Intervention by Pedro Milheiro (FEVICCOM – Portugal) at the Euro-Mediterranean Meeting in Athens


In recent years, the world has often been confronted with news and images of the real human catastrophes unfolding in the Mediterranean and in Europe that have recently intensified. In the human chain that goes to Europe, using all means and routes, countless are those drowned in the waters of the Mediterranean, those suffocated in the holds of ships or inside containers, those who suffer violence or get stolen.

Tens of thousands of human beings – men, women, children and the elderly – from various countries of the Middle East or Africa, face all kinds of dangers to escape the wars brought by imperialist forces, destruction, insecurity and abject misery in search of refuge, peace, security and work in Europe.

 FEVICCOM and the UITBB from the very beginning have always expressed their solidarity with all these refugees and immigrants, but more particularly with all the victims of this humanitarian catastrophe which, in their natural desire to live a decent life with their families, risk all kinds of difficulties, are tormented and some die.

 The real cause of this human catastrophe is the neoliberal policy of appropriation of natural resources, and the responsible are all those who increased imperialist wars and promote interference in these countries.

 The invasion, occupation and destruction by the USA and its allies of Afghanistan’s infrastructures in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 and NATO’s aggressive intervention in various cases, are the main cause that has contributed decisively to the current humanitarian drama experienced by many people of the region.

Also contributing to this situation are several Member States of the EU that have applied the same wrong policies in cooperation with the USA and NATO. NATO, as a military political bloc, increasingly intervenes in this region of the globe, which gives reason to the Trade Unions Organizations to demand for a long time now its dissolution and extinction.

With the false purpose of propelling the Arab Spring, the military interventions and interferences concealed the true aims of their perpetrators. Successive military interventions have resulted in the true destruction of internationally recognized states, such as Afghanistan and Iraq, but also Libya, Syria and Yemen, among others. This policy disrupted society, paralyzed the economy, shattered the social and political system and extinguished the security and defence apparatus in each country.

These states have become territories without law, without economic activity and without social organisation, with the People at the mercy of the arbitrariness of groups and networks of human traffic of all type. Objectively, these people are going back decades in their human development and their societies have entered a spiral of violence, disorder and insecurity whose outcome is very difficult to predict.

These are the deeper causes of the current situation. Those responsible for this catastrophe are the United States of America and its allies in Europe, in the Middle East and in Africa and, in several areas, the EU itself.

In this context, FEVICCOM and UITBB always reject the construction of new walls and EU security solutions that express their inhumanity in resolving this situation, repudiate xenophobia and demand determined action against the violence that the extreme right wing uses against the refugees. The existing problems are not solved by the continuation of imperialist wars and the policy of prey of natural resources, but by a policy that ensures the economic and social development of the countries of that region.

Hypocrisy is what exists today in Europe, with the aggressions and interference by the major Europeans powers, such as France, Italy and the United Kingdom, for instant in Libya, Syria, Mali, Chad, Central Republic of Africa, Somalia, Eritrea, etc. Hypocrisy with security measures adopted by the EU regarding immigrants from this countries, which are clearly visible in reinforcing the presence of the navy in order to prevent the movement of immigrants within the task of the European Agency “Frontex”, instead of a presence of life saving coastguard in a humanitarian perspective, hypocrisy in the adoption of European anti-immigration directives such as the notorious Return Directive and the permanent stigmatization of migration which has been linked to terrorism.

Hypocrisy of the European institutions, which blame only the terrible networks of human trafficking, which take advantage of the despair of thousands of people in extreme vulnerability, omitting that these networks appear and fatten in the light of recent immigration and external relations policies adopted by the European Union with the indifference of the international community.

FEVICCOM and the UITBB say that enough is enough of the cynicism, silence or hollow words of the European institutions and the majority of the member states. It is time to stop suffering, death and this terrible humanitarian catastrophe. The migrants and citizens who seek asylum have the right to live and work in security and social inclusion on a basis of equality and solidarity.

Our sector of activity, Construction, is one of the most profitable in this situation, through informal and undeclared work, illegal work and in some cases even slave labour. Our Portuguese Trade Union Confederation participates in the trade union coordination of the Mediterranean (EUROMED), which has resulted in the creation of a union network to defend the rights of migrant workers in the region.

FEVICCOM and UITBB must continue to intervene and fight against the policies of governments that promote wars, and against the predatory character of multinationals and big economic groups, so that the current situation is replaced by another, one that is based on a humanistic vision, on peace and in respect for the sovereignty of the countries and the will of the people, in an effective partnership for the economic and social development of each country, respecting the respective cultures and their social and political organizations.

It is at this Euro-Mediterranean meeting of the UITBB that we affirm:

1) That the current policies on external relations, free movement of workers and immigration are totally wrong and must be replaced by policies which emphasise peace and cooperation, apply the principle of equal conditions, combat all forms of discrimination against migrants and be humanistic and in solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers;

2) That we are especially sympathetic to the refugees who face death in order to escape war.

3) That we combat the practices of social dumping due to the terrible consequences it has for the lives of the workers and the democratic societies in which we live.

It is at this Euro-Mediterranean meeting of the UITBB that we consider:

1) That emigration is a right, but it cannot be the last resort to escape death and destruction;

2) That migrants make an essential contribution to the host countries, whether in the economy, their work or in cosmopolitanism, with the intercultural relations they establish.

3) That it is precisely for this material and cultural enrichment that the host countries should have friendly and equality-based migration policies and that they combat all inequalities and discrimination.

It is at this Euro-Mediterranean meeting of UITBB that we demand:

1) That the Posting Directive should be reviewed on a basis of application of the principle of equal conditions without discrimination and inequalities;

2) The creation of a common EU asylum and migration policy which respects human rights, human dignity and the principle of equality;

3) The dissolution and extinction of NATO;

4) The criminalisation of practices of exploitation of workers by unscrupulous employers;

5) A real coordination of labour inspection at a European level.

FEVICCOM and UITBB value and highlight the role of the struggle of the workers, of the class-based Trade Union Movement, of the people and of the organisations defending the Peace in the fight for defending the rights of the migrants, always with a perspective of equality between peoples and cultures that leads to the harmonious construction of social progress. It is only in this way that we can create decent living and working conditions, with peace and security. It is only in this way that imperialist wars, destruction and insecurity can be avoided.

Pedro MP Milheiro