This site will look much better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

over de grens - verwijdering van vluchtelingen en migranten uit Nederland

autonoom centrum, maart 2004

# Regulation of migration, an outdated concept

A perspective of the Autonomous Centre on migration and deportation.

The detention and deportation of refugees and migrants from the Netherlands is a 'breech- block' of a policy that aims to regulate migration. This means that the number of refugees is reduced to an 'acceptable' level, regardless of the motives of their arrival. In the regulation of migration the situation beyond the (European) borders is hardly taken into consideration. A solution to the causes of 'forced' migration is not being pursued. Therefore the policy does not aim to solve the problems surrounding this migration but only focuses on fighting its symptoms. The solution offered is mainly to keep the problem outside of the borders. This is in contradiction to how the world is developing in numerous other fields. National borders are fading and policy, especially in the economic field, stimulates the process of globalisation. A globalisation in which the interests of certain groups are put before those of others. The interests pursued are mainly those of the military, economic and reigning elites and the interests of migrants are not considered, so it's: deport and remove and that's that.

The current regulating of migration goes hand in hand with measures that are, to put it lightly, in conflict with the basic principles of a democratic constitutional state. That is, a state that is based upon observing human rights. In order to put into practice the now intensified deportation policy, a constant flow of people to be removed is necessary. In other words, the tracking down, taking into custody and the detention of people without papers are inseparably connected to this policy. For the detaining of people in order to remove them from the country, two new deportation centres have already been opened. "Services" like the immigration and naturalisation service and the foreign police are getting ready for a 'big clean-up' in several cities. It is not surprising that the government, in order to make the policy acceptable, removes the values of the migrant as a person. He or she is spoken about in impersonal terms like categories and numbers. The cause of the bad treatment the migrants get is blamed on them: they lie about their origin, they are criminals and profiteers, they do not take their own responsibility (they were able to come so they should be able to leave on their own accord). Imagine that a lot of people would start to feel uneasy and resist????.. No, it is better to fool ourselves into thinking that in the end it is better for 'us' and the migrants when they are removed from the country with 'gentle force': they have no future here, they thought they would come to a paradise, they'd do better building up their own countries?. The current restrictive policy is, however, certainly not in the interest of the migrant. Research shows that migration, both legal and illegal, creates cash flow in the direction of the countries of origin (usually directly to families), that are larger and in many cases more effective than development aid (that usually ends up in the hands of an elite).

Deportation is the exercising of the 'right' of a state to determine who is allowed to be within its borders. It has a lot to do with the character of the modern European nation state, necessary for the fast growing capitalist economy. The influence of the church had to be lessened and that of the 'free market' increased. Because capitalism spread its wings, there was a strong need for geographically limited power centres. The nation state made the birth of the colonial powers possible and created an 'us' and 'them' kind of thinking that made exploitation acceptable. Through industrialisation and rapid technological developments the European modern nation state was shaped into its definitive form. Maintaining the public order, safety and control are the most important tasks of the state machinery, just like the maintaining of an army for the protection of own interests. The state finds it fair to maintain riches and wealth for residents with a Dutch passport and to protect this at the expense of weaker people outside of this state.

The role of the nation state is, however, in many fields on the rebound. Companies and elites are no longer locally tied but have been globalized. You could say that with this the original reason for forming a nation state has ceased to exist. Capital doesn't need geographical power centres in the form of bordered states anymore. The borders that really matter, the economic, ethnic and cultural ones, form the new setting in which we live, borders located both near by and far away. Additionally, a great part of the large task that the state had before in public services has disappeared due to privatisation. The same goes for control and safety and even within military actions like the war in Iraq far reaching privatisations are taking place.

The European welfare state, born through resistance and struggle of that part of the population that was poor and underprivileged as well as the struggle of workers in unions, has become a burden. Many services were initially gained from companies and later adopted by the state. With the current policy for restricting migration, the borders of the nation state are anxiously clutched to by arguing for the defence of the welfare state with its cultures and values. But this connection is false. The deconstruction of the welfare state and of its values have little to do with the increase in migration, but with the economic globalisation arising from a neoliberal climate in which politics can barely exercise any influence but support it nevertheless. National borders have little or even nothing to do with cultural borders. Concepts like a national culture or civilisation are usually artificially constructed and are particularly used in the defence of economic interests.

The phenomenon of migration and how to deal with it cannot be viewed separately from the current globalisation that leads to a sharper contrast partly caused by institutions like the WTO and the IMF. These international institutions are increasingly acting as agents of multinational corporations and rich countries. The WTO meeting in Cancun that was held in the summer of 2003 affirms this once again. The talks got stranded, among other things, on the refusal of delegates of the rich countries to lessen or annul their subsidies on farming. These subsidies make it impossible for poorer countries to compete with the farming of richer countries. Another example is the enormous influence that multinational corporations have in keeping the prices of natural resources in poorer countries low on one side, and keeping the prices of their own products, like medicines, high. The result is a more extreme poverty and fewer prospects for improvement in poorer countries that will again lead to an increase in migration.

