Open the borders!

The Australian government’s racist treatment of its asylum seekers, locking them up in detention centres in the desert like Woomera for years or bribing Pacific politicians to take them to remote Pacific atolls, has raised a storm of protest by the inmates escalating recently into hunger strikes and suicide attempts. We argue for ‘open borders’ to refugees.

Australia and most of the Western states are trying to limit the rising flow of refugees fleeing from countries devastated by wars, famines or genocide caused by imperialist exploitation and oppression. This is nothing new since the Western powers and their white-settler colonies have always had racist immigration policies that restrict access and discriminate against non-European migrants as ‘second class’ citizens. Now the US war on terrorism has added to the plight of these refugees by deliberately provoking fears that they may be terrorists.

Most of the detainees as Woomera in Australia are Afghan and Iraqi, victims of decades of wars and political repression unleashed by imperialist policies. Yet when the Yankee war on terrorism was unleashed on Afghanistan on October 7, Australia suspended the processing of Afghan refugees on the grounds that some might be members of the Taliban or al Queda! The bosses in Australia don’t normally need an excuse to be racist, but this was a great ‘opportunity’ (Bushes words) to delay processing and even talk of returning these migrants home.

What is the solution?

The Australian state is a miserable US toady and will not bow to public pressure to release or grant increased numbers of refugees legitimate migrant status. Both Liberal and Labor parties have already shown in the case of the Tampa scandal that they are prepared to compete for votes by playing on the fears of Australian workers about migrants taking their jobs. It is pointless appealing to the morality or ‘mateship’ of Howard or Crean, or to international agencies to intervene.

It is necessary for Australian workers to demand that their unions act to strike against Australia’s racist immigration policy to free the asylum seekers and to allow them to stay as new migrants. We have to reject the plan to return the migrants to their ‘home’ countries. These have been desolated by wars and sanctions and cannot possibly relocate the millions of migrants who have fled abroad. Instead we have to prove to Australian, NZ and other Western workers that it is in their interests to fight for open borders.

Australian workers must see that it is in their interests to demand the right to go where they like without borders and immigration laws. They already do it inside Australia, and many do it to other countries. Europeans were boat people at some point in history. Only the Aborigines could walk from South East Asia. So we all originated as economic migrants traveling around looking for work or sustenance.

Boat people yesterday and today.

The situation with today’s boat people is different yet the same. It is different because today people are refugees from imperialism’s destruction of their countries economy caused by sucking out the wealth that people need to live on, or by unleashing wars or sanctions to remove ‘rogue’ regimes and put West-friendly governments in power. The same, because it is economic and/or political survival that motivates people to migrate, not the desire for a holiday in the Australian outback or Pacific Atoll, six weeks in a leaky boat or the back of a freezer truck.

This freedom of movement is taken for granted by the capitalists who can buy their passage wherever they choose. Immigration laws in Australia, NZ and the ‘West’ favour those with ‘assets’ or skills to contribute to the development of economic growth. Workers or poor peasants, on the other hand, especially those from Asia, Africa or Latin America, are not free to travel unless they have a necessary skill in demand. The result is that they have to go through a series of racist barriers where their right to freedom of movement is determined by whether or not the bosses can make a profit from their labour.

This is why immigration quotas are used like a tap, turned on when there is a demand for labour, and turned off when that demand dries up. Instead of the bosses being seen as the problem because they want to regulate the international flow of labour, it is workers who are branded overstayers when their labour becomes superfluous. We say, put an end to the bosses’ borders! Demand the right of freedom of movement for labour!

Workers’ Government

Of course we cannot demand open borders under workers’ control unless we have ways and means of making this possible.
To provide jobs and welfare for migrants we have to tax the rich to pay for these. When they object we have to occupy their factories and run them under workers control. When they attempt to jail us we have to be able to defend ourselves. The only way we can do this is to fight for a Workers’ Government that is based on workers power and is able to plan the economy to meet the needs of all workers rather than serve the narrow class interests of bosses’ profits.

Strike for the right of freedom of movement!
Strike to free the asylum seekers!
Open Borders under workers control!

From Class Struggle 43 February/March 2002

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