Friday, October 28, 2005

Closed Borders

Schiphol airport, Amsterdam, is Europe's fourth largest. It's so large that it has its own detention centre, which is surrounded by a 3 metre fence and barbed wire. It's where they keep people they don't want in Amsterdam (which is apparently most people, the Netherlands has some of the strictest immigration laws in Europe). People are held here until they are deported.

When a fire broke out at the detention centre it took them 3 hours to put it out. In that time 11 people burnt to death. I've no idea who these people were, why the were detained, or where they were going to be sent to. The Netherlands is in the process of deporting 26,000 failed asylym seekers. Maybe some of those 11 people had been categorised as 'not suffering enough', and were going to be sent back. Maybe some of them were drug mules who had been caught.

When I read about this, my first reaction is the absolute horror of anyone burning to death while locked up. The Guardian has the transcript of an interview with a survivor:

One detainee said the inmates had tried to raise the alarm, but were ignored by guards who told them nothing was wrong. "First they said there was no problem, and they just kept us locked up," the unidentified detainee told the Dutch TV station NOS. "Our throats started hurting. We kicked, we screamed, we rang the bell of course. And then panic broke out."

Obviously questions are gong to be asked, inquiries will be made, people will be blamed, and they'll make sure no-one burns to death while locked up at this airport ever again (until next time). But that ignores the more fundamental point which is why are poor people locked up for wanting to live somewhere else. Europe spent many centuries extracting resources, and people from every other part of the world. Now they're protecting those resources by keeping people out (while ensuring enough illegal immigrants remain to do the really nasty work, they can't complain you see - it's good for business).

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