If you and your family are from Iraq, and, because of the crushing poverty and the tremendous danger to your life and limb which you face — due to the United States government’s own war and bombing and occupation in Iraq; or due to threats from the government-backed and freelance ethnic-cleansing death squads, which have flourished under that occupation; or due to the crossfire in the endless battles between the United States government’s occupying forces and Iraqi insurgents — if, because of all that, you are one of the 2.5 million Iraqis who have fled the country in order to try to find a new home (either temporarily or permanently) where you can live your life free of fear and starvation and unspeakable daily violence, and now you find yourself stuck — like 2.4 million of your fellow Iraqis — in some hellhole refugee camp or urban ghetto in neighboring countries like Syria or Jordan, where conditions are awful, where you are surrounded by suffering, where you cannot legally work for pay and have little or nothing to do other than take hand-outs and fill out paperwork for UNHCR, while you watch your life savings drain away in the effort to keep yourself alive for a few more months while you wait, and wait, and wait, and if you don’t happen to be one of the 500 people per year who are eligible forSpecial Immigration Visasin return for collaborating with the U.S. government’s occupying forces in Iraq, and you don’t happen to be one of the quota of only a few thousand Iraqi refugees that the U.S. government has agreed toaccepteach year — well, then, I’m sorry, but according the United States government that just isn’t a good enough reason to get out of your way and leave you alone to travel to the United States and live your life peacefully within the borders that the United States government claims the right to fortify. Your suffering, and the danger to your life or the lives of your loved ones, by any one of the countless armies and armed factions rampaging through Iraq, don’t matter enough to them for them to reconsider their immigration quota policy. So this government will keep you penned up in your hellhole ghetto, where you can die for all they care, or, if you somehow get to America, this government will march you out at bayonet-point, and ship you out of the country, back to the ghetto conditions or to the tormentors in Iraq who you risked everything to escape.
And the S.S. St. Louis sailed on from the United States to Sweden, and this is the safe harbor that they found:
But amid a refugee flood that has taxed even this Scandinavian nation’s traditional liberal compassion, Sweden has dramatically narrowed the standards for granting asylum to people from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia.
The change in policy stems from a new immigration law and an appeals court ruling this year that found, incredibly to many Swedes and refugee advocates, that legally there is no internal armed conflict in Iraq — allowing deportation of asylum seekers to their home country.
They say there is no armed conflict in any part of Iraq. There is no armed conflict in Somalia; there is no armed conflict anywhere in the Middle East. There is armed conflict in five or six of the most southern parts of Afghanistan,said Kalle Larsson, a Left Party member of Parliament who has sought to preserve asylum opportunities in Sweden.
I’m afraid that what is really happening is the system is sending political signals to the courts and to the migration board,he said.And these signals are saying,There are too many people coming to Sweden.
Too many people for what? For a bunch of comparatively comfortable Swedes to maintain a particular level of wages, to find an apartment in a particular neighborhood or at a particular monthly rent, to go on living in the style to which they have become accustomed? Well, I guess that’s understandable. I mean, it’s not like those Iraqi, Afghan, or Somali refugees lose much by being forced out of the country at bayonet-point. It’s not like anything important hangs in the balance.
For hundreds of refugees across Sweden, the deportation orders seem to amount to death sentences.
How can we go back? After what happened to us, Iraq to me was no longer a country,Naseir, who does not want his last name published, said as he slumped over at a coffee shop one recent afternoon to hide the tears streaming down his face.
The fact that this is done by comfortable men and women sitting in well-appointed offices, nicely dressed and with nameplates on their desks, does not matter. The fact that it is done with obfuscatory handwaving and bromides about the National Interest does not matter. What matters is that it is criminal—obscenely criminal—that even one man, or one family should be put through this in the name of some bullshit policy. It is criminal—obscenely criminal—that even one man, or one family, should be forced out of their new homes at bayonet-point, marched back to an almost certain death.
But of course, this isn’t personal; this is policy, which means that it won’t just be one man or one family being murdered by the fountain pen of Swedish immigration bureaucrats.
But the doorway is narrowing sharply. Not only have the new legal standards meant a drop in approvals, with only about 43 percent of applicants winning their cases so far this year, but those who lose are also booted out.
Since February, 290 Iraqis have been ordered expelled from Sweden and have returned voluntarily [sic!] to Iraq, according to the Swedish Migration Board. Ten others have been forcibly returned.
This is life, such as it is, under government immigration controls. It is life as it always will be, as long as politicians and bureaucrats have the power to pick and choose whose reasons for wanting to cross an arbitrary line on a map are good enough, and whose are not.
But it is criminal that there is even one single refugee in this world who cannot immediately find asylum and a chance to make a new life and a new home for herself in a new country.
It is inexcusable that, in the name of the ethno-political system of international apartheid, the governments of the world continue to collaborate in violence against women, in forced starvation, and in ethnic cleansing, by forcing peaceful women and men into refugee ghettoes or, worse, by forcing peaceful women and men back into the maws of the very governments or violent factions who intend to devour them.
It is obscene that a bunch of politicians and unaccountable bureaucrats from the United Nations or the U.S. government would be invested with the power to sit in judgment, from their comfortable offices, on the most marginalized, the most exploited, and the most oppressed people in the world, so that they put all their conventional prejudices and political blinders to work in picking and choosing whose suffering should count as real, in the eyes of the governments of the world, or whose suffering, if acknowledged as real by the government, is important enough to let them into a tiny quota that the government willallowto cross an arbitrary line on a map.
The S.S. St. Louis still sails the seas today, a ghost ship with ghost passengers, without rest and without safe harbor. It will haunt the world forever, as long as this system of international apartheid is enforced.
And all for what? To avoid the voluntary co-mingling of people from different countries? To ensure that the people of the world hear only one language, live and work with people of only one nationality, remain segregated, either by penning them up in their government-appointedplaceor else by making sure you can monitor all their movements according to a government-created system of passbooks and minders? The idea would be laughable if not for all the ghosts—the ghosts of millions upon millions of real, living, irreplaceable and unique individual people, who were turned back, ruined, persecuted, mutilated, tortured, starved, and murdered for the sake of that idea.
There is another way. A way in which the living can finally live, and the dead can finally rest, in peace. But that other can only become a reality when people are free to move from one place to another, and their reasons, their suffering, and their lives cannot be measured and found wanting by entitled strangers with the power to turn them back and force them back to the tormenters that they risked everything to escape. It can, that is to say, only become a reality with the immediate, unconditional, and complete abolition of all government border controls, and with universal amnesty for all currently undocumented immigrants.
There’s no room for compromise or moderation in the politics of immigration when real people’s bodies and real people’s lives are hanging in the balance. As they are all over the world today.