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For a World without Walls: For the right to stay, to move and to return


*** Deadline for Endorsements: December 16 ***

Dear friends and comrades, 

Tomorrow, Saturday 18 December 2021, is International Migrants Day. Governments and institutions all over the world will release meaningless statements about how much they care for migrants and their rights. In many borderlands around the world we can see on a daily basis how this concern for the wellbeing of migrants plays out: they are hunted, abused, shot at, raped, denied their rights, detained, tortured, deported and forced to live in inhumane circumstances with the Covid-pandemic still raging around.

Only in recent weeks we witnessed the deaths of 55 migrants in a truck crash in Mexico, of 27 migrants when a dinghy capsized in the Channel, of people at the borders of Poland and Lithuania with Belarus and people on the move en route to the Canary Islands. Avoidable deaths, adding to the tens of thousands of refugees who have died because of worldwide border regimes.

This year has been filled with shocking pictures of desperate people at the border between Poland and Belarus, of continuous horrors in Libya's refugee prisons, of the millions of Venezuelans looking for better economic conditions and the hundreds of thousands Rohingya people from Myanmar that have been forced to leave their homes. We have witnessed the further erosion of refugee rights, with the EU's process of normalizing illegal pushbacks and a new Australian law that can keep undeportable refugees locked up indefinitely. And we have seen the ongoing expansion of the global system of border security and control, with its walls and fences, its surveillance technology and biometric databases, its arms and helicopters and drones, and its detention centers and deportation aircraft.

By the end of last year 82.4 million people, over 1% of the world's population, were forcibly displaced, according to the UNHCR. Over 6 million of them are Palestinians, making up over half of the Palestinian people. Most of them have been expelled from their homes since 1948 and are fighting for their right to return. This makes the Palestinian struggle a paradigmatic struggle of refugees for justice. 

Migrants and refugees fight for their rights to stay with dignity and justice in their home countries, to move, whenever they are forced to, protected and respected, to host countries and to return to where they had to flee from. 

Following centuries of colonialism, countries of the Global North have imposed their deadly system of capitalism on the whole earth, destroying the planet, robbing people of their lands and resources, displacing them and forcing billions of people to live in poverty and unsafety, slaving their lives away for the benefit of the rich. The same governments keep fueling the reasons people are forced to flee – by arms exports, military interventions, cooperation with dictators, land grabbing, climate change, unequal trade relations, aggressive economic, foreign and military policies and so on – driving more and more persons from their homes.

Many of them stay within their country of origin, or in neighbouring countries, often riddled with problems of their own. While only a small percentage tries to cross to countries in the Global North, it are exactly those rich states that are loudly beating the drums of fear and xenophobia.They picture people on the move as threats: to national security, to other people, to employment. 

The rich protect their wealth by throwing trillions at building a military and security apparatus to keep the rest of the world under control. They are the ones that are building walls and, in the process of border externalisation, push other countries to increase border security to keep migrants as far away from their own borders as possible.

European states have built over 1000 kms of anti-migration walls and the EU is forming its own armed border police force, the Frontex Standing Border Guard Corps. It has expanded Frontex's mandate in general, including for operations outside Europe, outsourcing Europe's borders deep into Africa, and for coordinating joint deportations from EU member states. The Biden-government has denounced Trump's border wall, but has more quietly replaced this policy with an equally destructive technological border wall. Australia is spending billions of euros on renewing its border force and border security equipment.

The military and security industry has enthusiastically and successfully lobbied governments and border forces to embrace securitization. The results are more border security and control, militarization of borders, more walls and fences, the use of autonomous systems and artificial intelligence, the gathering of ever more personal data and so on. In a rapidly growing market, arms companies like Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Airbus, Leonardo, Thales and Elbit Systems are making billions of dollars every year to keep people on the move away. For many companies this means the second time they profit from misery of the same group of people, as they also provide the arms and technologies to keep wars, repression and human rights violations going.

For years the Israeli government, armed forces and military and security industry have been at the forefront of increasing exclusion of migrants and the development and provision of tools and technologies to do so on a global scale. This is not a coincidence, but builds on decades of occupation, war, exclusion and repression against the Palestinians, and increasingly also against refugees. The state of Israel has created a modern apartheid-system based on not only brutal militarism, walls and repression, but as much so on a refined system of security technologies and high-technological surveillance equipment.

Using terms such as 'combat proven' and 'battlefield tested' to promote such equipment, the Israeli arms industry has successfully exported its goods all over the world. Drones from Elbit are flying surveillance missions for Frontex in the Mediterranean. The same company has provided watch towers for the US-Mexico border. Both Greece and Germany lease drones from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for border patrols.

In an ironic twist, the same system that keeps people out is also profiting from them.  It is creating a market for unscrupulous smuggling networks, which desperate people on the move have to turn to to avoid the militarized borders and increased border controls. Meanwhile, people also have to use ever more dangerous routes. Like the Mediterranean, where tens of thousands of migrants have drowned or otherwise died, many borderlands around the world have been turned into graveyards for refugees. Those that make it to host countries, are exploited as documented and undocumented migrant workers. Money can flow freely around the world, people only when they have enough money, or are instrumental for those who have.

The prospects are bleak. Governments have entrenched themselves in a one-way-discourse of increasing and militarising borders, deploying ever more draconian measures to stop people on the move, eroding migrant rights and increasing the profits of military and security companies. 

It is against this dark background that we need to cooperate and grow seeds of resistance and hope against this lethal system and the barriers for people it creates. As movements that have come together in the initiative for a World without Walls we urge everyone to join actions in support of migrants and against border walls. 

Like every struggle for freedom and justice the fight against borders and walls is a long-term one that needs far more than one action day. However, if we join hands and forces in solidarity we will be able to defeat the systems of exclusion and apartheid and create a more free, humane and liveable world.


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