homes, and businesses that currently straddle the border.
Nor is there much evidence that border walls work as intended. To be sure, prisons demonstrate that short, well-guarded walls can be extremely effective at preventing movement. But even prison walls are only as effective as the guards who ensure that they are not breeched, and guards can be susceptible to bribes. The recent escape of the drug cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman from a Mexican prison highlights another vulnerability of border walls: tunnels. Since 1990, the US Border Patrol has found 150 tunnels beneath the US-Mexico border. Those with money will always be able to cross borders using fake documents, bribes, or innovative infrastructure.
Indeed, fortified frontiers are most effective at stopping poor migrants and refugees. And even then, rather than preventing migrants from entering, fortifications all too often funnel them toward more dangerous crossing points. The result is a mounting toll of predictable deaths. The International Organization for Migration estimates that from 2005 to 2014, some 40,000 people died attempting to cross a border.
Unlike prison perimeters, borders can be thousands of miles long, which makes them difficult to monitor properly. The US employs more than 20,000 Border Patrol agents; but even if they were all on duty at the same time, each would each need to guard a 1,700-foot section of the border.
Of course, equipment like cameras, motion sensors, drones, helicopters, and vehicles allow agents to watch long sections of the border. But the necessity of monitoring border walls points to one of the fundamental truths about them: historically, most have proved to be pretty useless. The most famous sections of the Great Wall of China were overrun within a few decades of their construction. When Germany invaded France in WWII, it simply went around the Maginot Line. The Berlin Wall fell within 30 years of its construction.
Indeed, border guards and their equipment can be equally effective without a physical barrier. At best, walls and fences only slow people down, making them a poor investment from a security standpoint. They are similarly ineffective from a military perspective. Missiles and airplanes can fly over them and tanks can smash through them.
And yet, despite their high cost and low efficacy, walls remain popular among policymakers and politicians. They provide imposingly tangible evidence that something is being done about migration. High-tech surveillance and boots on the ground may be more effective at preventing people from crossing a border, but a wall can be used as a political prop.
If Trump ever builds his wall, he should build a really nice one, like the Great Wall of China. Then one day it might become a popular tourist attraction – and finally serve a useful purpose.
Reece Jones, a professor of geography at the University of Hawaii – Manoa, is the author of Border Walls: Security and the War on Terror in the United States, India, and Israel and the forthcoming The Violence of Borders.
AILING AGAINST THE RISING TIDE OF THE REFUGEE CRISIS
By Hiranmay Karlekar
19 September 2015
Europe’s response to the refugee surge has been skewed. Central to the effort is mobilising moderate Muslims. Bulk of refugees, who have fled the savagery of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda, should have little love for either
Of all the European countries, Hungary’s response to the refugee surge from North Africa and West Asia, particularly Syria, has been the most inhuman and ironical. On Tuesday, its Prime Minister, Viktor Orban’s Government declared a “state of crisis” along its borders and further amended its immigration laws to provide for harsh penalties, including imprisonment, for those entering illegally or damaging the border fence. It also includes the creation of “transit zones”— small encampments for holding refugees and evaluating them for entry. According to a New York Times report (September 15), “Hungary Detains Migrants in Border Crackdown” by Helene Bienvenu and Rick Lyman, which stated all this, “Other changes still being discussed include activating the military to help protect the border and granting the police new powers, including the ability to enter a private residence at will if they suspect migrants are being hidden there.”
Hungary, which has taken a hard line against the refugees from the very beginning, protecting its borders with razor-wire fencing, erected a fresh barrier on September 15 at a gap in the border fence through which thousands of refugees have walked into the country in recent weeks. As the New York Times report stated, “..new arrivals encountered only razor wire and a line of police officers pointing them back toward Serbia.” It is not Hungary alone. Another New York Times report by Rick Lyman (September 4), states, “Razor-wire fences rise along national borders in Greece, Bulgaria and France.”
These countries treat refugees harshly. Lyman points out in his September 4 report that in Hungary “hundreds of migrants surrounded by armed police officers were tricked into boarding a train with promises of freedom, only to be taken to a “reception” camp. In the Czech Republic, the police hustled nearly 200 migrants off a train and wrote identification numbers on their hands with indelible markers, stopping only when someone pointed out that this was more than a little like the tattoos the Nazis put on concentration camp inmates.” The report quotes Robert Frolich, the chief Rabbi of Hungary, as saying that images of police “putting numbers on people’s arms” reminded him “of Auschwitz. And then putting people on a train with armed guards to take them to a camp where they are closed in? Of course there are echoes of the Holocaust.”
