ISL Pan-African Congress: The human drama of immigration to Europe

The Congress Manifesto states: “…many Africans, pushed by the result of these policies, seek a way out by migrating, they receive us with discrimination, repression and violence. Thousands of lives are lost simply attempting to seek a better future for our children.” This is the cruel reality, shaped over centuries in the shadow of European imperialism, that this article addresses. To counteract it, common intercontinental action and a socialist strategy are necessary. Below, we express some supportive opinions written by comrades of the International Socialist League (ISL) from Europe.

By Marie Dupont and Rubén Tzanoff

Throughout the planet, the history of European imperialism is marked by plunder, massacres and slavery. Africa is one of the continents that has been most decimated. Although the national liberation movements achieved independence, it acquired a formal character since political and economic domination did not disappear. At the same time, the essence of racist treatment towards non-white, poor and foreign people has endured.

“Fortress Europe”

With the rise of capitalism in the 19th century, the powerful of the Old Continent became richer at the expense of the impoverishment of other continents such as Africa. In the 21st century, the heirs of the old imperialist legacy in the European Union (EU) are the designers of “Fortress Europe” as an enclave with racist features. They do so knowing that they need cheap labor to increase employers’ profits and fill jobs that few want and that their contributions prevent the collapse of the pension system, hampered by the aging of the population. The criterion that limits the reception quota is based on the interests of the richest capitalist states on the planet, not on the needs of the poorest people who need the most help. Outside of this official circuit, which is inherently unfair, there is a network of measures aimed at preventing “undocumented” people from entering the EU.

Calling things by their name: it is a crisis

The EU uses the term “crisis” only when migratory movements greatly exceed previous records, as happened in 2015. At any cost, they want to minimize the impact of the humanitarian disaster that occurs every day in the “First World.” The truth is that a chronic and deep crisis is underway, since the increase in the flow of people trying to reach European soil is undeniable. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there are 281 million migrants internationally and Europe is the third territory with the highest proportion of the total population.[1]

UNHCR (UN refugee agency) statistics indicate that since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine there have been more than 20 million border crossings. According to the European Parliament portal, “In 2015 and 2016, at the height of the migration crisis, more than 2.3 million irregular border crossings were detected. The total number of crossings detected in 2022 was 330,000, the highest since 2016. This number increased on all irregular migration routes. The Central Mediterranean crossing remains the deadliest of the four migratory routes to Europe, with nearly 1,400 people dead or missing in 2022.” In June of this year, the General Directorate of Foreigners in France (DGET) published the figures for 2022[2], which highlight that the largest number of residence applications come from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Ivory Coast , that there are 3.8 million immigrants (for Eurostat[3] there are 9.1 million) and that 19,429 were expelled, 14.9% more than in 2021.

Objective factors

The main factors that push people to try to restart their lives in unknown lands are wars, extreme poverty and ethnic, religious, racial, political and cultural persecution. In 2022, Europe received almost 1 million asylum requests, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Venezuela[4], but only granted protection to a third of applicants. The capitalists and their accomplices act in a double sense: they generate the economic, social and humanitarian crises that cause immigration and at the same time they apply repressive measures aimed at rejecting it from their countries of residence.

Border repression

Taking only two examples, last year, 2000 people from Sudan, South Sudan and Chad tried to cross the Melilla fence that separates the Kingdom of Morocco from the Kingdom of Spain. The joint repression caused the death of 100 people, according to Amnesty International. The regime of Mohamed VI “only” counted 23 dead people, for which the government of Pedro Sánchez was not considered responsible. In mid-September 2023, the Sicilian island of Lampedusa (Italy) received 7000 people from North Africa in two days. According to the Ministry of the Interior, so far this year there are already 124,000. In response, the far-right government of Giorgia Meloni requested naval assistance from the EU to deter vessels, which adds to the measures that already hinder and penalize maritime assistance from NGOs.

Death at sea and deportations

There are young people who hide in the helms of merchant ships, families who sell the little they have and spend their humble savings to board boats and risk their lives in the Mediterranean or the Atlantic. The shipwrecks of precarious and overcrowded boats that do not receive rescue cause dozens of deaths by drowning, including many children. According to official data from 2022 compared with those from 2021, all parameters increased: “illegal” crossings by 66%, those carried out by sea by 29% and by land by 110%. In 2022, the death or disappearance of 2406 people was reported in the three main maritime routes of the Mediterranean. At the international level, since 2014, there have been 58,965 disappearances, of which 29,188 correspond to Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. So far this year until September 2023, the data is chilling:[5] 2,357 people dead or missing in the Mediterranean, 209 on routes to Spain, 1533 in the central Mediterranean and 95 in the eastern Mediterranean.

There are those who manage to reach the EU with the hope of obtaining asylum, but are expelled in an express procedure. In 2021 there were 340,500 deportations, in 2022 the figure rose to 420,100. According to Eurostat, the most numerous extraditions are carried out by Germany, France and Sweden to Algeria, Morocco, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Albania. In this sense, the French Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin expressed that he will not grant asylum to anyone who does not meet the “criteria for political asylum” since he considers that French-speaking African countries “are safe” to send their citizens back.

