We want to welcome

Apr 26, 2016
It is not a refugee crisis because virtually nobody is being given refuge. And it is not a crisis because the situation is neither temporary, nor does it have anything to do with scarcity. What has been called the refugee crisis is simply the moral and political collapse of a Europe that is incapable of performing even the most essential things: welcoming, even for a time, those who are in a situation of need.

Very few moments in history have seen such an extensive map of conflicts, with similar proportions of displaced persons. Obviously, we are talking about Syria, with half of its population displaced (11 million people), but we must also talk about Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Ukraine, the Middle East, several countries in North Africa, the Sudan, the Central African Republic, Congo…. We are talking about 60 million displaced persons, most of whom cannot leave their countries of origin or who are being detained in neighbouring countries. And we must not forget that, along with these political refugees, there also were, are and will be millions of economic migrants. It is well-nigh impossible to make any division between these immigrants and those who are fleeing wars and persecutions. A minimum percentage of all these people have reached or will be able to reach Europe.

We have spent decades denouncing the way the European Union has been uncritically built, assuming the economic tenets of the political right wing. Austerity policies lacking in any form of solidarity, which have contributed, amongst other things, to giving wings to racism and xenophobia. Now, regrettably, the same is happening to these displaced persons: the extreme right is writing the script that is being followed to the letter by member state governments and community institutions, often due to false electoral interests. The migrants are identified with potential terrorists or with competitors that devaluate our salaries and in this way the road is cleared for public opinion to close borders or for deportations. But reality is stubborn: mass displacements of people have occurred, are occurring and will continue to occur, whatever barriers Europe insists on building. If some routes are closed, others will be opened up: this is what is happening at the moment, for example, in the Mediterranean. The idea of “seeking refuge” from this global phenomenon is not only lacking in solidarity: it is absolutely impossible.

We are a trade union organisation, which is very down to earth when talking about work or cohabitation. We are not saying that welcoming millions of people on our continent and in our country is going to be easy and problem-free. What we are saying is that these people are going to come, have come in the past, and are already coming. What we are saying is that we make up a single class, a working class. What we are saying is that it is our turn to do the welcoming.

ELA is joining in with the complaints that humanitarian organisations such as Amnesty International, Caritas, Intermon Oxfam or Médecins du Monde, amongst many others, have been making. And more specifically, it is condemning the agreement signed between the European Union and Turkey to prevent these displaced persons from reaching our countries. This agreement is immoral and against international law. We must also remember that the drama these people are suffering does not end if they finally manage to pass our borders: inside them they still have to face up to all the “internal borders” such as job insecurity and everyday survival, poverty, social exclusion, internment in camps, islamophobia, xenophobia…. And as if this were not enough, we must add all the cases of sexual and gender-based violence suffered by many refugee women, a true pandemic which, paradoxically, seems to carry on without affecting our social popular consciousness.

For all these reasons, we demand of the European institutions:

  • The guaranteeing of the right to asylum;

  • For safe routes to be opened up for people fleeing from conflicts;

  • The agreement on a common immigration policy that brings an end to what has been called “Fortress Europe”;

  • That they firmly demand of the member states respect of international law;

  • That they commit themselves to resolving the armed conflicts throughout the world, rejecting any warlike interventions.

We are a working class trade union. As Basque citizens, as trade unionists, we have known war, persecution and exile. And both before and after the war thousands of our people also emigrated for economic reasons. As a people and as a trade union organisation, we have survived poverty and fascism thanks to international solidarity. France, the USSR, Great Britain, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina…. A multitude of countries took our people in simply because this was what they had to do.

As trade unionists, we want to pass on a single message: we want to welcome. For this reason, we ask the governments of Iruñea and Gasteiz and the regional and local institutions, to activate any necessary levers in order for us as a people, to be able to do the same as was done for our people: offer shelter and opportunities for prosperity to those who requested it, until they can return to their homelands if this is their wish.