I am strangely fascinated by this map that depicts the European Union as 28 equipopulous member states (although i would rather imagine this as administrative territories rather than as states):
Twenty-eight equally sized European Union Member States, by Alasdair Gunn
Of course this is utterly unrealistic as (re)drawing borders has been one of the most destructive activities in the history of humanity. So the only way to improve on the current situation would be to do away with border altogether.
The border between Israel and Egypt certainly counts as one of the most dangerous borders for migrants. So far the main danger for african migrants trying to enter Israel from Egypt has been the Egyptian military, which seems to be exceptionally trigger happy when faced with migrants attempting to cross the border.
Photo by Ahikam Seri
Seems that the Israeli government is not satisfied with the services rendered by the Egyptian Army (or they expect that a post-Mubarak military has better things to do than shoot unarmed migrants who are attempting to leave the Egyptian territory) and has started to construct a border fence designed to keep out migrants attempting to enter via Egypt.
While building border fences is not that unusual these days, it is somewhat surprising to read (in an article published by Haaretz) that the Israeli government is employing migrants who have made it across that particular border in order to build the border fence:
The government is employing Eritrean asylum seekers to help build a border fence designed to keep out other migrants seeking to enter the country from Africa via the Sinai Peninsula.
A man who gave his name as August […] had arrived in Israel five months ago. According to August, the hardest part of the journey was trekking through the African desert. Now, once the border fence along the Egyptian frontier is completed, migrants will find it even more difficult to enter the country.
August laughed when asked if he felt guilty that he was helping put up a structure designed to keep fellow Eritreans out of the country. “I have a family that remained in Eritrea,” he said. “While they would love to come here, they know the journey isn’t easy.” As August tells it, he simply has no choice but to earn a living any way he can.
While the state has legally barred its citizens from employing asylum seekers from Africa, it doesn’t enforce the ban. Months ago, the Interior Ministry’s Population Registry inserted a clause in the temporary-status visas given to asylum seekers stating that under no circumstances could they be hired.
But it is in the state’s interests for asylum seekers to support themselves financially, so it has turned a blind eye to asylum seekers who break the law – until it can finish building a large holding facility that will provide the migrants with their basic needs. Only then will the state start enforcing the no-hiring law. […]
Kimon pointed me to this impressive article by Parag Khanna in which he argues that (mega)cities are slowly emerging as the dominant international actors replacing nation states along the way. His article titled ‘Beyond City Limits’ is well worth a read and a refreshing take on the subject of urban growth.
Ever since the publication of Mike Davis’ ‘Planet of Slums‘ in 2006 contributions to the discussion about this subject seem to have deteriorated to become a constant stream of repetitions of the observation that since very recently ‘more than half of the worlds population is living in cities’. In his essay Khanna examines what this development means on the level of international relations and politics. One of his most interesting observations focusses on the relationship between urban centers and international borders:
Instead, [Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo] seem to be headed toward division, with the new borders following and surrounding the main cities that are their gravity points, like Juba in South Sudan and Kinshasa in Congo. Or perhaps borders don’t need to change at all, but rather melt away, so long as locals have access to the nearest big city no matter what “country” it is in. This is, after all, how things really work on the ground, even if our maps don’t always reflect this reality.
One other passage that caught my eye (given today’s news it seems very appropriate to examine relocation options) is Khanna’s praise for Doha (a place that i will have the opportunity to visit next month):
Already the result in the Persian Gulf is something truly new, as a once-barren cultural zone features increasingly global melting pots like the Qatari capital of Doha, where residents hail from more than 150 countries and far outnumber the locals. If these new five-star hubs play it right, they could convince Westerners to give up their citizenship for permanent homes in a friendlier, tax-free environment.
