The so called “EU Migrant Crisis” has received heavy news coverage, but little contextual information has been forthcoming. Over the last several months, there has been increasing coverage of the flow of migrants coming across the Mediterranean, mostly from Libyan ports. The current crisis of thousands of refugees flooding into the EU through Turkey and Eastern Europe has not been explained. We are told that the people are fleeing poverty and political unrest, but the U.S. wars against Iraq and Afghanistan are rarely mentioned; he U.S.-backed attacks on Libya, Syria and Yemen, never noted. The chaos and violence they are fleeing is Made in the USA, but we don’t hear about it.
These people are classified as ‘migrants’, people looking for economic ‘opportunities’ rather than as ‘refugees’ who are ‘fleeing’ personal danger or threatening conditions. Two flows of humanity have been noted in particular, those coming from Libya through Italy and those coming from Syria through Turkey and Greece. Both Libya and Syria have been devastated by U.S.-backed insurgencies funded by the Gulf monarchies and Saudi Arabia. Hordes of extremists carrying U.S.-made weapons have flooded these countries with violence. Libya has fallen into total chaos following the barbaric murder of Muamar Qaddafi and his family and weeks of bombing by EU members under U.S. leadership.
Those very countries are now crying foul when the refugees come to their door. Yes, these people are refugees. People who are not safe in their homes, who live in countries which no longer have untainted water supplies and where economic “opportunities” are either nonexistent or too dangerous to pursue are refugees.
The Recent Surge of Migrants from Turkey
The U.S.-backed insurgency in Syria and the more recent U.S. war on the insurgents (ISIS) has caused a huge refugee problem in the Middle East. More than 200,000 have died in Syria due to the ongoing insurgency. Two thirds of up to 9 million refugees caused by the U.S.-backed insurgency remain in government-controlled areas of the country where they receive services from the Syrian government. Most of the others, up till very recently, had been housed in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Some Syrian refugee camps in southern Turkey were established by early 2011 for the families of Free Syrian Army fighters who trained there. Since then NATO member Turkey has hosted ISIS and Al Nusra training camps as well.
A few weeks ago, a new flow of ‘migrants’ from Turkey began arriving in Greece and the Balkan states, overwhelming the traditional flow through Libya and Italy. According to The Huffington Post “The refugee crisis in Syria is a product of the conflict that has been raging since President Bashar Assad’s autocratic government sparked a civil war by attacking peaceful protests in March 2011.” This stance misses the mark in so far as the vast majority of Syrian refugees remain in the government controlled areas of the country where they receive government services including food and water, medical care and school for the children. Even Fox News got it better than that. They blamed ISIS. But are Syrians fleeing the country in great numbers due to ISIS?
Refugees from Syria
Just as the United States left Iraq, the U.S.-backed insurgency in Syria began to swell. AQI (Al Qaeda in Iraq), now called ISIS (The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria), which had seemed to run out of steam in Iraq, emerged as a driving force in the military campaign against the Assad government. Bombers, Bank Accounts and Bleedout, Al Qaida’s Road In and Out of Iraq, a report produced by the Countering Terrorism Center at West Point in 2008 describes the resources used by and for foreign fighters coming into Iraq through Syria, and later used to bring foreign fighters into Syria. Trafficking networks in Syria were described as criminal rather than political, and therefore susceptible to co-optation. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, spent several years in Camp Bucca, a U.S. detention center that also held the majority of foreign fighters.
The war in Syria, funded and directed by the wealthy royals in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, all close U.S. allies, has displaced more than 9 million people. None have been allowed to take refuge in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, or the UAE. Even the fighters they sent to facilitate the war in Syria have not been allowed to return to these countries. Two thirds of displaced Syrians remain inside of Syria, with 90% of them residing in government-controlled safe zones. Six hundred thousand Syrians have taken refuge in Jordan, and 1.4 million in Lebanon, nearly a fourth of the total population of that country.
US allies Jordan and Turkey, also a member of NATO, host training camps for foreign fighters coming to join ISIS and Al Nusra, as well as refugee camps where families of native Syrian fighters have lived, in some cases, since the war began in 2011. Turkey reluctantly admitted the Kurds from Kobane, but Kurds are not welcome in Turkey. Many Syrian Kurds came there as refugees from Turkey over the last century. A recent escalation of tensions between the Erdogan government and Kurds in Turkey have erupted into open fighting. Kurds may well be one of the primary groups attempting to rebuild their lives in the EU as many have family and friends already living there. Given the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey and the recent tensions along the border it would seem credible that the sudden exodus was encouraged by their host.
