Statement of the Peoples’ Meeting for the Dignity of Migrants
July 20, 2023
In Africa, no development without mobility!
In Europe, no respite without the development of Africa!
Civil society associations from Tunisia, the Maghreb, West Africa, and Europe met in Tunis on July 20 to express and affirm their disagreement with the migration policies pursued by governments. Walls are rising on all horizons, reflecting a disastrous war on human mobility. Deprived of resources or threatened by conflict and natural disaster, people have neither the right to migrate, nor the right not to migrate, nor the right to be rescued, ensnared by those who govern them and those who dominate the world.
Disinformation, propaganda and the instrumentalization of fear are engulfing all countries in a social and political regression that sets up the militarization of borders and the arms race as the only panacea. We denounce the governmental meeting to be held in Rome on July 23, and bring the following to the attention of African and European public opinion:
Following weeks of intense negotiations and multiple visits by European Union representatives led by the Italian Prime Minister, the EU and Tunisia have finally signed a memorandum covering subjects ranging from migration to economic cooperation, the latter being nothing more than a smokescreen designed to hide the essential. Migration is in fact the real issue at stake in this agreement, which remains unclear as to its modus operandi and implementation. We believe that the agreement responds primarily to the needs and expectations of the European Union, with no consideration for the challenges facing the countries on the southern shores of the Mediterranean.
The European Union is clearly pursuing its strategy of externalizing its borders and preventing the entry of migrants deemed undesirable. After the migrants’ host crisis of 2015, triggered by the movement of populations fleeing imperialist wars in Europe’s eastern and southern neighborhoods, the EU’s demands include the criminalization of humanitarian operations at sea and the subservience of African countries such as Niger and now Tunisia.
In the case of Tunisia, we denounce once again, as under Ben Ali’s regime in 1995, agreements signed without any Maghreb and African consultation, without any real democratic debate and in the absence of a representative parliament, stigmatizing any free voice in society that expresses its criticism, refusal, and indignation.
The European right and extreme right are delighted with this agreement, which fits in perfectly with their anti-migrant vision and the proliferation of fear of foreigners among increasingly xenophobic and racist public opinion. Tunisia’s President Kais Said, in a similar move to silence the opposition and civil society, is attempting to instrumentalize this agreement by presenting it as a means of protecting the country from “hordes of invading sub-Saharan migrants”, as announced in his February 21 “speech of shame”. The independent actors of Tunisian civil society are once again expressing their refusal here and now and are calling for the debate on migration to be opened, so as to refocus the dialogue on structural problems linked to poverty, conflict, wealth grabbing and environmental destruction.
We also recall that despite the adoption in Tunisia of a law against racism and xenophobia, the only one of its kind in the Maghreb and African region, we are witnessing the rise of hate speech and anti-migrant hunting. We consider the sad events in Sfax to be a major turning point and a humanitarian catastrophe.
The Nadhor-Mellila tragedy in Morocco in 2022, which claimed the lives of 27 migrants and led to the disappearance of hundreds more, as well as the recent sinking of a boat carrying over 700 people in the central Mediterranean, and the discovery of a decomposing baby on a beach near Barcelona after a boat sank off the Algerian coast, are a sequence of tragedies and evidence of the results of security policies and the common destiny of North Africans, sub-Saharans and Europeans. To conceal the intertwined destinies of these peoples from the public eye is the product of irresponsible political manipulation at odds with reality.
Saying that we are all Africans is not an empty phrase; it means denouncing all forms of racism in both North and South, and proclaiming the imperative of solidarity and unity around the principles of human rights and respect for the right to equal mobility of all citizens of the world. Civil society actors from North Africa, Africa and Europe are called upon to unite their voices to alert public opinion to the impasse of current policies. The Europe of capitals has turned migration into an issue that can be solved by monetizing political asylum, flouting international law and outsourcing borders to the tune of billions of euros, leaving the governed to believe that their destiny is not linked to those of other peoples in the region, and that the fortress walls will withstand the blows of those who have lost hope.
We recall here the Nairobi Charter of 1981, which states that African states “are conscious of their duty to liberate totally Africa, whose peoples continue to struggle for their true independence and dignity, and undertake to eliminate colonialism, neo-colonialism, apartheid, Zionism, foreign military bases of aggression and all forms of discrimination, particularly those based on race, ethnicity, color, sex, language, religion or political opinion”.
We see the forthcoming meeting in Rome, announced as a Euro-African summit, as a continuation and reinforcement of ineffective and misleading policies whose sole aim is large-scale refoulement and the justification of inhumane and discriminatory treatment of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. We recall that in both North and South, the authorities are paternalistic, disempowering citizens and increasingly indulging in authoritarian reflexes that criminalize solidarity and target rights activists and organizations. In increasingly unrepresentative democracies, we are witnessing a political competition between technocrats battling for power and interest groups. Our response is unequivocal: we refuse to see the agreement between Tunisia and the EU as a model to be followed, we denounce it and call for a responsible and participatory dialogue including civil, political, trade union and citizen forces to promote alternative and sustainable solutions, which are conducive to rights.
We, the civil societies of Tunisia, the Maghreb, Africa, Europe, and the rest of the world, must act as a matter of urgency. We continue to defend hospitality against hatred, acceptance against refoulement, open borders against imprisonment, and we call on public opinion the world over to say:
- We affirm that mobility is an indispensable factor in Africa’s development, call for respect for freedom of movement on the continent, and demand the urgent establishment of a universal social protection system enabling mobility and recognition of social achievements at regional and international level.
- We call on trade unions to redouble their efforts to regulate the governance of worker mobility, and actively contribute to solutions that promote rights and social progress in both countries of origin and destination.
- We renew our call for the regularization of undocumented migrants, the removal of administrative barriers and the fight against the exploitation of vulnerable workers trapped by a predatory and hypocritical economic model.
- We insist on the need to take a serious look at the issue of brain drain and the fatal loss it represents for the development of countries of origin.
- We call on migrants to self-organize as interlocutors in the process of protecting victims and integrating into host societies.
- We call on the women’s movement to integrate migrant women as a driving force in the fight against patriarchy and the exploitation of women.
- We call on the international community to pilot a system of rescue and identification of victims, and to put an end to murderous punitive interventions by security forces.
- We call for a proactive policy to make cultural diversity and Co-creativity the living forces of a better way of living together.
We reiterate that the ability of human societies to adapt and social progress cannot be the exclusive preserve of the political class, and that it is above all a matter of participation, listening to and confronting the living forces that drive a human society on the move. Taking charge of this program of struggle and mobilization requires the union of all our efforts and energies. It is more than urgent to put in place a framework for struggle that will unite us in the tough battles we must wage in the coming months and years.
For a future of social progress in the heart of the Mediterranean!
For a Mediterranean at the heart of social progress!