Governments, special agencies and external gendarmes

The far-right governments of Italy, Hungary and Poland are brutally anti-immigrant and social democratic and reformist efforts are presented as more “humanitarian.” However, both have the same objective: stopping immigration. The EU manages border affairs through the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), which in a few years went from advising States to coordinating and directing surveillance work and return operations, with budgets in the millions. In addition, it outsources the management of migration to countries where the violation of human rights is an everyday occurrence. In exchange for large sums of money, the EU has transformed the “cooperation agreements” with Morocco, Turkey, Libya and Tunisia, among others, into a pillar of repressive border control.

Legislation tailored to the right

In France, the Minister of the Interior, Gérard Darmanin, expressed his intentions through a bill already approved in the Senate and which will be debated in the National Assembly on December 11. The approved project eliminates State medical aid (AME) for people without papers. Those who work in scarce professions can obtain a one-year residence permit on an “exceptional” basis and the application can be submitted by the worker, without the agreement or endorsement of the employer. In relation to those who are in a “legal situation”, they must prove five years of residence, compared to the current six months, to be able to benefit from certain benefits, such as personalized housing assistance (APL) or family allowances.

In addition, the expulsion rules were simplified, a modification presented by the government added that the authors of a “deliberate and particularly serious violation of the principles of the Republic” may also be expelled, without explaining what it refers to: does participating in a strike violate the principles of the Republic?

At the same time, the right to asylum was reformed, reducing the number of procedures that allow an expulsion to be challenged, the delivery of residence permits and family reunification were conditioned, increasing from 18 to 24 months the time of stay in the territory necessary to carry out this application. Darmanin and Minister of Labor Dussopt acknowledged that they intend to approve this law demanded by employers.[6]

In the EU countries, the right and the extreme right are pushing for tougher legislation, using hate speech against aid centers and blaming foreign workers for unemployment instead of pointing out the real culprits, who are the capitalist bosses. In the Spanish State, Vox embodies a miserable example of this action. Immigrants are a favorite target of fascist sectors both in institutions and on the streets.

Setbacks and retaliation

France responds to its setback in Africa by taking measures against the people who come from there. Although many colonies became independent, domination continued with different tools, such as the use of the CFA Franc.[7] However, in the last three years there have been seven coups d’état, five of them in former French colonies: Mali (2020 and 2021), Guinea Bissau (2021), Burkina Faso (2022), Niger and Gabon (2023) which indicate a strong deterioration of the institutional relationship, expressed and deepened with the emergence of the mass movement. For example, Niger is rich in minerals such as valuable uranium, but has 47% of the population living in absolute poverty: only 11% have access to health services and 7% suffer from slavery. It is the result of the “development aid” prepared in Paris. This is where the renewed “anti-French sentiment” comes from, and not just from Russia’s propaganda powerhouse, which is increasingly influential on the continent. President Emmanuel Macron toughened the treatment of foreigners in the country by suspending visas already admitted and paid for by young students from Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

Rejecting the Migration Pact and the lies

The EU Ministers of Justice and the Interior drew up the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, which involves: the organization of immigration based on the needs of the labor market, action against “illegal” immigration, the organization of expulsions, the increase of border control and agreements for repression with the countries of origin and transit. The authorities argue that “the member countries do not have the means to welcome all immigrants with dignity.” They are incredibly cynical. First, because they have the greatest continental wealth on the planet. Second, because they hide the fact that, throughout history, enormous flows of European immigrants, driven by wars, hunger and misery, took refuge in other very poor continents and were received with open arms and the solidarity that today they refuse to exercise.

Support and join the struggles

In France, Spain, Italy, Germany and in all countries, voices are raised, convinced that “No person is illegal.” And endless anti-racist activities are carried out, for the opening of borders, freedom of movement and installation and regularization with full democratic and social rights. We revolutionary socialists support these actions, we promote the coordination of struggles and the creation of a unitary channel to actively express solidarity: a great movement in defense of migrants. Furthermore, we highlight the need to emphasize the defense of working women, victims of triple suffering due to being exploited in their jobs, oppressed in their homes and racialized in institutions.

Intercontinental struggle and socialism

Exploitation, oppression and racism are intrinsic to the imperialist capitalist system, under whose rule traits of the most retrograde past persist. To defeat it, we need a sustained and organized mobilization surpassing national limits. For this reason, the International Socialist League (ISL) and its sections are at the service of promoting a coordinated intercontinental struggle to unite, in a single fist, the progressive actions carried out in Europe, Africa and other continents in demand of free circulation with full rights. Faced with the destiny of barbarism towards which the imperialist capitalist system is leading us, it is necessary to organize and struggle independently, for a world without borders, without exploitation or oppression, in which social and human rights are respected; that is, for a world with a socialist system.

[1] World Migration Report 2022


[3] The statistical office of the European Union.




[7] The CFA franc (African Financial Community Franc) is the name of two currencies: the West African CFA franc, used in eight West African countries, and the Central African CFA franc, used in six African countries.