It is not just the Governments. Right–wing leaders fan extreme, exclusivist nationalist feelings depicting refugees “as dangerous outsiders whose foreign cultures and Muslim religion could overwhelm cherished traditional ways.” A camerawoman, Petra Laszlo, associated with a news channel supporting a far-right political party, was caught on camera kicking and tripping migrants. She was dismissed, but her action reflected the deep hatred for refugees that many in East European countries harbor.
They are clearly encouraged by their Governments’ stand. While Mr Orban has repeatedly said that Hungary has the right to protect its Christian traditions by refusing to accept large numbers of Muslims, an aide of his, Georgy Bakondi, has been quoted by Bienvenu and Lyman (September 15), as saying, “We hope that the messages we have been sending migrants for a long time have reached them, ‘“Don’t come. Because this route doesn’t lead where you want to go.’” I wonder how the 200,000 Hungarians, who fled their country after Soviet troops had crushed the 1956 (October-November) uprising, would have reacted if European leaders had said the same thing to them!
Besides Soviet intervention in Hungary and oppressive post-World War II Soviet domination, Hungary and other East European countries (1945-1991) had also suffered horribly during the holocaust and World War II. The Auschwitz complex, the largest of its kind where 1.1 million people, 90 per cent of them Jews, were exterminated was in Poland, as was Treblinka, the second largest, where 700,000 to 900,000 Jews were killed. According to the Polish Institute of National Remembrance, Nazis killed 2.77 million ethnic Poles and 2.7 to 2.9 million Polish Jews, slaughtering 1,50,000 to 1,80,000 civilians while suppressing the 1944 Warsaw uprising, and razed the city to the ground. In Czechoslovakia, Nazi atrocities included the complete destruction of Lidice, a village north-west of Prague, and the murder of all its men, following the assassination of Reich Proctor Reinhard Heydrich in 1942. Among the worst incidents in Hungary was the massacre of Jews on the banks of the Danube in Budapest.
Eastern Europe has many memorials to Nazi atrocities. Yet, its treatment of the current refugees, including herding them into reception camps, has reminded people of Nazi methods. Lyman’s report quotes Gabor Gyulai, refugee programme coordinator for the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Budapest, as saying, “I cannot call them anything other than concentration camps.”
There are certainly reasons for worry. The numbers, for example. Hundreds of thousands, the bulk of them Syrians, have been coming into Europe during a little less than the last couple of years. Besides, there are about 1.9 million Syrian refugees in Turkey and 2.1 million in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt. Integrating all of them, and more who will be on their way as the conflicts in Middle East rage, will not be easy. Cultural differences exist and the fear that the Islamic State, Al Qaeda and allied organisations are sending infiltrators along with the refugees is genuine. But then, the US and several European countries already have large Muslim populations and the alarming number among them travelling to join the IS reflects the considerable headway fundamentalist Islamist doctrines have made among them. The West has in any case to find a way of countering the spread of both theologically and administratively. Central to the effort is mobilising moderate Muslims. The bulk of the refugees, who have fled the savagery of the IS and Al Qaeda and the wars they have unleashed, should have little love for either. The narration of their experiences to Muslims already present in the West can have a sobering effect. Many of them can also be mobilised in the multi-dimensional global campaign that has to be accelerated. For this to happen, the feeling of gratitude which many of them feel toward their hosts, should last, and they must be encouraged to identity with their new countries. This will not happen, nor can they be integrated in liberal post-Renaissance European culture, if they are treated as beyond the pale and less than human when they arrive.
COMPASSION VS NATIONAL IDENTITIES: EUROPE AT WITS’ END OVER MIGRANT CRISIS
By Makhan Saikia
19 September 2015
The crux of the controversy around the migrant crisis is quota system advocated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to share the migrants among the EU members. But countries like Britain are arguing and threatening to leave the EU against what Merkel has proposed
In the broad sweep of history and civilisation, migration has always been an integral part of our society, as far as humans have inhabited this planet. We are living truly in an “age of globalisation”, but at the heart of the nation-states and their established identities, migration has been brought forth as anti-national and anti-development at times to protect narrow national interests. Although Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations (1776) rightly prescribed “the free movement of goods, capital, and people as the hallmark of the market system”, nation-states over the years have not responded very well to the latter. The current European migration crisis is a vivid reflection and rebuttal of what Adam Smith predicted. The paradox is that despite the rising demand for free movement of people, the right to free movement has distinctively been ever more restrictive in the developed countries than in the rest.
