Europe, Immigration and the Post-Colonial South

We are all in agreement that large sections in Africa, Asia and the Muslim world are in total collapse with many failed or about to fail states in these regions. Take your pick of a country to include in this category: Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Myanmar, Nigeria, Libya, Mali, Somalia, Liberia, the Congo, and the Central African Republic to name the obvious countries but more can be added.

From Europe’s perspective the crisis of failed or failing states is strictly an internal problem to each state and the immigration crisis is disconnected from the long pre- and post-colonial histories altogether. What are the real factors leading to this fragmentation and failed states? Just as important are ideas of how best to remedy the root causes for a rapidly deteriorating situation across the globe.

Let’s accept as a fact that we are all vested equally in making the world a better place and not only the few running the world economy. Critically likewise is a much needed unequivocal declaration that every life matters equally regardless of skin color, origin, religion or geographic location. A life in the northern hemisphere is not more valuable than in southern parts and for sure the darker skin hemisphere.

Immigration is not a root cause but an outcome and a byproduct of a set of failed economic, social, political, military and educational policesset in place over a long period of time. If addressing the immigration problem is what Europe’s leadership is interested in pursuing with the hope of maintaining the continent’s purity of race‘ and culture’ then let’s dig deeper into the causes that brought us to this point.

Why do people immigrate in the first place? Is it because deep down they despise their own countries or are simply seeking to explore and ‘discover’ the world like Marco Polo and Columbus did in the past! Or maybe as the Islamophobes infisit without evidence that they have a hidden agenda to convert and Islamize Europe because deeply they loathe ‘our’ freedom.

People in the past and the present immigrate in pursuit of economic opportunities, livelihood, and in search of security for self and family. The search for economic opportunities away from home is the primary engine for immigration and movement from one part of the world to another. Immigrants to Europe are seeking economic opportunities away from home due to the collapse and total fragmentation of Southern post-colonial economies and the crumpling political and social orders that led to insecurity. Why this happened is a very important and not often asked or answered question.

The post-colonial economic structure is the colonial economy but with new local/indigenous looking district managers operating the colonial franchise. Certainly, the countries in the southern hemisphere gained their independence, all are United Nations voting members in the General Assembly and are active in global institutions but let’s not make the officialdom trappings dissuade us from sound political and economic power analysis.

While the colonial forces and troops indeed were forced out in the past 40-50 years period; nevertheless the economic, political, social, military and educational infrastructure remained colonial at the roots. The colonial companies that controlled the raw materials never left, banking institutions and finance remained intact, educational epistemology never strayed away from Eurocentric framing, social relations governed by a racial hierarchy, and a military set-up to control and crush the population while keeping them away from contesting the vested colonial system. Adding to this dimension a 40-50 year Cold War that organized states as sub-contractors to Western-Western (Capitalism and Communism) epistemic conflicts that likewise re-enforced the colonial structure but under modified constraints.

The post-colonial economy in the newly independent states was kept as a satellite or a revolving moon maintained in a dependency and controlled radius to the ex-colonial motherland. How this was made possible in the post-colonial and independent period? To begin with the elites in the Southern hemisphere were educated, trained and nurtured in the colonial bosom and suckled into an epistemic post-colonial maturity and then set-out to manage the existing franchise with all the trappings of flags, stamps, currency etc. The training was intended to reproduce the normative colonial patterns and to structurally never to break away from it as well as a heavy dosage of inferiority complex attached to it.

As I argued in earlier articles, the colonial project was vested in the mind as much as direct geographical and territorial controls. The economic order never ceased being colonial and the agreements to remove colonial troops was always connected if not preconditioned on maintaining the financial and economic interests intact and privileging companies, corporations and banks originating in the ex-colonial motherland. A cursory examination of the movement of raw materials from the global south to the north and connecting it to the embedded colonial economic interests can give a window into this dynamic.