29.Oct.07: The bodies of 12 migrants were pulled from the water at a beach near the city of Syracuse on Sicilys eastern coast. Seven survivors were found on shore and two others were considered missing. (Update: by 6 november 4 additional bodies had been found bringing the total dead count to 16 (source: reuters AlertNet)
This month i spend a week of vacation on that same eastern east cost of Sicily and one day, while going for a swim (just north or Marzamemi, which is 45 minutes by car south of Syracuse), we ran into this sign:
the sign reads: ‘At this place in Contrada Cittadella on the tragic night between October 27th and 28th 2007, a rubber dinghy in which 37 Palestinian and Egyptian refugees who were being transferred from a larger ship by unscrupulous people traffickers had set off from a harbor in Egypt , capsized in a furious sea in its attempt to reach Europe claiming 16 victims. We remember the Egyptians: KHALED ABD ELHAMID MOHAMED ABD ELAZIZ (04.05.1985), TAREK ABD EL GHANY MOHAMED ATTIA ( 01.02.1983), IHAB MOHAMED TAHA ABD EL AZIZ ELESAWY (* 08.11.1978), MOHAMED TOLBA ABD ELMOTAI AB ABD ELRAHEM (* 19.09.1988), ESAM MOHAMED ABDEL SADEK (* 05.12.1977), MOHAMED EID RAMDAN (* 08.08.1989), AHMED RAMADAN NEMR RAGAB (* 08.04.1985), EID MOHAMAD SHABAN (* 01.06.1970), IBRAHIM AHMAD SHABAN (* 06.07.1972), ALI AHMED SHABAN (* 10.11.1987) ELSAYED SAAD ALI (* 03.01.1970), REDA ALI ELSAYED (* 05.12.1979) and four unknown Palestinians. We mourn them as well as the thousands of other human lives list since 1992 as a result of the closure of the European continent to those people forced to flee their country’.
Unfortunately the sign does not provide any clues with regard to who actually put it up (and thus who it is who is mourning these deaths) which would be interesting to know.
Shipping disasters involving undocumented migrants trying to reach Europe are relatively commons on this particular stretch of the Sicilian coast. The most deadly of these took place on christmas eve 1996 off the coast of Portopalo di Capo Passero which is situated 12 kilometers to the south of this particular spot. Interestingly there is no memorial for the almost 300 migrants who lost their life when the fishing boat that was supposed to bring them to shore collided with the cargo ship that had brought them from Greece (unless you are willing to count the Stella Maris statue off one of the small beaches as a tribute to those unfortunate souls).
What looks like some creature from a science fiction movie is actually part of the border fence that is being erected by the US along the border with Mexico. This particular stretch covering 7 miles of in Imperial [sic!] County in California is called the floating fence. The fence is constructed to float on top of the sand dunes that cover the south eastern part of Imperial County:
[US Border Patrol] Agent Michael Espinoza said unlike other border fences, this one moves. “It’s just amazing, the concept of a floating fence here in the sand dunes that can just be picked up and settled back down,” Espinoza said. […] The concept is simple. As sand builds up along its edges, sections of fence can be lifted by a machine and placed back on top of the sand, so the fence never loses its height. “I personally have never seen a fence like this before,” Espinoza said. [KYMA Local News ]
What is probably intreagues me most about this shape shifting monster of steel is the fact that by the very nature of its design it will later the contours of the border between mexico and the US. being build on top of moving sand dunes means that the fence will move away from the border sooner or later. In this aspect it does not demarcate territory (as traditional border fortifications tend to do but it rather establishes an inside and an outside: the border itself becomes flexible in order to be able to enable exclusion. Bryan Finoki links the floating fence to his concept of the nomadic fortress, a permanently reconfiguring regime of access control that divides the functioning capitalist core of the global economy from the global south:
This space has no regard for borders any more as we traditionally understand them, no respect for national territory; it hovers over and slips between those definitions, goes around and under them when it needs to, ultimately passing through border fixity as it sees fit. It is in some way the final border, a border that is never at rest but is always modifying itself for greater tactical vantage; a kind of flexible mock-hydrological regime that deploys and aligns other sub-border levers and valves below it to secure the conduits of neoliberal capitalism and the flows of people who are captives of them in one way or another. A structure that utilizes an entire atlas of border fences with a range of satellite technologies, web-based border vigilantes and extra-territorial floating prisons, to feed the border as a kind of geopolitical gutter space that siphons the subjects of migration off into a swollen infrastructure of detention where billions of dollars and are spent on their bounty.