The recent migrant crisis in Europe started with the beginning of the Arab Spring, particularly the civil war in Syria in 2011. The war and conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and some countries of Africa like Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Yemen, etc, are already in place for a long time. The migration crisis of 2015 has sparked international outcry with mainly three heartbreaking incidents: drowning of more than 700 migrants in April in the Mediterranean sea while they were fleeing war-torn Libya, grisly discovery of 71 migrant corpses in a truck in Austria, and the drowning of 3-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi. The current refugee crisis is alarming and the European Union (EU) is looking for a common solution, which will be made public in September 14 in Brussels. Between 2011 and 2014, approximately 1.7 million migrants have tried to enter the EU nations.
The Syrian Civil War alone has displaced more than 4 million refugees to the neighboring Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. But the fact is that the situation in Syria is worsening day by day and none of the host countries are promising any future, so most of the migrants are heading for EU, which is the nearest, but precisely safest, destination for them. At the same time, the situation in the states of Western Balkans are devastating as high level of unemployment, poverty and deep political corruption have forced their people to move to richer states of Western Europe. In fact, more than 40 per cent of the total asylum seekers in Germany in the first half of 2015 are from Macedonia, Kosovo and Serbia. Apart from them, thousands of migrants heading towards EU come from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Iraq, and Iran. Around 2,70,000 migrants alone have come to the shores of Europe this year only. “People have been on the move since the dawn of time, but never in such big numbers. By the end of 2014, 59.5 million individuals had been uprooted due to conflict or persecution — the highest since World War II. Despite knowing the risks, every day thousands continue to board rickety boats, or pay smugglers for the promise of safety and better lives ahead” (Patrik 2015). It is indeed sad that the richest of the nations have not been able to handle this crisis. EU president Donald Tusk has warned that the wave of migration is not one-time incident but the beginning of a real exodus, which only means that EU will have to deal with this problem for many years to come.
The problem today in Europe is not about the number of migrants, but about the choice of migrants for certain countries in the continent. This creates tensions between EU members and at particular border posts. For instance the Somali migrants prefer to settle down in Finland because of its enlightened social housing policy and the freedom the minorities enjoy. Those migrants who can speak English want to go to Britain. However migrants wish to land up in France for accessing benefits. More importantly, Germany is attracting most of the migrants because of her social security schemes and stability of the economy. Therefore, the picture is mixed but it is very much apparent that all the migrants are either heading for safety or most probably for a better life chance. The East European nations have to learn the lessons of integration sooner or later as the migrant crisis seem to continue. The stubborn Hungarian PM, Viktor Orban, claimed that the “overwhelming majority” of migrants are not actual refugees, but are simply looking for a better life. Hungary has passed harsher laws to deal with migrants and fix penalties for those who help them. Orban has declared it as a fight for Christian values against a Muslim surge. In the same tune, Slovakian PM Robert Fico says that around 95 per cent of these people are economic migrants. This distinction is very significant as under the 1951 Refugee Convention and a series of EU Migration Laws, the European nations have to provide refuge or some other types of protection to asylum applicants. But all of them have to prove that they are escaping war or persecution. But in case of economic migrants, the European nations are under no such obligation to offer them asylum.
Most of the anti-migrant resistance is emerging from the East and Central European nations who are struggling for revival of their own economies in comparison to their rich Western counterparts. Even a recent Eurobarometer poll found that “immigration” is considered as the most major concern by the voters in its 42-year survey history. Far-right politicians like Marine Le Pen of France, Sweden Democrats (having Neo-Nazi roots) and Olli Immonen (an MP of Finland) are voicing their concerns against the rising trend of migrants in Europe.
The crux of the controversy around the migrant crisis is quota system advocated by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to share the migrants among the EU members. But countries like Britain are arguing and threatening to leave the EU against what Merkel has proposed. Also some eastern states have balked at imposing the quota system on all the EU members and instead they argue that choice of accepting the migrants should be left to them.
As Europe is grappling with the problem of migration, what Castles and Miller (2009) identified as “six broad trends” in the current migratory process in their classic text of migration, “The Age of Migration” is best reflected in the continent: first, globalisation, under which there is a tendency for ever more countries to be affected and to receive migrants from a large range of source countries; second, acceleration, in the number of people involved; third, growing differentiation, in the range of categories of migrants; fourth, feminisation, the significance of women in current migration flows; fifth, politicisation, in its impact on domestic politics and prominence in bilateral and international agreements; and finally transition, where countries of emigration become countries of immigration.
