The brutal reality of Fortress Europe

The EU is outsourcing its external border control to murderous human traffickers.

Tim Black

Tim Black

Topics Politics World

On 11 May 2017, Abd al-Rahman Milad, known as ‘Bija’, took part in a meeting organised by the UN’s International Organisation for Migration, held at Cara di Mineo, in Catania, one of the biggest migrant reception centres in Europe. Bija, there as part of a delegation from the Libyan coastguard, was meeting with Italian officials to discuss how to manage migration flows between the two nations.

But Bija was not just coastguard chief from the city of Zawiyah. He was also a ‘bloodthirsty’ thug, as a UN security report put it, working with a local militia leader, gang boss and human trafficker called Mohammad Koshlaf, who, as it happens, also runs a migrant-detention centre in Libya. Bija himself is thought to be responsible for shooting and drowning dozens of people desperately trying to reach Europe.

Yet the news that an EU member state has been working with militias and human traffickers to keep migrants out of the EU should not be a surprise. It is merely further confirmation of the reality of the EU — that it is a protectionist economic bloc determined to keep out non-European people, especially those from Africa.

In 2004, for instance, the European Union cut a deal with Libyan dictator Colonel Gaddafi, and lifted all economic sanctions in return for Libya staunching migration flows. In 2008, Italy promised to invest a further $5 billion over 20 years, partially as historical reparations, as long as Gaddafi kept Libya’s 1,100-mile Mediterranean border with Europe well policed.

Few in the EU, let alone its one-eyed champions in the UK, raised their eyebrows at any of this. A case of out of sight, out of mind. Which is partly the point of the EU’s policy of externalisation. In subcontracting dirty work to dirty regimes, it passes the buck to others beyond Europe’s sightlines.

And it worked. The EU could continue to promote itself as a bastion of openness and tolerance, playing up to its advocates’ righteous self-image, while its reality as a principle-less, protectionist capitalist bloc, committed to keeping the ‘wrong’ people out, was preserved externally by dictators and despots. Gaddafi knew his worth when, in 2010, he demanded five billion Euros a year in return for erecting a barrier between the EU and Africa. ‘Europe runs the risk of turning black from illegal immigration’, Gaddafi said. ‘It could turn into Africa.’ An EU spokesperson responded enthusiastically: ‘There is great scope to develop cooperation with Libya on migration.’

The end to the EU’s cosy little arrangement with Gaddafi arrived in 2011. The Arab Spring, followed by the West’s grandstanding interventions in Libya and Syria, unravelled the aged strong-armed order of the Middle East and north Africa. Millions of people were displaced, and states fractured and, in the case of Libya, collapsed. It left many more people in conflict-ridden countries looking for a way to Europe at a time when the gateway through Libya, and across the Mediterranean, had rarely been more open.

We now know of course that at the peak of what followed – the so-called migrant crisis in 2015 – over one million migrants entered the EU by sea, and nearly 4,000 died trying. And we remember the virtuous poses struck by EU politicians, as they urged poorer member states to open their arms and borders. But what tends to be forgotten is that the EU’s policy never really changed. It was still determined to outsource border control to authorities beyond its borders.

The $3.3 billion bilateral deal the EU struck with Turkey in 2016, which means Turkey holds migrants in huge camps away from the EU, is merely the most notable. The EU was also busy funnelling money and support, with the aid of the UNHCR and the IOM, to the militias, crime gangs and political factions that had filled the hole where the Libyan state used to be. Of course, the $377million the EU has spent since 2014 is theoretically said to be going to help the Libyan coastguard and improve facilities for migrants. But in practice, the cash ultimately goes to those performing the role of the state in Libya right now: the human traffickers, like Bija, regulating the coastal border, and the militias manning the large, brutalising prisons-cum-detention centres. As one aid worker reports, ‘[The UN and UNHCR] work together with the EU to ensure that the migration problem is not coming to Europe. This is the aim of the EU and some of the European states.’

Bija’s involvement in discussions about migration to the EU is therefore perfectly in line with the EU’s long-standing approach to its southern borders. Just as it used a military dictator like Gaddafi to stymie migration flows in the 2000s, so it now uses the militias and gangs that have replaced Gaddafi to stymie migration flows today. It knows what it is doing. It knows what happens to those people stuck in migrant-detention centres. The outgoing EU high representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, said as much earlier this year, when, citing ‘ghastly conditions’ in detention centres, she declared that ‘Libya’s current system of detaining migrants has to end’. But it won’t end for as long as the EU is the EU – a capitalist, protectionist bloc, promoting the movement of cheap labour within, while impeding the movement of desperate people from without.

European Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen recently retitled the EU commissioner tasked with migration as the ‘vice president for protecting our European way of life’. The reality of ‘protecting our European way of life’ can be found patrolling the Libyan coastline and running detention centres in northern Libya. Bija’s involvement was not an aberration. It is the EU norm.

Tim Black is a spiked columnist.

Picture by: Getty Images.

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Michael Lynch

10th October 2019 at 11:19 pm

The American pullout of troops is a cute political move by Trump. He is essentially telling Europe to sort their own backyard sh#t out. Now Turkey has threatened Europe that it’ll flood them with the 3.6 million refugees being held back if they interfere with their invasion. Now you’ll hear Brussel’s hypocritical bullsh#t loud and clear as they try to condemn Trump whilst sitting on their hands. Not as thick as they’d like you to believe, is he?

m Gould

10th October 2019 at 8:19 pm

Sad to say that anything that will prevent my country being over run by third world migrants is fine by me.
The devastation of many cities in the Uk has had far reaching consequences on the working classes.
Unable to escape the cultural changes they have been unable to move whilst wealthier people are committing what is accurately called White Flight.
All illegal immigrants should be deported. If you leave a safe country to come to the UK you have broken the law.
I also believe that any migrant whom brakes the law within the first 10 years of acquiring citizenship that would require a custodial sentence should be deported.

Winston Stanley

11th October 2019 at 4:38 am

OK, you do not like immigrants, we get it.

Marvin Jones

13th October 2019 at 2:42 pm

What he is saying is, millions of unfortunate people born in the wrong country should not be able to up sticks and walk into another country and impose their primitive cultures and habits to the extent of the numbers reaching dangerous levels where the inhabitants fear the risks these levels inevitably bring.

Linda Payne

10th October 2019 at 7:29 pm

Fed up with my comments dissappearing, why is this? who’s the moderator

Linda Payne

10th October 2019 at 5:03 pm

And what happened to all the nurses we had? they havent all early retired or gone abroad; many were sacked for dubious reasons or managed out of the job which is the same thing, I’ve senn that happen and it happened to me and it has been going on for over a decade, so I don’t buy this we need more nurses crap it’s just an excuse to import more people, are spiked for opens borders or not time for some honesty

Dominic Straiton

10th October 2019 at 2:24 pm

The end result of “Open borders” is happening in Syria. Every day.

Jane 70

10th October 2019 at 3:10 pm

And Erdogan is threatening to flood Europe, following denunciations of his latest moves against the Kurds.

Jane 70

10th October 2019 at 2:04 pm

@WINSTON; your reply to mine.
Interesting points Winston, but my suspicion is that capitalism, being an endlessly flexible and adaptable beast, will see the opportunities available in the move towards a smaller, cleaner, more equitable world.

The IMF has recently produced a fascinating article on the monetary and, of course, environmental, benefits of sponsoring concerted efforts to protect the well being of cetaceans.

I would imagine that the more far sighted capitalist supremos will start to take the likes of ER more seriously, and to ensure that they take eventual control by moving ahead of the game.

Private money is already investing in nuclear fusion research, has taken the lead in the renewables market, and has even, as indicated in the IMF article, seen the opportunities in cetacean conservation.The article was written by economists, not eco warriors.

If capitalism can support the much needed move towards population reduction , a fairer distribution of resources, less damaging energy production and a much needed promotion of well being , and a proper appreciation of the rights of the world’s flora and fauna,rather than GDP, then so be it.

Investment will be needed to bring about the transition, so that we do not end up in the hair shirt society promulgated by ER.

Winston Stanley

11th October 2019 at 5:27 am

Jane, capitalism is not an “endlessly flexible and adaptable beast”, it functions according to its own basic economic laws. The question of whether capitalism as a whole always needs to expand, and to make a profit, in order to function and to survive, is a question that must be addressed in terms of the economic mechanisms that underlie the functioning of capitalism.

I do not claim to be an economist but the proposition that capitalism is a profit-based system and therefore it is growth-based seems pretty intuitive. Accordingly it is not possible for capitalism to function as a steady-state economy, let alone as an economy of reduction and constant contraction. People invest to make a profit, to have more at the end of the process than at the start, otherwise it is not capitalism. Perhaps Phil Mullan here on sp iked could pen a fuller treatment.

Try this, written by one of your own environmentalists.

Why do capitalist economies need to grow?

