This is a guest post from Hamzah Akhtar and Kay Glover who are activists with Our Future Now and helped organise the Freedom of Movement 2.0 conference attended by The Canary.
Imagine if, through no fault of your own, you were no longer able to make a livelihood because of the destructive effects of climate change. Imagine if you weren’t able to live a peaceful life because of conflict ravaging your country. Perhaps you were a farmer who could no longer have goats graze on the land because of the punishing drought that has inflicted your region.
This is happening right now. Imagine if your only option was to leave behind your home and move to another part of the world just to ensure your survival. Now, imagine if this journey was made all the more difficult due to the artificial construct of borders mapped into our minds.
A passport system that underpins racial hierarchy
Just as people can move from Liverpool to London for better work opportunities, so too should they be able to move from Lampedusa to London without restriction. Those fleeing persecution, inequality, and a climate crisis are immobilised by a passport system that underpins a racial hierarchy. This hierarchy is supported by the unquestioned flow of capital. Britain was one of the first countries to roll out the ‘Investor visa’; a route into citizenship for those rich enough. How is it fair that people can buy their way through borders yet 45% of applications for asylum are rejected? Borders are not apolitical; they are artificial constructs that act as weapons of empire and function as instruments of segregation against those least responsible for the impacts of climate change, global inequality, and conflict.
In 2018, the UK received 6% of asylum applications made in the EU, and was ranked 17th in the EU for the number of asylum applications based on population share. Despite this, since 2010 the Conservative government has insisted on reducing net migration to below 100,000. It has presided over a hostile environment that has sought to be tough on immigration. The inhumane conditions in detention centres, many of which are worse than prisons, has led to an increase in suicide attempts at such facilities. The demonisation of migrants by both the government and our billionaire-owned media seeks to diminish the many positive contributions migrant communities make to society, creating a scapegoat to distract from the inequalities created by the current crises of capitalism.
A viable alternative
The biggest area of employment growth in Europe is actually supported by a workforce of migrants. For instance, in London, 40% of social care work is carried out by migrants. Meanwhile, discriminating against workers on the basis of skill ignores the future potential of those labelled unskilled; it does not consider the brilliant minds that may one day come to completely transform our society.
Is there a viable alternative to our current system of border imperialism that restricts the free movement of people? Can we uproot this Westphalian order and foster a system that allows people to escape global inequality, conflict, and an ecological crisis? The answer is, of course, yes!
‘Freedom of Movement’ is a theory that envisages a world in which people are free to move across the globe as they wish. It seeks to dismantle ideas of sovereignty and replace them with concepts of global citizenship and communities beyond borders – an idea explored in great detail in ‘The Case for Global Free Movement’, a report commissioned by the NGO Global Justice Now
Freedom of movement exists to help adjust the disproportionate effects of disaster capitalism and climate injustice faced by people of colour, indigenous populations, and marginalised communities. It’s a fundamental freedom. The borders that surround us stifle solidarity, creativity, and social movements. We need to come together and be rooted in our solidarity to help undo border imperialism.
No one is illegal.
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