Global vision of migration
“In early times, human beings moved around to look for water and fruit to feed themselves as well as to avoid ferocious wild animals. This was their way of protecting themselves. They travelled to preserve their lives. The first stage of evolution of our race came when the first objects were invented. Humans then moved on to organise their food supplies (hunting, fishing and gathering) as well as to protect themselves from rival groups”.
These are the words of Mamadou Cissokho, a leading figure of the West African peasant resistance movement, at the opening speech in January 2018, where he reminded everyone of their responsibility in the current tragedy of migration.
Moving to feed themselves and survive
The same causes have produced the same effects on all continents. It has become a very large-scale business, with climate change forcing many millions of people to become refugees leaving Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia as well as Latin America. Their lands no longer allow them to feed themselves (soil and wells had dried up, crops were destroyed by repeated natural disasters…). Political imbalance, often led by neo-colonial interests and imperialists have plunged countries and whole regions into situations of tragic insecurity, conflicts and wars and left entire regions in situations of tragic insecurity, conflicts and wars that many have tried to escape (Central America, Yemen, Syria, Sahel…). These situations have become worse when famines occurred and placed populations in imminent danger, such as in the case of Yemen.
However it is also essential and urgent to recognise unbridled globalised capitalism as the cause leading to the impoverishment of the indigenous communities and peasants around the world. Land-grabbing and the violation of customary rights, extractivism, norms and restricted access to markets…. Economic Partnership Agreements and other Free Trade treaties are a repeated and very real translation of the law of the strongest, and have largely been responsible for the physical and cultural uprooting of peoples.
Furthermore, in this very difficult context it is important to bear in mind the degree to which there has been very violent and even murderous State and police repression.
“(Europeans) and peoples have left us writing and historical manuscripts in which they confirmed that they had met so-called “soulless” people; they took whatever they found and sold it as they saw fit”. (M. Cissoko)
Stolen land and the destruction of food and popular culture
This uprooting of cultures is particularly illustrated through the Moroccan example. In order to supply the European market with low cost tomatoes and citrus, the Moroccan State facilitated entry for Spanish, French and Dutch investors as of the 1990s, hunting the local peasants off their land, pretexting that the land belonged to the Royal Family of Souss Massa Drah. These companies also gained simplified access to water resources and irrigation as well as State agricultural subsidies. There were such needs for labour that everything was organised in such a way that thousands of small-scale peasants who lived in the Atlas mountains abandoned their families’ land and moved to the areas where industrial agriculture was being practiced. This phenomenon of extreme exploitation and pauperisation of an uprooted national workforce still exists and actually encourages men and women to leave their homes for horizons that are ever further afield and more uncertain.
Parallel to this, traditional food crops (such as wheat, one of the main ingredients in Moroccan food) have been abandoned to better serve the interests of the export industry and unbridled capitalism!
This situation is similar to many others from which people around the world are suffering.
This general observation is further darkened when we look at the conditions of those populations that have been displaced. The current discussions around the Global Compact, the project of a global pact on migration currently under negotiation at the Untied Nations, openly unmasks the cynicism and criminal attitude of the major decision-makers. Not only does the say in which people are being blocked at borders take on an inhuman aspect and is in violation of the Convention on Human Rights, but the “Western” States are turning people away or establishing conditions for granting development aid linked to establishing border controls (including a stronger police presence) in the countries of departure.
This is very worrying indeed! The cynicism and the refusal to provide a dignified welcome to political, economic and climate refugees (…) is leading to a concentration of these helpless people in major urban ghettos (megalopoles) or in rural areas (such as the extreme south of Italy). There are refugee camps there, and extreme insecurity: violence, lack of any organised healthcare, poor housing, forced labour and human trafficking are rife…
Thus these very circumstances mean that a migrant loses his or her capacity and food autonomy and at the very best (?) becomes dependent on the agri-business system, if indeed they are not simply obliged to make use of food aid, also supplied through the agribusiness system.
“Let us work together to share the wealth and well-being everywhere and for all. The strength of a poor man or woman is that he or she loses nothing, because he or she has nothing to lose” (M. Sissokho)
Dignity for migrant workers and food sovereignty are one and the same struggle!
The Via Campesina and its member organisations and allies are committed to resisting and joining in their struggles for rights and dignity for migrants, and to supporting food sovereignty.
By increasing the spaces where we mobilise against the big multinational corporations, and against the growing control that they exert on resources and food production to the detriment of the lives of small-scale peasants, against policies and treaties that they support…the peasant movement is working on the process of supporting the proletariat to build their struggles and fight the destabilisation of democratic principles of popular sovereignty.
By defending the right to land and water use, claiming their right to produce and exchange their traditional seeds, working for the recognition of their collective rights, freedom to organise in unions and a real status for women peasants etc… the Via Campesina and the Declaration of Peasants Rights provide answers to the things that are causing migration to occur in the first place.
We stand against the walls that are being built in a wave of totalitarian madness! It is essential to build bridges between peoples and connect the peasants of the world!
“Rather than taking up arms, let us take up solidarity” (M. Cissokho)
Agribusiness thrives on the exploitation of the smallest. Men and women, migrant workers have been uprooted and are highly fragile and vulnerable when faced by these economic predators and by “consenting” against their will to sacrificing their rights, they contribute to feeding the appetite of a system that is annihilating them.
In the Via Campesina and its member organisations, many different initiatives that resist and show solidarity have been created: training and support for migrant workers to ensure their rights are respected; information and awareness-raising of consumers; land occupation to install workers or migrants…
The Via Campesina and its allies open the path to food sovereignty for peoples and peasants without borders.