Thursday, July 30, 2015

Refugees at the Channel Tunnel: Another Anomaly of the Nation-State Paradigm

By David Gallup

Close to four thousand refugees and immigrants, from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, have attempted to cross into England from France in the past few days.  Nearly forty-thousand people have tried to cross through the “Chunnel” since January 2015. In their attempt to achieve a safer, better life, several people have been injured or died, being hit by cars and trucks in the tunnel.  Thousands more remain outside the tunnel in make-shift camps, hoping to find a permanent safe haven in England.

The Chunnel is both a symbol and physical proof of a united Europe. But, it is also a glaring example of how the nation-state system has failed humanity by maintaining a disunited earth.

Unlike a wall or fence, the Chunnel was designed to bring people together, to share in each other’s communities and cultures. Yet it has become another means to restrict and discriminate against downtrodden people based on economic status and “national” origin.

Why do refugees, stateless persons and immigrants risk their lives trying to find a safe haven, a new home?

Their lives are already at risk if they stay in poorly-developed, impoverished, and war-ridden countries.  Faced with persecution, lack of safe drinking water and food, ethnic strife, armed militias, civil wars, and corrupt leaders, the only choice for many is to flee.  Currently, there are more than 50 million refugees and internally displaced persons, whose daily survival is jeopardized.  At least 10 million people are “stateless.” Although international treaties affirm the rights of refugees and stateless persons, many governments ignore them, detain them, or deport them back to their birth countries despite the principle of non-refoulement (returning victims of persecution to their country of origin or to other countries where they might suffer persecution).

The international community cannot handle the dramatic flow of refugees throughout the world today. People wallow in refugee camps, imprisoned, unable to work or go to school, because governments refuse to help people simply because they were born in another part of the world.

We need to help people wherever they are.  Basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and education are not only requirements of human existence, they are fundamental human rights.  Almost all national governments have agreed to respect these rights. They give lip-service to these rights, yet violate them every day.

According to the French Interior Minister, cited online today in a CNN report by Holly Yan and Margot Haddad, "We need to work on this problem in its origin," said Bernard Cazeneuve.  "We need to work on this from the migrants' countries of origin and follow their path which leads to the European territory."  This national official understands that people will continue to seek a safer life elsewhere, if their life is threatened where they are.

When people have food, shelter, education, work, equality, justice and freedom where they reside, they generally are happy to stay there.  If people can go about their day without fear, oppression, humiliation, or aggression, then they have no reason to leave where their family, friends, language and culture are.

We need to create a world in which people have no need to run for their lives, to flee to what they think will be a safer, better life, to hide in fear without documentation and unable to exercise their rights as human beings. The entire world must become a safe haven for all of humanity.

This means exposing and eliminating the fictional borders that separate us. This means outlawing aggression. This means fulfilling basic and higher level needs so that people can live to their full potential. This means helping one another -- helping people where they are so that they will not feel compelled to leave for any reason other than educational and cultural enlightenment.  This means recognizing our status as world citizens.

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