EN · FR · DE

Pambazuka: “We are here because you are destroying our countries“ - Germany is politically and economically responsible for many root causes of flight - Rex Osa

Unjust economic relations and arms exports cause many people in the Global South to flee their homelands. Germany and Europe play a part in this exodus. The time for change is ripe.

Many people in Germany are convinced that nobody leaves their country unless it’s absolutely necessary. At the same time, there is a prevailing view that the root causes of flight and migration to Europe have nothing to do with our country and its policies.

However, the German arms industry makes millions every year with arms and warfare – and thus actively causes the escalation of conflicts in many countries. Armed conflicts are the root cause of flight in several countries and not just in Syria and Afghanistan. Wars and a lack of prospects have deeper and nearly always economic reasons. But the EU and Germany’s current strategies on “eliminating the root causes of flight” do not take this into consideration. Instead, there is talk of “defence from refugees themselves” in debates that often evoke social racism, discrimination and animosity. But those who produce tools of violence reinforce unfair economic relations and will have to face refugees.

Arms exports from Germany

Germany ranks as the fourth biggest global arms exporter after the U.S., Russia and China,. In 2014, Germany approved arms’ exports worth nearly EUR 4 billion, 60 per cent of which were to countries outside the EU and NATO. The German Foreign Trade and Payments Law requires an end-use certificate and bans the export of arms to conflict zones. Yet, German arms are repeatedly found in those same regions.

Mainly existential threats and insecurity prompt people to leave their homelands. After World War II, thousands of Germans fled to other countries for those very reasons.

Arguing that arms are delivered to the “right hands” does not legitimize arms exports. People in many countries are fleeing bloodshed wrought by well-armed terrorist groups who received military training from the West in the past. Terrorist groups like Boko Haram obtain their weapons from countries like Saudi Arabia and Libya.

The export of weapons also goes towards the protection of African countries from economic exploitation by the Global North as many countries there rely on resources from the Global South. Many refugees originate from countries that are rich in resources. Industrialized countries abuse and uphold unjust economic structures in those countries and by force of arms if necessary.

Local level activism

Therefore, political and economic change must occur in Germany and Europe. From the struggles of the past years, we have learnt that many helpful and committed people see problems only in migrants’ countries of origin. German civil society needs to be sensitized to the root causes of flight and migration and the role of violence in this equation. This applies to the arms trade, involvement in wars and conflicts, speculation in food commodities as well as the exploitation of natural resources. Companies and states that are responsible for the mass exodus of their fellow countrymen have to be fought rather than the migrants. German civil society must realise what is happening on their doorstep. Tax payers must be made aware that they are indirectly financing wars all over the world.

We are not looking to politics for the power to change. This power lies with every individual human being – when they start showing solidarity that goes beyond shock and dismay. Refugees will continue to come to Europe and Germany is partly responsible for the instability in their homelands. The slogan, “We are here because you are destroying out countries”, coined by The Voice and the Caravan for the rights of refugees and migrants1, embodies this responsibility. Everyone has a responsibility to seek and fight the root causes of flight on their own doorstep.

In collaboration with Karenina Schröder

Rex Osa is a refugee activist living in Germany. He is a member of the refugee self-support group “The Voice Refugee Forum” and the Germany-wide “Caravane for the rights of refugees and migrants” since 2006. In 2011, he founded the network “refugees for refugees” (https://refugees4refugees.wordpress.com).

Contact: refugees4refugees@gmx.de

Translation by Mona Niemeyer and Pauline Bugler

This article was first published in German by AfricAvenir and Südlink on March 7, 2016. It was written as part of the project “Why we are here – African perspectives on flight and migration” conducted by AfricAvenir in 2015/16.

With the friendly support of the Landesstelle für Entwicklungszusammenarbeit and Engagement Global.

1 Both are refugee self-organisations active in Germany.

Read more

Pambazuka Homepage

back to top