It is a fully transitional geography of unsettled coordinates, excessive legality and perpetual legal suspension. This border doesnâ€™t take the defensive posture that borders traditionally have in the past, but instead is on the move and on the hunt for a new class of would-be border crossers whoâ€™ve been bound together in a dangerously wide-cast surveillance net that is incapable of distinguishing the refugee from the enemy combatant, the migrant from the smuggler, laborer from insurgent. It is the border as the worst kind of political blur space. It is as immovable as it is fluid, like a sea of transparent blast walls crashing on the shores of geopolitical exile. [exceprted from: ‘Towards a Nomadic Fortress [Refuge/Refugee]‘]
Over the last couple of days there has been a disproportionate amount of attention for a albino migrant named Moszy who, back in march, arrived together with 60 other a African migrants on the Spanish island of Tenerife. Moszy, who is said to have fled his native Benin where he was frequently abducted and used in magic rituals, has requested asylum in Spain, and it appears that the spanish government is willing to grant him refugee status. Now i am all against abducting people and using them in magic rituals (and possibly killing them in ‘grisly ritualistic killings’), but it appears to me that the media coverage is bordering a little bit on the absurd:
The price for the most absurd headline (so far) goes to the Croatian news agency ‘Javno’ claiming ‘Spain Saves Albino African from Sure Death‘ (which for some reason is buried in World > World Report > Bizarre [sic!]). Of course spain did no such thing, to the contrary: Spain (together with the rest of the EU countries) did everything it could to get Moszy (and the other 60 passengers of the boat that took him to Tenerife) killed. In its ongoing attempt to keep (black) Africans in Africa, Spain has forced migrants attempting to get into europe to take longer and more dangarous routes (from Nouakchott to Tenerife it is more than 1000km across the open Atlantic Ocean). This has resulted in many deaths that generally receive much less media attention than one albino arriving in Tenerife.
According to the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelblad, Moszy’s asylum request has been backed by a spokesperson of the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid, arguing that sending him back to Africa (as it is foreseen for the other 60 passengers) ‘would put his life at rist’. Makes me wonder if sending back the other 60 passengers who barely made it onto Spanish soil does not put their life at risk? Chances are that they will make another attempt to get to Europe and if past experience is any indicator some of them will pay for this with their lives. But you do not hear the CEAR spoksperson or the media talk about their lives being in danger. But then they did not have the privilege of being born with white skin either, so why should they care?
A storm washed away part of a wall designed to keep out illegal immigrants crossing into Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla on Sunday and heavy rains flooded many of the city’s streets (via reuters).
Three Guardia Civil were injured in Melilla yesterday when a second wave of immigrants tried to cross over the border fence from Morocco into the Spanish enclave. […] Despite the help of the Moroccan security services several Sub Saharans made their way into Spanish territory at 7am yesterday morning.
We have had the deportation class and the deportation alliance but we never really had a proper deportation airline. Seems they have one in the US (land of the free?) though: The Wall Street Journal has a rather surreal article about ‘ICE air’ (ICE stands for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency of the Department for Homeland Security). ICE air (officially they use ‘repatriation’ as a callsign) is a subsidy of the ICE and currently operates a fleet of 10 aircraft operating out of 4 US hubs. the airline primarily flies to latin america (‘three daily flights to guatemala city’) and exclusively transports deportees. The article portraits it as if it was just another airline and puts great stress on the service and comfort enjoyed by the deportees:
In-flight service is polite. “For a lot of these immigrants, it has been a long journey to the U.S.,” said Michael J. Pitts, chief of flight operations for deportations and removals at ICE. “This is going to be the last impression they have of the United States. We want to provide good service.”
[we could probably argue that this copies our deporation.class concept from almost 10 years ago, but then they seem to have failed to implement a ICE points system along the lines of the active miles loyalty programme].
What makes the article so surreal is the focus on efficiency and the constant comparisons to regular commercial airline operations [culminating in this info-graphic illustrating the hub and spoke concept] without ever touching the obvious question: what are these planes flying back to the US? Cocaine? Stranded US citizens on vacation? cheaply made goods from outsourced production facilities? Kind of reminds me of Darwin’s Nightmare…
On the other had the article also seems to suggest that these deportation flights are an important component of the migration systems between central america and the US: the inbound trip may cost you a substantial amount of money but your return tickets are free and you still get at lunch box containing ‘a bologna sandwich, potato chips, orange juice and a bag of carrots’
On Sunday about 20 immigrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, attacked the Beni-Enzar border crossing, armed with sticks and stones as Italy and Spain were in the final stages of the quarterfinals of the Euro 2008 football tournament. Six illegal immigrants successfully crossed the border during the violence. [from adnkronos international, emphasis mine]