… There is one primary reason, above and before everything else, why capitalist economies have to grow. It’s the entirely obvious one. As James Fulcher puts it in his Capitalism: A very short guide, “the investment of money in order to make a profit [is] the essential feature of capitalism”…

Here we find the overwhelming driving force behind growth: that’s the entire point of it. Business is in business to make money. There are plenty of charities, and small businesses which are happy simply to tick along in a steady state and pay themselves a steady wage. But on a large scale and across the economy as a whole, the point of economic production is to make more money than you started out with; and not just to do that once and get out, but to do so on a continuing basis. Given businesses as a whole want to do this, then the economy as a whole has to keep growing.

By necessity, this means the environmental impacts caused by capitalism will keep mounting. In the long run a growth in money wealth has to be backed up by a growth in the volume and overall value of goods and services to be exchanged for it, in order for it to represent a real increase in wealth. And as countless sustainability theorists have shown, no matter how efficient and virtual you can make a commodity, it always has a material basis—you can’t angelicise GDP, as Herman Daly has put it.12 So, by definition, capitalist economies have to grow, both in financial terms and in terms of impacts on the planet.

If this is the overarching reason—the final cause, if you like—why the economy must grow in our current system, there are other essential dynamics of the system in operation—the efficient causes—which compel it likewise…

Winston Stanley

11th October 2019 at 6:01 am

And to come back to the topic of the article, that is the same underlying economic reason why capitalism needs an increased workforce and markets in order to function, and why mass immigration has occurred in the post-imperial period, especially in these times of zero productivity growth. The inward migration of foreign workers has been driven purely by market forces. Capitalism is essentially a profit-based economic system and thus it must continuously expand in order to function and to survive.

The capitalist state qua itself is organised capital and the state exists primarily to expand capital, to make profit and to keep the economy functioning. It exists basically to make money. That is why there has been mass immigration over the last 70 years, whether the demos approved of it or not. Capitalism and its interests come first, the pretext of democracy comes second. British democracy is a bourgeois democracy, it has the same class basis as the capitalist state. It could never be an open ended, genuine democracy that allows the demos any decision on matters that touch the basic functioning of capitalism, like growth and immigration.

That is one reason why it is ridiculous that the far right try to characterise mass immigration as a “Marxist” conspiracy that originated in the realm of pure ideas. It holds the world on its head. Immigration is market driven, it has a material basis in the functioning of the real world in its capitalist configuration. Social ideas reflect the material base. The capitalist state is “anti-racist” in the post-imperial period for exactly the same reason that it was previously racist, sheerly for its own material, monetary interests. It is all about money, and ideology and “morality” are secondary, transient and fluid. That “Marxists” have largely embraced the latest capitalist ideology is completely irrelevant to its origin and to its function to reinforce the material base in its current stage of development.

Amelia Cantor

10th October 2019 at 11:20 am

Yes to everything in this article. With two members of the Jewish community murdered in Germany just this week, it is more vital than ever than we smash white racism, overturn Fortress Europe and turn this benighted so-called continent into a rainbow playground of all colours, creeds and kinds of people.


Major Bonker

10th October 2019 at 4:43 pm


Jane 70

10th October 2019 at 4:58 pm


Major Bonker

10th October 2019 at 5:01 pm


Major Bonker

10th October 2019 at 5:22 pm


Major Bonker

10th October 2019 at 5:37 pm


cliff resnick

10th October 2019 at 7:53 pm

Major Bonker and AMELIA CANTOR are a match made in purgatory!

Major Bonker

10th October 2019 at 9:07 pm


Major Bonker

11th October 2019 at 7:14 am

Thank you for your kind word, Cliff Resnick. Right on!

PS – I usually post as ‘Major Bonkers’, but had trouble logging on.

Noel Mac

24th December 2019 at 7:57 pm

You need to stop writing

Andrew Best

10th October 2019 at 7:21 am

Well, when we leave the EU we will no longer be part of this

Geoff Cox

10th October 2019 at 7:14 am

I’m passionate about leaving the EU, but by far the biggest threat to our way of life in England has been the mass immigration of the last 25 years. It was never needed despite the proaganda about an aging population, but for some reason, our New Labour politicians followed by Conservatives (actually saying one thing and doing another) knew better.

Thus after 1000 years (some may say 1500 years) of a slowly evolving social and cultural order, everything has been changed in a single generation. This is cultural and social genicide.

Never vote for the Lib/Lab/Con.

