Recent weeks have seen a major new development in the refugee crisis, with Belarusian President Lukashenko encouraging refugees – mostly from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, amongst others – to enter Europe through Belarus, as part of a political clash with the EU.
European leaders, in turn, have responded by ramping up their brutal border policies, leaving innocent men, women, and children trapped in a freezing no-man’s land.
The UK government has now sent troops to ‘assist’ in securing Europe’s borders against desperate migrants. The callous behaviour of all these reactionary politicians is truly repugnant.
As with refugees coming via the Mediterranean, the EU has been quick to block this migration path in an attempt to ‘protect’ their shared outer borders.
Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have all sent troops to the Belarussian border and begun the construction of border walls, reminiscent of Hungary’s Serbian wall of 2015.
Refugees who manage to successfully make it across the border and into the EU are either pushed back into Belarus with tear gas, dogs, or at gunpoint; or are forced into squalid camps where they await deportation in horrendous conditions.
Pushbacks result in refugees becoming trapped without shelter or supplies. This dire situation has already led to deaths, including that of a baby. This will only worsen as the winter sets in.
Victims of imperialism
The EU has further shown its cynical attitude towards refugees, putting political pressure on countries around the world – and in particular those with large refugee populations, such as Turkey – to cease all flights to Belarus.
Not only have EU funds been earmarked for border defense, but Frontex, the EU’s infamous border agency, has been sent to Lithuania and Latvia.
Poland, meanwhile, has refused Frontex support – a move that can only be understood in the context of increasing conflicts between Brussels and Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) Party.
Instead, the right-wing Polish government is relying on its own troops and border guards to repel the innocent victims of imperialism.
The Tories have opportunistically offered support to Poland.
Amid scaremongering about war with Russia, and in an attempt to whip up anti-immigrant hysteria amongst their reactionary base of support, the Conservative government has sent around 150 Royal Engineers to Poland to “help strengthen the border”, by building walls and barbed-wire fences to block refugees.
In a mealy-mouthed justification for sending military personnel to ‘protect’ another country from starving, unarmed migrants, Tory defence secretary Ben Wallace asserted that the engineers are not combat troops, but “guys with diggers”, being used to “help the Poles and potentially other Baltic states to secure their borders”.
The British media has piled in, giving full support to Poland and other European countries in militarising their borders, whatever the effect on refugees.
Whilst supposedly ‘respectable’ establishment mouthpieces like the BBC shed crocodile tears about the inherent human tragedies in the situation, all blame is being placed on Belarus and Russia. EU member states, meanwhile, are being completely absolved, despite being just as responsible.
By referring to the refugees as a ‘hybrid attack’ coming from Russia, the media and politicians are seeking to justify all sorts of violence and brutality.
Fuelling the fire
This horrific attitude is hardly surprising when you consider the track record of anti-refugee demagoguery from the British press.
Comments from leading politicians like Priti Patel just add fuel to the fire. The Tory home secretary has suggested, for example, that asylum seekers should be detained on an Atlantic island, and has demanded that lifeboats not save drowning refugees in the English Channel.
The tragic consequences of this reactionary stance have been seen in recent days, with 27 migrants – including children and a pregnant woman – dying earlier this week after their boat sank whilst making the crossing from Calais to the UK.
The fact taxpayer money is being used to violently push back refugees in another part of the continent (or anywhere for that matter) is an absolute travesty. Refugees are caught in the middle of the political games of different capitalist powers, having been forced to flee their homes due to imperialist militarism conducted by these same powers.
Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania were all involved alongside NATO allies in the wars that completely destabilised the Middle East, with Poland's input in particular being comparable even to the UKs. The utter hypocrisy of this situation casts an even darker aspect on the terrible suffering of these refugees.
Bring down the borders
Many refugees are also fleeing the devastation caused by capitalism – including a chronic lack of employment and opportunities, endemic poverty, and climate-related catastrophes.
Given the horrific situations at home, refugees are totally justified in wanting a better life for themselves and their families. More than half of refugees are children.
After creating intolerable conditions abroad, capitalist governments then throw up borders, barriers, and barbed wire against the people fleeing these same conditions, which only worsens the humanitarian situation. And the EU is no different in this respect.
We offer our unconditional solidarity to refugees trapped at the borders of Europe, and demand that they be granted shelter, medical care, and asylum.
Ultimately, we need an international socialist revolution to open up borders, resettle and help refugees in desperate need, and bring down the rotten capitalist system that is responsible for creating refugees in the first place.