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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

They should have died in Libya

On Tuesday, 26 June 2018 Amy Goodman ran this headline on Democracy Now:
AP: Algeria Has Expelled 13,000 Migrants into Sahara Desert

[This is the picture DN ran with the story. It looks like 3 well-dress Africans strolling in the desert. It's not from the AP story. Its not credited or captioned. It looks like it was Photoshopped. - Clay]
In more news on migration and deportation, the Associated Press reports Algeria has expelled more than 13,000 migrants into the Sahara Desert over the last 14 months. Survivors interviewed by the Associated Press say they were rounded up, crammed into trucks, driven into the desert and then dropped off and forced at gunpoint to walk into neighboring Niger. They say an unknown number of their fellow migrants died during the journey.
Democracy Now has had nothing else to say about these ongoing mass murders filed under the heading "migration and deportation," before or since. Since many on the US Left are still mourning the lost of Gaddafi, this story would have gotten a lot better coverage if they had died in Libya. DN coughed up this paragraph of three sentences only because of the AP story made silence untenable. Fortunately, the Associated Press story tells us a little more, beginning with its lead photo:

From this isolated frontier post deep in the sands of the Sahara, the expelled migrants can be seen coming over the horizon by the hundreds. They look like specks in the distance, trudging miserably across some of the world's most unforgiving terrain in the blistering sun.

They are the ones who made it out alive.

Here in the desert, Algeria has abandoned more than 13,000 people in the past 14 months, including pregnant women and children, stranding them without food or water and forcing them to walk, sometimes at gunpoint, under temperatures of up to 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit).
“Women were lying dead, men..... Other people got missing in the desert because they didn’t know the way,” said Janet Kamara, who was pregnant at the time. "Everybody was just on their own."

Her body still aches from the dead baby she gave birth to during the trek and left behind in the Sahara, buried in a shallow grave in the molten sand. Blood streaked her legs for days afterward, and weeks later, her ankles are still swollen.
Algeria’s mass expulsions have picked up since October 2017, as the European Union renewed pressure on North African countries to head off migrants going north to Europe via the Mediterranean Sea or the barrier fences with Spain.
A European Union spokesperson said the EU was aware of what Algeria was doing, but that “sovereign countries” can expel migrants as long as they comply with international law.
The migrants the AP talked to described being rounded up hundreds at a time, crammed into open trucks headed southward for six to eight hours to what is known as Point Zero, then dropped in the desert and pointed in the direction of Niger. They are told to walk, sometimes at gunpoint. In early June, 217 men, women and children were dropped well before reaching Point Zero, fully 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the nearest source of water, according to the IOM.
Kande said the Algerian police stole everything he had earned when he was first detained _ 40,000 dinars ($340) and a Samsung cell phone.

“They tossed us into the desert, without our telephones, without money. I couldn’t even describe it to you,” he said, still livid at the memory.
Two migrants told the AP gendarmes fired on the groups to force them to walk, and multiple videos seen by the AP showed armed, uniformed men standing guard near the trucks.
Algeria has denied criticism from the IOM and other organizations that it is committing human rights abuses by abandoning migrants in the desert, calling the allegations a “malicious campaign” intended to inflame neighboring countries.
The number of migrants going to Algeria is increasing as an unintended side effect of Europe’s successful blocking of the Libyan crossing, said Camille Le Coz, an analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Brussels.
But people die going both ways; the Sahara is a swift killer that leaves little evidence behind. The arid heat shrivels bodies, and blowing sand envelops the remains. The IOM has estimated that for every migrant known to have died crossing the Mediterranean, as many as two are lost in the desert _ potentially upwards of 30,000 people since 2014. More ...
Obviously, taking people out to the desert, and leaving them without food, water, shelter, or transport is nothing short of murder, and these are ongoing mass murders. They haven't stopped. The government of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, president of Algeria since 1999, and now potentially for life, denies the mistreatment of migrants in Algeria, just as Muammar Gaddafi did in Libya until he was overthrown in 2011, so it has not promised to stop what it denies doing in the first place.

The practices this AP report exposed are nothing new, even if the recent EU pressure has caused an acceleration. They have been going on in Algeria, and Libya, at least under Gaddafi, for decades, with western encouragement and silence.

There was an uprising in Algeria about the same time as the one in Libya. The day before the celebrated start of the 17th February revolution in Libya, 16 February 2011, Democracy Now ran this story: “The Regime is Running Scared:” Algerian Forces Crack Down on Pro-Democracy Protests, but never followed up.

In Algeria, unlike Libya, the "Arab Spring" uprising was quickly put down by government efforts, and its murderous migrant practices continue to this day. Similarly, the dumping of migrants in the desert was a regular practice of the Libyan regime of Muammar Gaddafi. While he remained in power, the EU was happy to pay him billions of Euros, and look the other way, so long as he stranded migrants in the desert rather than allow them to reach Mediterranean shores.

There are many in Europe that have no problem with using the desert's sun to kill off African migrants and refugees headed for their shores, just as the US Border Patrol quite consciously uses the desert as a 'weapon' to kill thousands of migrants, according to this Guardian report. So, while the practice is noted in the occasional news article, little is done to stop the dying. The month that ended with the big AP story began with a report by BBC News of over 40 people who died of thirst in the Sahara of northern Niger. They were trying to get to Libya which is still a murderous route for migrants, but at least the government is no longer complicit in it. It's wonderful that we could save children stuck 3 miles back in a partially submerged cave shaft. One day we may even learn how to save them from dying of thirst in the deserts.

Since the AP report spoke of thousands, many media outlets gave it coverage, even Democracy Now had to pay it lip service, but the story soon faded. This story was a particularly tricky one for US Left outlets like Democracy Now to handle because the Algerian dictatorship of Bouteflika is seen as something of a bulwark against western imperialism and Israel, much as the Libyan dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi was.

The mythology promoted by the white-Left on Libya is now so pervasive that James Thindwa, an In These Times board member born in Zimbabwe, felt he could proclaim in a Portside, 4th of July piece that "During Qaddafi’s rule, there was no migrant crisis." What a shameful, European centric position to take! As long as fewer reached Europe because they were dying in the desert, it was not seen as a crisis by most Europeans, and others who identify with "white" values. The Gaddafi regime didn't recognize any refugee status, and regularly disposed of African migrants in the desert, sometimes hundreds of thousands in one operation. For those comfortably positioned in the West, Gaddafi's methods of controlling the migrant flow may not have constituted a crisis, but as I reported in Extreme racism & slave auctions 3 times a week in Gaddafi's Libya it definitely was for the migrants themselves, and anyone else who cares about humanity.

Since dying in Algeria didn't serve any Western political agenda, it was a one-shot story. They should have died in Libya, where the people overthrew the dictator, and are struggling to remake their country free of such tyranny. Then these migrant deaths could have served the forces of counter-revolution as another cautionary tale of how badly things can go when a dictator is overthrown. If they had died in Libya, the media would have really played up the news, and Democracy Now would have done a whole series of stories about their plight.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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