Tuesday April 23, 2024

Western policies and immigration

By Abdul Sattar
June 22, 2023

The recent boat tragedy off the Greek shores has saddened the entire nation, prompting Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to announce a day of mourning. The fate of many Pakistanis is still unclear but it seems 400 Pakistanis, 200 Egyptians and 150 Syrians, including around two dozen Syrian women and young children, were travelling in the unfortunate trawler that failed to tide over the mighty waves of the rough sea.

The tragedy seems to have devastated the lives of hundreds of Pakistanis whose loved ones undertook the arduous journey in search of a better life. This incident on the one hand exposed the extreme incompetence of Pakistani and other countries’ officials but on the other also reflects the callousness of Greek authorities that refused to take prompt actions to save these precious human lives. Unlike Greek officials, the people in that country took to the streets condemning the delay in rescuing the boat that perhaps caused the sinking.

The loss of lives clearly indicates that some unscrupulous elements in Pakistan, Libya, Italy and other parts of the world have been making off other people’s vulnerabilities. Their gargantuan appetite for profit does not seem to have any limits. They are well aware that these journeys are highly risky and even then they lure gullible people into believing they will make it to European shores which would drastically transform their lives. It is heart wrenching to learn that not only adult males were on board but hapless women and innocent children were also accompanying their fathers or brothers.

Such dangerous journeys show the desperation of people in the Global South where economies have been battered by the machinations of the Global North that not only created massive unemployment in that part of the world by imposing a new liberal agenda but also sowed the seeds of conflicts in several states of the developing countries.

For instance, take Syria, which had a very insignificant percentage of migration until 2011. Today it tops the list of countries from where migrants come. The sledgehammer tactics of Bashar’s regime against protesters in 2011 prompted imperialist countries to intervene there. The West threw criminal support behind the fanatical elements to oust Bashar. A large number of militants were arriving in Turkey after 2011 as Western countries were looking the other side. Some of these were converted white men who unleashed a reign of terror on the mutilated bodies of thousands of Syrians and Iraqis. It was an open secret that all those arriving in Turkey would most probably end up in the headquarters of the Islamic Emirates.

Western governments’ intelligence agencies apparently had reports indicating that those who were travelling to Turkey were influenced by extremist thought. Even women and young girls fled their homes in a bid to become part of the much-vaunted heaven created by these militants but the West was happy that these obscurantist forces were targeting their enemy.

This policy boomeranged on the Western ruling elites when these dark forces started attacking Western capitals, spilling the blood of innocent people. This sent a shiver down the spine of politicians in those states but even then they did not come up with any effective policy to contain these brigades of extremists. The US did carry out air strikes but they almost did no significant harm to these jihadis. Caravan after caravans of militants were moving around across the desert of Syria and Iraq but American drones that are quick to target women and children in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and other parts of the world were clueless about these long queues of extremists.

Consequently, these West-backed militant forces plunged Syria into an abyss of barbarism. More than 576,000 people lost their lives. Over 11 million were rendered homeless. Many of them made dangerous moves to reach European shores, some drowning on the way to their destinations. The country lost over $200 billion because of the destruction caused by the terror of ISIS. Today Syrian people are forced to take refuge in various parts of the world. The West that partly fueled the ISIS insurgency by turning a blind eye to the situation is closing its doors to these hapless people who are perishing in dozens during every risky journey that they undertake.

Libya also met the same fate. Once one of the most prosperous countries of Africa with impressive human development indicators, the country now lies in ruin owing to Western policies. The sanctimonious Western elites were ready to hobnob with Col Qaddafi when he appeared amenable to the idea of buying Western arms and extending trade concessions to the companies of the advanced capitalist world. But the moment he decided to be a bit independent, the West opened the floodgates of chaos and anarchy there.

Today, the Arab-African country’s infrastructure, which was perhaps the best in the region, is in shambles. Some Libyans claim tens of thousands were killed by Nato, but Western sources vehemently deny such allegations. According to AP, with UN backing Nato conducted a campaign of airstrikes against the regime between March and October of 2011. The American news outlet asserts that the Western military alliance conducted more than 9,600 strike missions, adding that the campaign ended after Gaddafi was ousted and killed. It quotes nongovernmental organizations as saying that far fewer civilians were killed by the Nato airstrikes, with estimates ranging from 72 to 403.

Whatever the number, the bitter reality is that today Libyans like Syrians are also undertaking risky journeys to flee their country. A Le Monde article of May 14, 2014 states that ‘estimates of their numbers vary between 600,000 and one million by the Tunisian Ministry of Interior. UNHCR reported 32,400 refugees and migrants crossed the sea from Libya to Europe in 2021 alone. The number of such people was 15,300 in 2020. One of the leading factors prompting people fleeing the country was the chaos and the civil war partly imposed by the Western countries and their policy of regime change’.

Such policy also played havoc with the lives of millions of people in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world where regimes infuriated the mighty American state and its allies. First, it was an American company that wished to have good ties with the Afghan Taliban in the 1990s and later Washington turned against them, carrying out ruthless bombardment on one of the poorest countries of the world and forcing millions to migrate.

The American invasion against Iraq also created a storm of IDPs and migrants while its war on terror also imperiled the lives of millions in Pakistan. The US and its Western allies spend billions or possibly trillions of dollars in a bid to sow chaos and conflicts. Their policy of regime change destroyed states besides creating havoc with the lives of the people of these countries. It is time the US diverted these huge sums for the reconstruction of countries like Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and others.

By closing borders, the West cannot prevent the flux of migrants. An end to its interventionist policy, reining in the military-industrial complex that seeks to promote wars and conflicts, and heavy investment in the states devastated by such regime change policies could be one of the ways to avoid human tragedies like the one on the shores of Greece last week.

The writer is a freelance journalist who can be reached at: