Migrant boat disasters – fight system which puts profit over lives

People desperately fleeing war and poverty forced onto boats like these. Photo: USNF

The deadly consequences of people driven into traffickers’ boats, forced to leave their homes due to poverty or to escape war and environmental devastation, have been constantly in the news in the UK and across Europe over the last months. These journeys are often extremely dangerous and require migrants to pay large amounts to traffickers, who care little for their safety.

Up to five hundred people are missing, presumed dead, after the sinking of a fishing trawler off the coast of Greece in June. And more than 60 people are presumed dead off the coast of Cape Verde, attempting to flee to Spain. The capitalist system creates the conditions that cause people to flee their homes, and is indifferent to the loss of life and desperate situations they face.

UK government

Following the chaotic withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan in 2021, the government promised ‘Operation Warm Welcome’ for Afghans and their families who had worked with British forces. Hundreds remain stranded in Pakistan, separated from their families in Britain. The lack of resources and the wilfull inaction of the Tory government has resulted in boats being left adrift in dangerous conditions; a recent capsizing of a boat in the English Channel resulted in the drowning of six people.

The Tories have increased their use of populist rhetoric around the issue of migration to try to deflect attention from the economic crisis that their increasingly fractured government has overseen. This is a cynical attempt to tap into the anger that exists in society about the state of our public services, which have been cut to the bone by years of austerity.

It is correct that there are not enough high-quality homes and decent jobs for the people who already live here. But this does not mean that workers in Britain should be in competition with those fleeing here from abroad. Why couldn’t the tens of billions of pounds in profit made by the energy companies and other big monopolies be used to properly fund services and launch a mass programme of council house building and job creation?

Workers and migrants must be part of a united struggle to fight for the resources that we all need. This should include fighting for asylum seekers and refugees to organise in trade unions, for the right to work legally, with a minimum wage that all can live on.

The Labour Party has shown it will not take steps radically different to those of the Tories if it gets into power. Local Labour-run councils continue to implement Tory austerity, with no attempts to fight back and campaign for the resources we need. And they have also said that they would continue to house asylum seekers in unsafe conditions, including on the Bibby Stockholm barge.

It is clear that the working class needs a party of its own to fight for more resources – for jobs, homes and services for all, and to put forward a bold socialist programme that can take the wealth off the super-rich to pay for them. Only fighting to end the system of capitalism can ensure a decent standard of living, and put a stop to the endless wars and climate destruction that have led to such misery globally.

We reported in issue 1238 of the Socialist, ‘Tory plan to house asylum seekers on dangerous barge’ that “Migrants living in this confined space could also lead to widespread infection if disease breaks out, according to the government’s own internal documents.” The Tories since had to move those few housed on the barge within days after the deadly Legionella virus was discovered in the barge’s water system.

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August 2023