The independent post-colonial state structure managed by colonially educated elites, and trained to maintain unfettered access to markets, flow of raw materials and resources to the North while utilizing colonially trained and equipped military forces to keep the system un-interrupted. The economy is connected financially at the hip to the ex-colonial motherland as well as to the global financial policing institutions like the World Bank, IMF and designed trade distortions set in place through successive GATT and WTO negotiations. What emerged in this process is higher levels of domination, dependency and control since the visible signs of the colonial structure was obfuscated through the presence of the local elites who managed and maintained the system for a handsome fee with the ex-colonial motherland outside the discussion and called upon often as neutral experts or mediators to fix ‘native’ problems, which they put in place to begin with or exaggerated existing tribal and sectarian tensions to maintain their ‘hidden hand’ in the colony.

As consequence, the local southern economies never stopped being colonial and were set-up as a service, raw material and cheap labor feeder to the ex-colonial motherland. Thus, collectively the southern human and material resources helped keep the northern hemisphere financial wellbeing intact in the post-colonial period with all setup at the expense of people in the global south.

In addition, the door that was opened to train the colonized elites resulted in the constant and deliberate brain drain from the global south, which produces the multi-layered dependencies as well as put a constrain on future development horizons by sequestering future indigenous intellects in the global north. Of course the benefits are greater, the opportunities for the intellectuals and highly skilled labor are immeasurable once compared with the south, which precisely what produces generational dependency and the present cycle of never ending colonial structure.

Europe’s right wing declaring, go back home and stoptrying to change ‘our’ culture, values and society with your ‘backward culture’ that are turning our cities into a third world zones and bankrupting ‘our’ economies! The daily racist message directed at the ex-colonial subjects working to serve in restaurant kitchens, taxi drivers, and garbage collectors in the northern colonial motherlands is constant and negating their belonging and contributions.

Yet a question must be asked, how did the darker colonial subjects made it to the north in the first place! Furthermore, to be asked to leave after cleaning the streets and bathrooms, nursing the children and working in the jobs that no one wants to do or are structurally designed for the underclass and the sub-human, white, black and the in between colors and adding torment to generational and trans-historical indignities.

As the commemoration of the 100th year anniversary of WWI is upon us, it would be instructive to recall all the colonial subjects that served as foot soldiers and fought to liberate and defend France and England while they themselves, their families and countries were living in bondage. The North Africans, Sub-Sahara Africans, Sikh, Lebanese, and Indian troops numbered in the thousands fighting and dying for a Europe that considered and treated them less than a human. Taken to the filed as a fighting force then brought back into the human zoos to entertain and authenticate scientific racism in the heart of Europe.

Certainly, the immigration door further was widely opened in post WWII period as a large labor force was brought from the colonies or states dominated by colonial epistemology into Europe to fight first and then to work on rebuilding the destroyed countries. The colonial subjects from Africa, Asia and parts of the Muslims world got recruited as foot soldiers from the colonies to fight and help liberate the colonial motherland from Nazi Germany and then more were needed for the rebuilding process.

We do have a link between immigration and instability in the south. The global south economies and political structures was colonially designed to be in constant chaos and state of ‘relative’ instability, which would result in selling the raw materials for cheap in exchange for guns and global north financial and political protection. In addition, the lack of stability forces intellect and brain migration to the north thus maintaining qualitative edge in human capacity while depriving the south from it.

The problem is structural and no longer can be dealt with by building walls or increasing border patrols. As long as the global south economies and resources are ravaged to benefit the 1% then no hope of ending the immigration crisis. Further, the post-colonial economy is not sustainable and collapsing states in the south will only accelerate the migration rate and with it the transplantation of existing crisis from colonies and conflicts into the global north.

How to remedy this begins with a complete recognition of the problem as shared one and no longer possible to isolate ‘troubles’ from the south as being a global south issues alone. A political and economic collapse in the south means massive migration to the north and as such the problem is connected and must be approached in an integrated manner. Even today, we have a net outflow of capital from the south to the north, which must be reversed and real investment in people and sustainable economies need to take the lead, rather than protecting corporations’ bottom line and securing intellectual property rights. Destroyed economies, fragmented political structures and conflicts maybe reduced or prevented by a sustained de-colonial program rooted in addressing people needs first and foremost.

The days of taking raw materials, capturing markets, greasing the hands of handpicked dictators and elites, as well astoxic dumping and cheap labor in the South must come to an end. The alternatives are at hands but require real leadership not xenophobic and racist electioneering specialists, collective vision and sustained investment. Today is the time to make this shift and a global move toward addressing the real and structural challenges are at hand.