By Carmen Parejo Rendón – Sep 27, 2023
Mass movements of populations have been a recurring phenomenon throughout history and are key to the development of all societies, both past and present. These substantial population shifts are typically precipitated by various environmental factors, including natural occurrences such as disasters and famines, as well as human-induced events like plundering, wars, violence, or poverty.
One notable instance occurred during the Great Irish Famine between 1845 and 1855 when over 1.5 million Irish people emigrated to the United States. This phenomenon was predominantly driven by political causes, although natural factors played a part as well. During the 17th and 18th centuries, criminal laws prohibited Irish Catholics from buying or leasing land, voting, holding political office, obtaining education, or entering a profession.
Despite the reforms enacted in 1829—which gave rights back to Irish Catholics, who represented 80% of the population of Ireland—land ownership was concentrated in the hands of Anglo-Irish and English families. Most of these landowners lived in England, so the income from renting land to the Irish was sent there. The holdings of the Irish tenants were so small that it limited their cultivation to potatoes, and that too of a single type. Because of this, when the fungus Phytophthora infestans blight infected potato cultivation all over the planet, the consequences were particularly harsh for Ireland.
Recent migration in the EU
Between January and August 2023, more than 232,350 people entered the European Union (EU), an increase of 18% over the previous year. Furthermore, 49% of these migrants travelled over water on the central Mediterranean route. Some of the countries in the bloc have refused to address the issue which has generated strong confrontations among the European partners.
In 2023, 123,863 migrants from North Africa landed in Italy, according to data from the country’s Ministry of the Interior as of September 13; the same day that 6,000 new migrants reportedly arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa in just 24 hours.
In light of the situation, the European Union is once again withdrawing into the particular interests of each State. This is recurrent scenario among the EU partners every time they face a critical situation, as was this case for the euro crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, to name a few examples.
Taking advantage of the UN General Assembly in September, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni called for “a merciless global war against human traffickers,” whom she blames for the increase in migrant flows.
Tension in Europe
Intra-EU tension flared when a German Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed to the media that the German State is financing some NGOs offering aid to migrants, both at sea and on Italian territory. This announcement infuriated the coalition government in Italy. Andrea Crippa, the deputy secretary of Italian right-wing party The Northern League, responded by accusing Germany of trying to destabilize the government by funding NGOs “to fill us with clandestine criminals.”
Prime Minister Meloni did, however, support the proposal of French President Emmanuel Macron to make development aid conditional on African countries being “responsible” with immigration.
The clash of interests is evident in this scenario. Italy is one of the countries most affected by the migratory phenomenon, and, moreover, the current government came to power by making partisan use of this situation. Germany has historically benefited from the cheap labor coming from migratory flows, and has used the EU’s own borders as a filter to guarantee a controlled arrival of migrants. Finally, France is using this new crisis as political leverage to address its current main concern which is the loss of control over the African continent.
It is paradoxical that the same president who claims to be concerned about the increase in migration from Africa, is simultaneously trying to encourage regional conflicts due to his country’s loss of influence in African regions as the Sahel.
In the context of unprecedented migrant flows, it would be noteworthy if certain European leaders genuinely expressed concern about the root causes of the issue. Delving into the origins of the problem, they would find that it is Europe’s plundering of resources and exporting of weapons and violence that creates the corridors through which migrants traverse. Migrants are seeking prosperity in the countries that stole their wealth and are pursing peace in the countries that filled theirs with war.
Perhaps Meloni will at some point discover that her government, like the rest of the European powers, is part of those mafias that she denounces.
As in Ireland in the mid-19th century, European leaders will continue to try to make us believe that it was all the fault of the potatoes. But just like it happened in Ireland, we will increasingly see Africa rise up.
Carmen Parejo Rendón is a writer and analyst, and editor of the online media outlet Revista La Comuna. She is a frequent collaborator of HispanTV and Telesur. Her research and analysis are focused on Latin America and west Asia.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
scorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/sahelicot92/December 6, 2023
scorinocohttps://orinocotribune.com/author/sahelicot92/December 1, 2023