Though it might appear perverse in an era of a revolutionary globalisation, migrants have never been accepted without resistance and discrimination in the receiving nations. In fact, most of the nation-states are fully armed with their modern laws, treaties (both bilateral and multilateral) and local conventions in dealing with the ever increasing spell of migrants. In 1891, the US Supreme Court, while selectively invoking one of the legal eagles of international law, Emmerich de Vattel, declared, “It is an accepted maxim of international law, that every sovereign nation has the power, as inherent in sovereignty, and essential to self-preservation, to forbid the entrance of foreigners within its dominions, or to admit them only in such cases and upon such conditions as it may see fit to prescribe.” Since it is extremely difficult to restrict migrants in the EU countries or “minding the open door” as economist Jagdish Bhagwati (2003) says, it would be prudent that “the developed countries must turn to policies that will integrate migrants into their new homes in ways that will minimise the social costs and maximise the economic benefits.”
However, it is not the case always, when thousands moved into the EU from war-and-conflict-torn countries across the world. Much exodus of people like this may not guarantee intellectual, skilled or educated labour force who could directly contribute to the development of the host nations.
Another alarming trend in global migration is movements like “No One Is Illegal”. It has a strong impact on the current crisis. It is a phrase first coined in 1985 by Elie Weisel, a Jewish survivor of Nazi Germany, a refugee and a Nobel Prize winner, who spearheaded the rights of refugees to live in the US. Over the last few years, the “No One Is Illegal” groups have been formed around Europe and North America which are known as: No One Is Illegal (UK), Kein Mensch Ist Illegal (Germany), Ninguna Es Ilegal (Spain), Ingen Manniska Ar Illegal (Sweden), Zaden Czlowiek Nie Jest Nielegalny (Poland), Personne n'est illégal (France) and Geen Mens Is Illegaal (Holland). Even in Canada and Australia these groups have fought for immigrant rights. Though the British groups derived their roots from 1970s and 1980s, wide proliferation of manifesto and related campaigns in support of no control on migrants are largely a part of 21st century propaganda only.
The main entry points of migrants to EU are: Greece and Italy, which are badly stricken by economic and political crisis. In principle, the EU’s Dublin Regulation states that the entry point nations are accountable for housing the migrants and examining their asylum requests. As it has created much of the controversy, Germany has suspended it and allowed the Syrian refugees to file their applications irrespective of their first arrival countries. Subsequently, Germany has called for quota system so that the refugees could be well distributed among the EU countries. On record, the Common European Asylum System endorsed by the European Parliament in 2013, for ensuring equal treatment of all asylum applications also could not be implemented. Till date, there is no common centre for processing asylum applications in EU. The UNHCR is asking Europe to offer guaranteed relocation for Syrian refugees. The UNHCR spokeswoman, Melissa Fleming, is cautioning that the EU migrant crisis is not to be seen as a “German solution to a European problem”. Since the UNHCR is involved in multiple humanitarian missions and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is mainly being an assisting body, the EU migration crisis would not get the attention it deserves. The emergency summit on migration called by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon at the end of this month, hopes to offer a solution to the crisis. Notwithstanding the efforts of the UN, UNHCR, IOM and the EU, all it shows is the lacking of a global governance system of migration.
While echoing the good old principles of freedom, justice and safeguarding the rights, liberties and cultures of indigenous people, we all must reiterate, in solidarity. “... people have always recognised this right (i.e. the right to free movement) de facto and ancient as well as modern history is full of instances of migration to avoid persecution and in search of better opportunities” (Roger Nett 1971). At the same time, we need to respond to the claims of the “Sons of the Soil”, on the face of the globalisation of migration, whether in Europe or in any part of the world. Broadly, arguing, the EU while dealing with the current migrants and refugees should be guided by what then Secretary General of the UN Kofi Annan stated in December 10, 1997, “Human rights are what make us human. They are the principles by which we create the sacred home for human dignity. Human rights are the expression of those traditions of tolerance in all religions and cultures that are the basis of peace and progress. Human rights are foreign to no culture and native to all nations.” To be fair and frank, at this moment Europe must display its leadership instead of fighting on internal issues and less of Maine Le Pen and of course not much of Angela Merkel by keeping cautiously in mind the great divide in the EU. I wonder, whether we are marching towards a borderless world, wherein we would be singing along with John Lennon, “Imagine there is no countries”. Au revoir.
Makhan Saikia is a Delhi-based independent political analyst.
Food governance or good governance: Open letter to Mr Fadnavis
By Rajdeep Sardesai
Sep 18, 2015
This letter should normally have been a private mail congratulating you on completing one year in office next month. However, recent events in Maharashtra necessitate introspection rather than any celebration, and a need to initiate a vigorous public debate.