Winston Stanley

10th October 2019 at 8:01 am

“It was never needed despite the proaganda about an aging population”

How do you work that out? How is the British capitalist state supposed to maintain and to expand its labour force and domestic market, through generations, when UK-born mothers have a fertility rate of 1.63 kid per woman? 1.63 is a replenishment rate of 77.61%, so the number of births to UK born mothers would fall to 60.2% over two generations, and to 36.2% over four generations, of the original number of births. Capitalism is based on constant expansion, profit, in order to survive and to function, not on constant contraction.

“Thus after 1000 years (some may say 1500 years) of a slowly evolving social and cultural order”

That is completely untrue, the most significant shift in the socio-economic order was the revolutionary transformation from feudalism to capitalism. That transformed Britain economically, politically, ideologically and culturally. The transition to capitalism was not “gradual”, it was abrupt and brutal, and that is how it continued to develop, particularly with the First and Second Industrial Revolutions.

“our New Labour politicians followed by Conservatives”

Why not just admit that you live under a capitalist state and that mass immigration has always been driven by market forces? It is not a conspiracy, it is how capitalism has developed as it has shifted, from imperialism and colonialism, to the need to expand its workforce and markets in other ways, including the mass immigration of foreign workers and the formation of protectionist trading blocs.

Tories have let in more immigrants than labour. They openly say that they do so purely for the economy. Why not believe them? The Tories have always been pro-immigration since they lost the empire.

Net immigration to the UK between 2010, when Cameron was elected, and 2018 was 2,326,000. Actual immigration during that period, not substracting emigration from the UK, was 5,311,000. With a yearly average of around 590,111, the figure for the ten year period ending 2019 is likely to be around 5,901,111.

You live under a capitalist state, to which you are just an interchangeable wage labourer, the same as everyone else. Britain is not an “ethno-nationalist” state and it never has been. It is a national capitalist state and it has been since the rising bourgeoisie took over the country during the Civil War. At some point you need to stop playing make-believe and to take stock of what country you are actually living in.

Geoff Cox

10th October 2019 at 8:32 am

Winston – you may well say Britain is a capitalist state, but that is just a description. “A capitalist state” is not a thing that can act and make decisions. Therefore Britain does not have to remain a capitalist state ever hungry for expansion and more profit. I had hoped that, just as we entered the industrial period first, we would exit it first and move to some steadier, less environmentally damaging post industrial society based on low cost production of things we really needed and working only a couple of days a week. In fact I thought our declining birth rate would require it. I never anticipated that we would import millions to make up the difference, and nor I suspect did anyone else. This was a political decision, I believe, disguised as an economic one.

How long did the change from feudalism to capitalism take? 200 years? It was certainly a big change, but over a much longer period than one generation.

Jane 70

10th October 2019 at 9:45 am

Read this Winston:

Falling birthrates will lead to better opportunities and higher wages; a chance for the world’s fauna and fauna to recover from human encroachment, less pressure on increasingly scarce resources and overburdened infrastructure and a less crowded frantic humanity.
It is the way to a better future.

Winston Stanley

10th October 2019 at 10:55 am


““A capitalist state” is not a thing that can act and make decisions.”

Oh but it is. The British state is a capitalist state and it exists to enforce and to further the interests of British capital. British democracy is a bourgeois democracy and the class basis of the state ensures that its priority is always to expand British capital. Tories, Labour, Lib Dems are all bourgeois parties and they are all representatives of British capital. The parliamentary two-party FPTP system is designed and set up to ensure the continued dominance of capital and its interests over Britain.

I agree with you that it would be nice to have a democracy and for us to be able to make less constrained collective decisions as a demos. We would have to accept that capitalism is not compatible with genuine democracy, and we would have to disempower capital and to remove its hold over our political life. That is no simple task. In effect we would be seeking to re-establish the state on a new class basis.

The capitalist British state would go down fighting for its interests and it would be willing to kill millions of us, just as it is willing to kill millions of people in other countries, like in MENA, for its own money interests. There is nothing morally principled about the British state, it is a ruthless money-grabbing cult and nothing else. Always has been, always will be. It is exactly the same national capitalist state that dominated much of the world with its Empire. If you find some way to bring it down, then more power to you.

Winston Stanley

10th October 2019 at 1:47 pm

Jane, your reply to me may be entirely correct, in abstraction, but the question is whether a process of a reduction of production and consumption, of workers and consumers, is compatible with the economic laws that drive capitalism, with its need to always expand, and to make a profit, in order to function and to survive. I would suggest that it is not.

I agree with some of things said on here, that a more genuine democracy would be nice, and that there may be a lot to be said for an alternative approach to well-being and consumption, and that constant expansion is not necessarily the most beneficial model – either for us or for the planet. But I question whether any of that is compatible with capitalism.

