Following a cross-regional event between YFoE Africa and YFoE Europe that took place in Brussels in July, members of both networks worked together to draft this letter to member states of the EU. In it we highlight the injustices and barriers faced by people from the Global South coming to Europe and explain why this is such a crucial obstacle in the fight for climate justice.
Read our letter below and sign on through this google form if you agree!
You could also consider taking action around open borders during our Days of Action for Global Justice in October!
Open Letter to Member States of the Council of the European Union
THE EU BARRIERS TO CLIMATE JUSTICE AND INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY
Dear Member States of the EU,
For over 5 years, Friends of the Earth has been bringing youth movements from Europe and Africa together to learn from each other and stand in solidarity in our fights for social and environmental justice.
Sadly, this inspirational opportunity is facing significant barriers as migration policies in EU member states undermine one of the very projects the EU Commission funds. In doing so it reveals a wider injustice around migration between the EU and the Global South.
Ahead of the meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the European Union on September 14th 2017, Young Friends of the Earth Africa and Young Friends of the Earth Europe want to highlight these injustices, and contest the current discourse on border control in the European Union.
One of EU's stated goals is "to promote human rights both internally and around the world. Human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights: these are the core values of the EU.'
Is this really the case? Or is this a privilege reserved for people born inside the European Union?
There is a huge global inequality when it comes to freedom of movement. "Fortress Europe" functions as a safe haven for those who have been accepted, but shuns and casts out others. Often it is institutional flaws that lead to these barriers, such as the ones experienced by members of Young Friends of the Earth Africa who were invited to a meeting in Brussels in July 2017.
This event was part of an 18-month project, funded by the European Commission's Erasmus + scheme, in which seven Friends of the Earth groups in Africa are paired up with groups in Europe. The seven participants from African organisations applied for visas, yet only 3 out of 7 were issued.
Unsurprisingly, Europeans had little trouble getting visas to travel to Africa for the previous meeting in South Africa.
The difference between Europeans and Africans obtaining visas is shocking and unsettling. The time and effort invested in this project is being jeopardised and participants from Africa have experienced significant emotional stress due to this systematic and biased injustice.
Balance, equity and solidarity between African and European youth is the cornerstone of this project as its name indicates: "fostering a diverse and inclusive youth movement across Europe and in Africa". However, the very essence of this project has been thwarted by the resource and power imbalance still held by Europeans. It is imperative that a European Commission project about African and European environmental justice and solidarity is assured of African participation and leadership.
Sadly, the denials of visas for our meeting is not an isolated case. Non-European movements and peoples are banished to the sidelines of climate action development and decision making. Solutions to the climate crisis are often devised by countries in the Global North, who have the historic and contemporary responsibility for causing the climate crisis, and imposed upon the Global South, who are the most vulnerable to its impacts. This is neither fair, nor is it working.
It is time that Europe starts listening to the communities in the Global South who live on the frontlines of climate change. It is time to stop imposing market based solutions (such as REDD) that enable corporations and governments of the Global North to continue polluting. It is time that Europe takes responsibility for the disasters that climate change is causing in the Global South, such as the mudslide and heavy flooding in Sierra Leone in August 2017, the hurricane that killed over 800 people in Haiti in October 2016, recent devastations provoked by Irma in the Caribbean and the many other disasters caused by extreme weather and exacerbated by historic, global inequality. It is time Europe acknowledges the outflow of people who are displaced by this climate violence, rather than justifying inaction with narratives that treat people as other and absolves responsibility. It is time that we start breaking down the walls of this fortress.
The withholding of visas for people from the Global South is especially relevant when we consider that the next two international UN climate talks (COP 23 and 24) will be held in Europe, and that many of the major decisions around global climate action were made in Paris in 2015. COP 23 in November 2017 is presided by Fiji, an island nation extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, but is going to be held in Bonn, Germany. By holding these events in Europe and restricting movement of people from outside and inside Europe, this puts up barriers to the people whose voices are so crucial to hear on these issues. If EU countries restrict the allocation of visas for participants from the Global South to COP 23, this will undermine the value of having the talks presided by a nation like Fiji.
Current EU border control policies exacerbate the power asymmetries between the Global North and Global South, stifle the processes of international solidarity and therefore obstruct structural change. The many deportations from Western European countries and push-backs of refugees in South-East Europe make us wonder whether the EU is systematically discouraging people from coming into Europe. We strongly believe that there is no "refugee crisis", as the mainstream media and politicians are claiming, but that we are undergoing a crisis of humanity and a crisis of EU values. This kind of narrative only strengthens "fortress Europe", spreads xenophobia and makes it very difficult for people from Africa to get visas to participate in crucial conversations in which we so desperately need to hear their voices.
We will continue the fight to make our movement and these systems more inclusive and equitable. There will be no climate justice without freedom of movement for all!
Young Friends of the Earth Africa and Young Friends of the Earth Europe
Also signed by
Young Friends of the Earth Ireland
groundwork, Friends of the Earth South Africa
Naturvernstudentene Bergen, Young Friends of the Earth Norway
Initiative Welcome, Croatia
Zelena akcija/FoE Croatia
Friends of the Earth Malta
Friends of the Earth Georgia
Green Future, Georgia
Young Friends of the Earth Scotland
Amigos de la Tierra Argentina
Friends of the Earth Togo
Natur of Ungdom, Young Friends of the Earth Norway
Jongeren Milieu Actief, Young Friends of the Earth Netherlands
Otros Mundoes A.C., Friends of the Earth Mexico
Centar za zivotnu sredinu, Friends of the Earth Boznia and Herzegovina
Young Friends of the Earth Bulgaria
Za Zemyata, Bulgaria
Environmental Rights Action, Nigeria
REDES, Friends of the Earth Uruguay
Students for a Just and Sustainable Future, United States of America
Edelvais Association, Estonia
Green Movement, Estonia
Fossil Free Lund University, Sweden
Network on Sound Management of Chemicals - Uganda (NESMAC-U)
Justiça Ambiental/Friends of the Earth Mozambique
Bolivian Platform on Climate Change, Bolivia
Friends of the Earth U.S.
Friends of the Earth Sweden
Friends of the Earth, England, Wales and Northern Ireland
UK Youth Climate Coalition
Friends of the Earth Scotland
Maruska Mileta, Croatia
Kate Whitaker, UK
Zivile Mantrimaite, Belgium
Riccardo Mastini, Italy
Myriam Douo, Belgium
Ketevan Kiria, Georgia
Soso Ochigava, Georgia
Teodor Mladenov, Bulgaria
Emilie Tricarico, Switzerland
Floor van der Hout, the Netherlands
Talissa Soto, the Netherlands
Mikayel Hovhannisyan, Armenia
Emina Bužinkić, Croatia
Amalia Speleta, Greece
Ayumi Fukakusa, Japan
Marte Billen, Belgium
Wieke Wagenaar, The Netherlands
Emma Jayne Geraghty, Ireland
Mathieu Munsch, France
Martin Vainstein, Argentina
Simona Getova, Macedonia
Juta Kruusmae, Estonia
Marielle Veillard, Austria
De Clerck Geertrui, Belgium
Erik Marčenko, Slovenia
Katja Garson, United Kingdom
Ciara Barry, Ireland
Tena Rak, Croatia
Maja Bradaric, Sweden
Meaghan Carmody, Ireland