While the countries of the EU squabble among themselves over what to do with several hundred thousand refugees, the United States, with ongoing bombing campaigns in Syria and Iraq, has taken in less 1,800 Syrians. But I’m told the Syrians don’t want to leave Syria. We should provide assistance for them there. The U.S. provides the largest amount of assistance but it isn’t nearly enough. So far, 35% of money pledged through the U.N. for refugees in Syria has actually been provided. The EU is preparing assistance for Turkey – a wise move under the circumstances. Iran is providing 500 – 800 tons of flour per day to Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is calling for a no-fly zone in northern Syria along Turkey’s border, which is controlled in many areas by Al Nusra and ISIS fighters. French President Francois Holland is calling for a war against ISIS and the Syrian Government. He too wants a no-fly-zone. ISIS, Al Nusra and the handful of “moderate” insurgents claimed by the U.S. don’t have planes. Apparently General Petraeus thinks al Nusra, the self-declared Al Qaeda branch in Syria, will make an effective ally in the war on ISIS and Assad – actually a war on ISIS and the Syrian Arab Army which is protecting the Syrian people. Who then will rule the pluralistic, religiously tolerant land of Syria?
More on Middle East Refugee Flows
During the U.S. war on Iraq, a million refugees fled to Jordan and two million to Syria. In Syria they were welcomed, given access to the state run medical-service and allowed to enroll their children in the schools. UN refugee services were based there as well. Two million Palestinians have made their homes in Syria since the establishment of neighboring Israel on their land. Once home to the largest communities of refugees in the Middle East, men women and children driven out of Palestine and Lebanon by Israel and from Iraq by the U.S. and its EU allies, Syria is now a source of refugees.
The refugees coming to the EU through Turkey and Greece are represented as primarily Syrian, but people I know in the region tell me that there are many other nationalities represented, including Afghans, Africans and especially Kurds. Three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, who drowned along with his mother and brother when their boat capsized off the coast of Turkey, has become a poster child for these desperate people. It is said that Kurdi’s family were fleeing ISIS. But Aylan’s family are Syrian Kurds from Kobane, which means that they were in a Turkish refugee camp for many months before they were moved to flee to the EU. It is more likely they were fleeing the newly inflamed hostilities between the Turkish government and the Kurds.
Migrants drowned in the Mediterranean
Chaos in Libya has been blamed, but the cause not explained. Perhaps it would be clearer if we were to point out that the U.S.-led assault on Libya in 2011 resulted in the complete destruction of the Libyan national infrastructure. Libya was, under Muamar Qaddafi, a central destination for impoverished migrants coming up from central Africa. In Libya, many found work and some found ways to cross the Mediterranean sea to Europe. Qaddafi was bound by negotiated treaties to limit migration, and his government had the resources to support a large number of migrant workers within the country. During and after the fall of the Qaddafi government, the U.S./EU supported insurgency emerged as a violent racist force that targeted Black Africans throughout the country.
During the war on Libya, tens of thousands died and were wounded by U.S.-led coalition air strikes. Public services, from clean water and garbage collection to education and medical care, all of which were free and readily available under the Qaddafi government, ceased. Two governments, formed from the fractious “rebels” who were held up by their Western supporters as the leaders of a new “free” Libya, have founded two separate governments in Tripoli and Benghazi, on opposite sides of the country. While these stunted governments remain locked in a frozen conflict, ISIS has set up a base between them in Sirte, Qaddafi’s home base.
Migrants who once stayed and worked in Libya now must move on quickly. And of course, the current civil war in Libya, exacerbated by ISIS on the ground and UAE and Qatari bombers in the sky, creates a significant pool of desperate Libyan refugees beyond those African migrants from the south, the Somali, Sudanese, Kenyan and Eritrean migrants seeking security as well as economic opportunities, education, medical care and a better life for their families.
The orderly process that once existed, where the Libyan government coordinated with EU governments to manage African migrants is no more. The black market traffickers who have filled the void, are not interested in the welfare of their charges or the completion of their mission. Once they have been paid, their interest wanes. They use subcontractors who, once again, are payed for taking up the job rather than for completing it.
The EU therefore, has decided to redefine the Libyan “migrant” problem as a problem with “human trafficking”. Their response is to have a “war on human traffickers”, a contemptible class of criminals who take advantage of the desperation of these peoples caught in the chaos of war. Of course, those wars are not entirely their own any more than the Libyan war was a wholly Libyan venture. Meanwhile, the Italian Coast Guard, which once was able to manage migrant flows is now overwhelmed by a “human trafficking problem” caused by wars instigated and managed by the U.S. and its EU partners. Since the new trafficking problem requires a new war, Italy’s northern neighbors are sending warships to engage in this new “war on human traffickers”. In the Western world, war is always the answer.
Where this story is leading . . .
Whose wars are driving the EU refugee problem? Our wars! US backed dictators, insurgencies and NATO bombing campaigns in Libya and across central Africa have resulted in continuous violence, poverty and social disruption. This heinous crime against the people of Africa, has left them vulnerable to criminals against whom the EU is now ready to perpetrate a new war, oblivious to the suffering that war will bring upon their vulnerable charges.
But worse than that, it appears the U.S. and some of its EU allies are still preparing to save Syria from Bashar Assad the same way they saved Libya from Muamar Qaddafi.