The blurry CCTV images went around the world: between 29th September and 5th October 2005 at least 16 refugees and migrants died in Morocco in the attempt to climb over the 6-metre high-tech fence into the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla with self-made wooden ladders. Several of those killed showed bullet wounds, others fell to their deaths or suffocated because of tear gas used by the Moroccan and Spanish police. Their alleged crime was simple: it was solely the fact that they actively made use of the right of freedom of movement, a right which has long become the most normal thing for any EU-passport holder.
However, the EU took their own consequences from the humanitarian and political disaster of Ceuta and Melilla. Instead of ending the war against unwanted refugees and migrants, the EU outsourced their border-control and deportation-regimes (see p. 3) even more. The involvement of North African countries in the monitoring and control of the main flight migration routes needs to be mentioned specifically. In exchange they are merely getting concessions on trade agreements, debt relief initiatives or residence permit quotas. As a consequence more and more refugees and migrants began the long and dangerous boat passage from the West African coast to the Canary Islands. According to conservative estimates this has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in the years 2006 to 2008. Currently the EU border-control agency Frontex forces refugee boats even if in West African waters to turn back, and have stepped up checks on the African mainland. The EU is for example involved in the monitoring of all seventeen border crossings from Mali to Mauritania and Algeria. The reason is that Mali is one of the most important transit countries for refugees and migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.
The events in Ceuta and Melilla were certainly shocking, however in retrospect it turns out that they were a catalyst for many West African activists. The Bamako call for “the respect and dignity of migrants” in January 2006 at the Polycentric World Social Forum was groundbreaking. From this a variety of transnational cooperations have emerged, not only within Africa but also between African and European-based initiatives. The latest development was the foundation of our network: Afrique-Europe Interact. Currently groups from Germany, Mali, the Netherlands and Austria are involved (see p. 4). What unites us is the common belief that the current situation can only change if basic social movements from Africa and Europe work together as committed and equal partners (see adjacent request for donations). Afrique-Europe-Interact together with other networks is calling for a 10-day protest Caravan for freedom of movement and equal development – we are expecting 300 activists, including 60 from Europe. The Caravan will start in the Malian capital Bamako and will end in Dakar in Senegal via numerous stops along the way. The 11th World Social Forum will be held in Dakar from 6th February where we will take part with a series of workshops.
The Caravan has two political objectives. On the one hand we want to expose the EU's migration policy in all its facets. Several actions are planned - including actions against Frontex and refoulements, a breach of international law which is taking place near Nioro at a border crossing between Mauritania and Mali. The variety of experiences and perspectives that come into play as part of our Caravan is what makes us so convincing as a group. In addition to former deportees from Mali, refugee activists from Germany and ex-Sans Papiers from France are part of the group (see p. 4). The second objective of the Caravan is to attract attention to the way migration works at the moment and the demand for equal development. Privatization, corruption, and the sellout of African soil to globally operating investment funds, banks and corporations are some examples. The right to freedom of movement and settlement is only one side of the coin. Equally important is the right to stay in the home country and be given the opportunity to live in dignity in safe and self-determined conditions (see p. 2).
Nobody can deny that Africa is not a poor continent as such but it is made poor through migration and neo-colonial domination and exploitation. What it needs is the emergence of a culture of transnational resistance and grassroots movements based in Africa and Europe. With our Caravan we want to make a small contribution in this direction and therefore need political and financial support.