I would suggest that we should seriously consider whether we need to dump capitalism if we are to open up our democratic options to pursue other, more desirable ways of life. Capitalism has given us what we have today, with all of its pros and cons, and I do not think that it possibly could allow us to have anything much different than more of the same old, same old.

Jane 70

10th October 2019 at 9:50 am

My initial comment is stuck,as ever, in mod land,but everything you say is correct: the pro natalist ageing population dogma is a Ponzi scheme; it won’t work.

Jane 70

10th October 2019 at 9:50 am

Meant as reply to Geoff Cox

GP Gray

10th October 2019 at 4:25 am

While I understand, and share, your sympathy for the plight of the migrants stuck in horrible conditions I’m not sure what alternative you’re proposing? Is the EU expected to set up more humane holding centers within its borders at which migrants will be detained before deportation? Is it simply to accept all such migrants as new citizens? Should it instead provide infrastructure support to improve the conditions of migrants in developing states, and if so, why not improve the conditions of the millions of poverty-stricken non-migrants? Again, I fail to see a clear policy that the EU can support financially or logistically that doesn’t involve migrants being detained at both points of entry and departure. Additionally, I’m not sure highlighting the involvement of ‘Bija’ is really a fair portrayal of EU policy. The Italians accepted him as an accredited member of the Libyan government’s delegation and an official of its interior Ministry. The UN report which included him on a blacklist only came out the following year. It was far more an oversight that an example of willingness to work with “bloodthirsty thugs”.

Jane 70

10th October 2019 at 3:18 am

This is where Spiked goes astray: vigorous promotion of Brexit, with its aim of taking control of British borders, while at the same time criticising ‘fortress Europe’ and Von der Leyen’s tardy recognition of the need to protect the ‘European way of life’.

The constant promotion of the duties of host nations spliced with the manipulation of public opinion has gone past its sell by date.

The EU’s talking heads and policy wonks have promoted an implicit open borders policy for years, culminating in Merkel’s frankly reckless decision to issue an unconditional welcome to all comers, no questions asked, without bothering to seek the consent of EU member states and their restive electorates.

Now they’ve finally realised that the events being played out in Greece, Italy, Hungary, Germany and France -witness Calais- are leading to open public resistance and unrest, hence Von der Leyen’s pronouncement. Even Merkel has backtracked, bothered by the rise of the AFD.

These flows must be stopped, and the hundreds of thousands awaiting their turn must be returned to their home countries.

There are no simple answers, but mass migration into a Europe already experiencing rising youth unemployment, imminent recession in Germany, public resentment and convulsions in the eurozone will end in chaos.

Azovian Nationalist

10th October 2019 at 2:27 am

They are not refugees, they are illegal economic migrants and contribute nothing to society except degradation. Import the third world, become the third world.

Winston Stanley

10th October 2019 at 7:43 am

Blacks and Asians contribute loads to Britain. Their employment rates are much higher than historical white British employment rates. They work and contribute to the society, the same as everyone else.

That is why the British capitalist state has brought them in, to maintain the profit-based capitalist system and to make money for British capital. Why else did you think the capitalist state encourages (controlled) immigration?

If white British are “superior” to blacks and Asians then how come they do better in British schools than the white British?

Azovian Nationalist

10th October 2019 at 10:10 am

Yes yes capitalist capitalist blah blah. If you read the story it is about the illegal economic migrants paying criminal people smuggling gangs to enter Europe… these faux refugees contribute nothing, they are a net burden on society and do nothing but drive division… but capitalist capitalist blah blah whatever.

Winston Stanley

10th October 2019 at 12:06 pm

Azov, I did read the article and it is about the EU’s “reality as a principle-less, protectionist capitalist bloc”, “a capitalist, protectionist bloc, promoting the movement of cheap labour within, while impeding the movement of desperate people from without.”

But you can raise the supposed “superiority” of white Europeans blah blah blah on a free speech site, just don’t have a hissy when someone disagrees with you and develops the proposed theme of the article.

Ian Davies

10th October 2019 at 3:01 pm

I am waiting for that old chestnut that usually gets dragged out whereby we need 10,000 nurses a year in the NHS. So apparently to get these we just open the gates to 300,000 non EU people a year in the vain hope that 1 or 2 of them are nurses. Utter baloney. If you need nurses, go out and get them on a work permit basis, and anybody else we need for that matter. But do not tell me that swarms of chancers from Africa are required to be kept on the dole because we may need a few people here and there.

Marvin Jones

13th October 2019 at 2:53 pm

You should visit the job centres any day of the week, and see which types make up 75% of visits.

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