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Tracking, Deportations, Internment: European Countries Go on the Hunt for Migrants

On May 10, German chancellor Olaf Scholz strengthened Germany’s anti-migrant policy. This means more deportations, border patrol reinforcements, and economic agreements with sending countries. The new policy is being deployed throughout Europe.

Leo Stella

May 25, 2023
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Manu Brabo/AP

On May 10, after meeting with the 16 leaders of the Länder (the 16 state-regions of Germany), the German government took a series of measures to fight “illegal immigration.” Using the racist logic of “good and bad migrants” as a cover, Germany is preparing to enhance its repression of migrants at the borders, tracking and deporting them in greater numbers. This is an overall policy of the member states of the European Union, in anticipation of the next European Asylum and Immigration Pact, scheduled for 2024.

A New Leap in Germany’s Xenophobic Policy

Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a social democrat who heads a coalition with the Greens and the Liberals, announced measures that are twofold: to reinforce repressive measures within the country and to further close the borders.

On the first point, the German government plans to overhaul its computer systems in order to quickly process asylum and visa applications. This, in turn, will enable the state to more easily deport those who have been refused.

Parallel with this administrative streamlining, the government will lock up rejected asylum seekers for longer — the maximum duration of detention for deportation is set to be increased from 10 to 28 days.

In addition, Scholz intends to rely on incentive agreements or economic constraints levied on migrants’ countries of origin, forcing them to accept the influx of deportations. As quoted by France 24, Scholz said, “It is a question of facilitating the arrival of qualified personnel from these countries, but in return, to conclude very clear agreements on the return of those who will be rejected.”

Further, the chancellor and the federal government are also planning to strengthen systematic police control at the borders through bilateral agreements with neighboring countries, as it already has with Austria and France. The agreement with France includes the establishment of a shared police force to crack down even harder on migrants attempting to cross the border between the two countries because their asylum applications have been refused. This is the meaning of “solidarity” and “cooperation” for the European Union of capital and barbed wire.

A Global Policy of the EU and NATO

The Asylum and Immigration Pact, planned for spring 2024, foresees a standardization of European regulations along the same lines as those put forward by Scholz and by French president Emmanuel Macron. Members of the EU are preparing, once again, to outdo each other on border security (more drones and watchtowers, along with the strengthening of Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency) while perfecting the hunt for migrants, such as through bilateral exchanges between member countries and by enhancing Eurodac, a biometric system for identifying anyone entering the Schengen Area. The European imperialists intend to put all their weight on the semi-colonial countries to accelerate expulsions, even if it means economically endangering countries like Pakistan. As Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said in a letter sent to the 27 EU member countries at the end of January: “Rapid measures are needed to ensure effective returns from the European Union to countries of origin, using as leverage all relevant EU policies, instruments, and tools.”

These inhumane goals were already at the heart of the resolutions of the NATO summit held in Madrid in June 2022, which defined immigration as a “hybrid threat.” Within the European Union, the same policies are applied in the different states, whether they are governed by the Right or the Left.

Thus, while Pedro Sanchez — Spanish prime minister and head of the PSOE/Podemos/PCE coalition — refuses to build new barbed-wire fences financed by European funds (owing, in truth, to a simple accounting disagreement), he is at the forefront of the strategy aiming to reinforce economic dependence of migrants’ countries of origin in order to use them as exchange currencies for “developmental aid.” He promises that “Spain will work hard to achieve” a consensus on the European pact on immigration. Spain is now subcontracting the processing of migrants directly to the Moroccan monarchy and leaving people to die in the barbed wire of Ceuta and Melilla, the Spanish port cities in northern Africa.

In Belgium, in addition to restricting access to family reunification, the March agreement on migration could enable the government to double expulsions within two months. To do so, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has set up better “cooperation” with countries of origin to speed up deportations, while facilitating the deportation system and the tracking of migrants with the establishment of new repressive forces.

The same policies are being pursued outside the EU. In England, Conservative prime minister Rishi Sunak is working on an immigration bill that would allow “illegal” migrants to be detained in ferries, military camps, or prisons without bail or judicial review for the first 28 days of their detention, until they can be deported. Following agreements with Rwanda, the UK can now also use that country as a transfer zone to deport and detain asylum seekers. The UK government is also working on an IT overhaul with the goal of streamlining registration and deportation systems for migrants.

Throughout Europe, efforts are being made to streamline bureaucracy, speed up procedures, and strengthen police forces, which are intended to harass and violate migrant peoples, hunting them down and even breaking open their tents, as the French police do so well. Recently, French politician Olivier Véran (who fancies himself a bulwark against the Far Right) explained that this is how the Far Right could go down. Yet while they are degrading living and working conditions, social democrats, liberals, and the Right across the continent are already implementing the agenda of the Far Right, even when they are not directly allied with it.

Gérald Darmanin, France’s minister of the interior, now even aims to do worse than the Far Right, as illustrated by his xenophobic one-upmanship with Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni, each accusing the other of insufficient repression. Behind the passing tensions, all the governments share the same goal: to turn the Mediterranean into a massive cemetery. In France, while the government puts immigration law back on the table, it is carrying out a large-scale police and colonial operation in Mayotte — an archipelago in the Indian Ocean which France uses as a colony. It is urgent that the social movement that arose against the pension reform also mobilize against these racist and murderous policies, demanding the opening of the borders and the legal admittance of the undocumented.

First published in French on May 17 on Révolution Permanente.

Translated by Ida Bréilte

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