Xeno-Racism and the Hypocrisy of Managed Migration: Adrian Harewood Interviews Liz Fekete of the Institute of Race Relations

By Harewood, Adrian | Canadian Dimension, March-April 2006 | Go to article overview

Xeno-Racism and the Hypocrisy of Managed Migration: Adrian Harewood Interviews Liz Fekete of the Institute of Race Relations


Harewood, Adrian, Canadian Dimension


CD There are 125 million people who are displaced in this world. Who are these people? Where are they from? And what are the causes of their displacement?

LF I think this figure represents people who have been displaced from all regions of the world for reasons connected to this phenomenon of globalization and the collapse of the Communist empire. People are being displaced by economic misery, escalating ethnic wars that have arisen through break-ups of old empires and increasing problems within countries whose borders were artificially defined by colonialism. They may have been displaced by ecological disasters, exacerbated by the kind of economic polices followed by the western world, or they may have been displaced because of globalization--the greed of those multinationals in pursuing their agenda and really stealing the resources of vulnerable countries, which are so open for theft. An example would be Nigeria, where the relentless pursuit for oil by the multinational companies leads them to hire armed militia to guard their projects. The militia are involved in attacking local communities, which then leads to their displacement.

Asylum Seekers or Economic Migrants?

CD Displacement is not new in human history. People have been migrating since time began. So, what is so different about this epoch?

LF When we look at the things that led to migration from Europe to the United States at the turn of the Twentieth Century and you look at the Irish community, you see the impact of the potato famine and the fact that people were actually forced off the land by the processes of industrial capital. Then I think that you can see a parallel between then and now, as people are being forced off land in Africa and China. So, we can see a similarity. But I think we need to distinguish between forced migration and voluntary migration.

In the post-war period, we had both migration from the former Commonwealth colonies to the U.K. and the movement of migrant workers around Europe. There were specific economic reasons that brought this up, but in a sense it wasn't forced, and in certain situations it was forced. Ugandan Asians came to Britain because they were expelled by Idi Amin. But there is a difference when we are talking about this 125 million displaced people, as they are migrants with no choice, and this is increasingly important in the ferocious debate we have in Europe around asylum seekers and refugees because the powers-that-be see this 125 million displaced people and they demonize them, not as asylum seekers but as economic migrants. They say, "Oh they're here because they are jealous of the western world. They want to drink at the fountains of capitalism," and they present it as if people have a choice. For us, there is no distinction between an economic refugee and a political refugee!

CD There have always been groups of people in the so-called West who've opposed the movements of the peoples of the global South to the North, yet there seems to have been a marked increase in anti-asylum-seeker rhetoric at all levels of the society. Why have things shifted so much?

LF I think things have shifted because European societies are increasingly very selfish and looking out for their own.

Human Rights Only with Citizenship

CD Some people would say they always have been looking out for their own. What is the difference today?

LF They always have, but in the past there has been this veneer of human rights and democracy, and there is still very much that veneer of human rights and democracy. We are told that we are living in the cradle of the civilization that invented the concept of human rights. You will find this particularly if you go to France, where you are constantly told, "Equality, liberty, fraternity."

But increasingly in Europe, human rights and civil liberties are being defined only in terms of the rights and liberties of European citizens. …

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Xeno-Racism and the Hypocrisy of Managed Migration: Adrian Harewood Interviews Liz Fekete of the Institute of Race Relations
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