Our VoiceImmigration

Fueled by Racism, Opposition to Immigrants is Spanning the Globe


Rev. David L. Ostendorf • May 20, 2009

Steeped in fear and contempt and fueled by racism, fierce opposition to migrants, immigrants, and refugees is growing across the globe, and is likely to worsen as economic/political turmoil and environmental degradation uproots sectors of people.

Greece has taken dramatic steps to turn away or detain tens of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers from Iraq, Somalia, Sudan and other war-torn nations. Australia continues its harsh policies aimed at turning away boats packed with refugees. Italy has earned criticism from the UN for its forcible return of Libyans seeking asylum, even as its parliament mapped a path to steep restrictions and fines for undocumented immigrants, going as far as authorizing “citizen patrols” to rein them in. Russia’s ultra-nationalist Movement Against Illegal Immigration remains strong in spite of the recent imprisoning of its leader. And the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), with its vile anti-Muslim fervor, is gaining hold in The Netherlands.

The list is long and sobering, particularly as governments bow to the winds of racism in crafting immigration policies. And the links between the U.S. anti-immigrant movement and its counterparts in Russia and Europe are becoming increasingly evident.

While American white supremacists have long-established ties with Russian racists in opposition to immigration, it is the relationships of groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) with European ultra-nationalists that must be of real concern. As recently as 2007 representatives of Vlaams Belang, an anti-immigrant, ultra-nationalist party from Belgium, met with FAIR leaders and, later, with proponents of scientific racism and white nationalists associated with the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCofC), the contemporary reincarnation of the old White Citizens Councils.

FAIR founder and board member John Tanton himself has direct links to Australian anti-immigrant cohorts. The “Australian Correspondent” for Tanton’s white nationalist Social Contract Press is also a leader with Australians Against Further Immigration (AAFI), a political party self-described as “eco-nationalists,” and also once worked in the offices of a past candidate of the racist One Nation Party.

New strategies must be developed in response to this global phenomenon.

While Great Britain recently began to ban certain anti-immigrant racists from entry, the challenges of future forced, global migrations will not be so simply confronted. Environmental changes alone are bound to compel more of the world’s peoples to leave their homelands. Increasingly devastating natural disasters like hurricane Katrina add to the flow of displaced, domestic refugees. And in spite of recent signs that emigration may be slowing as a result of diminishing job opportunities due to the global economic crisis, there is little likelihood that any such hiatus will be of significant duration.

If ever there were a time when racism must be confronted on a sustained global scale, rooted in the organized actions of committed religious, political, labor, and community leaders working locally and building across borders/boundaries, it is now—and it is in the years that stretch before us across our increasingly unsettled world.

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