The first time I saw you was in 2010 during a television debate on the Adarsh land scam. I was impressed with your debating skills and tough, uncompromising stand on corruption. Which is why when you became chief minister last year, I saw it as a positive sign. In a state whose political class has become identified with venal and unscrupulous politics, you seemed to hold out hope. A 44-year-old chief minister brimming with ideas and energy, your rise suggested a welcome generational change in state politics. Sadly, a year later, the enthusiasm with which one greeted your arrival is now being matched by growing cynicism.
Just take three recent decisions of your government. First, the ill-advised decision to ban meat in Mumbai for four days. Yes, similar attempts to ban the sale of meat during the Jain Paryushan festival have been made in the past by your predecessors but your government tried to widen its ambit to well beyond the Mumbai suburb of Mira-Bhayandar.
After public pressure, you were forced to reduce the ban to just two days but in the process exposed your government to entirely avoidable criticism.
First, a beef ban, now a ban on meat: Why confuse good governance with food governance? Only a small group of Brahmins in Maharashtra are pure vegetarian. As the backlash from your ally the Shiv Sena and the MNS confirmed, the vast majority of Maharashtrians are non-vegetarian. The decision, thus, was doomed from the start, and will only alienate the growing urban middle class that values individual freedoms.
I know you are a swayamsevak, proud of your roots in Nagpur and your family’s long-standing connection with the RSS. But the people of Maharashtra last year did not vote for the imposition of the cultural agenda of the RSS, including any forcible attempt to dictate what can be cooked in the kitchen in the name of Bharatiya sanskriti.
The second decision that has proved worrisome is the manner in which Mumbai’s police commissioner Rakesh Maria was suddenly transferred out less than a month before he was due a promotion. That the transfer was done while Mr Maria was investigating the high-profile Sheena Bora murder case makes it even more suspicious. We can argue whether the police commissioner should be seen to take such personal interest in a murder mystery, but by removing a highly decorated officer without any proper explanation, the wrong message has been sent down the line to the constabulary.
Worse, after the media raised questions, your government has once again backtracked and said that Mr Maria will continue to investigate the case even in his new post as DG, Home Guards. So, first you kick an officer upstairs, put a successor in place (who is undoubtedly a fine officer), and then create a dual reporting structure. The Mumbai Police’s reputation has taken a battering because of the transfer-posting industry created by the previous Congress-NCP governments; now, you have further demoralised them by sending out mixed signals.
The third perplexing decision taken by your government is its recent circular on guidelines to be followed by the police while making arrests on sedition charges. The circular says “words, signs or representations to be treated as seditious if they are against a person who is shown to be a representative of the government". Does that mean that if I criticise a government minister I will be liable to be charged with sedition? Are we confusing legitimate anti-government criticism with anti-national activity? The irony is that you were amongst those who was most vociferous in attacking the previous Maharashtra government for its misuse of section 66 A of the IT Act, which had led to arrests for posting "offensive" messages on Facebook.
These controversies have shadowed what should really be the single-minded focus of your government at the moment: alleviating agrarian distress in large parts of the state. First, it was Vidarbha; now Marathwada is staring at drought-like conditions. More than 600 farmers have committed suicide since January this year after successive failed crops. Drinking water is scarcely available and the tanker mafias are holding sway. Farmers can’t even sell their ageing cattle because of the ill-conceived beef ban.
Last week, on a television programme on the drought, I had asked actor Nana Patekar to express his feelings. Nana has recently handed out cheques to more than a 100 farm widows, and tearfully said that no one could be but moved by the scale of the tragedy. Sadly, the government machinery hasn’t moved as swiftly as it should have. I know you have proposed large-scale well recharge projects across the drought-prone districts but at the moment much more needs to be done.
In the last decade, Maharashtra has allotted more than Rs 70,000 crore for irrigation schemes yet the fact is that scarcely 0.1% has been added in this period to the total irrigated area. The failure of irrigation projects is a scandal and part of your campaign commitment was to punish the guilty. That hasn’t happened yet.
Like our prime minister, you have been peripatetic in the last year: making several trips across the world. May I urge you to spend the next few months singularly focusing on the needs of farmers of Maharashtra. Don’t worry about the food on my plate or what happens in the Sheena case, the agony of the farmer should give you sleepless nights.
Post-script: While questioning your government for misplaced priorities, may I say that a section of the tabloidish media is equally culpable. A sordid murder story becomes staple for prime time news; the death of a farmer doesn’t even register.
The writer is author and senior journalist. The views expressed are personal.