Globalisation and migration are enduring concepts. The welfare state consists of agreements between employers, employees, and the state on a national level, people are denied access to facilities and labour when they don't have residency status. This form of welfare state is outdated and belongs to yesterday's world. It is very necessary to fight again for welfare and well being, this time not restricted to a national level but on a global level. The same goes for democracy. On a national level there is not a lot left to choose. The most important choices are made in global networks. Just like before, facilities and influence need to be won by fighting for them. A fight in which local networks are connected to global ones. This is the world of tomorrow. An interaction between agreements and organisation on both a global and local level. We advocate open borders not from the perspective of the current free market (that isn't a real free market at all), but from the idea of free life. This free life is now being restricted both for the migrant as well as for the rest of us. The current policy stimulates control, exclusion and withdrawal instead of openness, confrontation and solidarity, the current policy is a policy of old colonial powers. One of the few rational explanations in favour of a restrictive policy on migration that remain, is that inequality needs to be maintained by keeping national borders shut. No real effort is being put into true re-allocation of wealth and keeping equal proportions within the world. But then for years already it hasn't been about fighting the causes of migration but solely about stopping migration from poorer countries to wealthier ones, unless there is a case of an acute shortage of workforce in certain fields.

An important reason for the complication in trying to get an open approach towards migration is fear. Fear of an increasing number of people from a different culture and their integration that is accompanied with problems. There are many hidden sentiments among Dutch: they are intruders that are 'different'. This 'us' and 'them' thinking is stimulated by the artificial constructions of nation states and is an inheritance of a colonial past in which 'the other' was not seen as a (full) person. The feelings of fear work within a society in which insecurity has increased due to the failing of community structures. Where the canonized 'free market' changes the social citizen into a calculating consumer. This insecurity is being fortified because the 'multicultural society' also leads to problems and conflicts, which are not being dealt with and upon which one has no control. Unfortunately little effort has been put into finding progressive solutions. Dutch leftists have treated the migrant and the refugee a lot like victims that need help, instead of recognizing that migrants themselves should take part in the discussion. Living together always leads to problems of some sort in which the migrant also has a responsibility and should have. In our society from left to right there is often the case of a paternalistic attitude and a sense of superior thinking that has played a role for centuries and is typical of our culture. Migration and integration are often a problem that is not necessarily caused by the migrant but by the hosting society. A society in which self-criticism and self-reflection seldom play a role. Indications towards the source of an evil are usually pointed outward.

There is a distinction between the regulation of migration when there is talk about giving people access to all facilities in the Netherlands or when there is the desire to remove people without a legal status from Dutch territory. Not giving everyone that crosses the Dutch borders direct access to all facilities is something that can be discussed. Within the government policy, however, this is no longer a point of discussion. Someone without papers doesn't have any kind of right anymore to facilities. The person means a threat to the welfare state. But this is a shame. The illegal status of the person makes exploitation possible with which the position of legal workers is undermined as well. The situation resulting from this is being used by companies to break down the rights of working people, like the minimum wage for example. Businesses are using illegal workers in a lot of sectors in order to press labour costs.

In the long run the birth of an 'illegal society' is a threat to the welfare and well being of many. Instead of punishing the 'illegal' worker, it would be better to force employers to treat every worker equally (and lose the idea of legal and illegal status) granting rights and facilities, as they are now applicable in the Netherlands. There would be less jostling away of work from others and less pressure on the position of workers. But also the 'survivalist crimes' of illegals, the health risks coming from contagious diseases, the increasing exploitation in housing: they all have negative effects on society.

Summarized: the migration policy mainly delivers losers. We need to turn a corner in our thinking, to be able to look at things from the perspective of having open borders and to look at what kind of problems they could cause and how these problems could be solved. What is necessary is an attitude that at least accepts that the Netherlands is an immigration country and to try, out of that perspective, to give migrants a chance to build up a full life within our society as quickly as possible. Migration needs to get a space in discussions and strategies of the anti-globalisation movement, 'globalisation from the roots up'. In other words: you cannot separate thinking about migration from criticism of the global capitalist system. Because the function of the nation state is crumbling more and more and is not giving an answer to problems that are present now and will be in the future, there is a need to search for other models of this state. At the same time resistance against closed borders to migrants is important. Exactly there where the decisive confrontation between the migrant and the government takes place: during entry and removal. Deportation demands resistance and set upon thinking about alternatives, whether in schools, in neighbourhoods, by the migrants themselves or by interest- and action groups.

Start campagne 'KLM, uw uitzettingsagent', 1999 Autonoom Centrum