The Denial of Migrants as Human Beings



“Europe is indefensible.”
Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism 

“Here, either they leave your body in the water or they kill your spirit in a migrant camp or on the street.”
Baryali Waiz, Afghan Immigrant

“Colonization: bridgehead in a campaign to civilize barbarism, from which there may emerge at any moment the negation of civilization, pure and simple.”
Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism


The Unspeakable


The current Mediterranean migration crisis is still somewhat obscure to most, while others think it can be easily resolved. In any case, it shows that Europe has become heartless and cruel, exposing feelings from a deep and almost forgotten part of Western unconsciousness – that treacherous and slippery slope towards inhumanity. Le glissement vers une apocalypse.

The Mediterranean has become a mass grave and thousands of human beings are the new desaparecidos – subject to abuse, imprisonment and death at the edges of the Old Continent. But even these countless number of deaths are not enough to uncover the EU immigration policy of « forced disappearance », which in fact are crimes against humanity.

Torture techniques from the Old Ages lie in wait, unspoken, thanks to the aura of taboo surrounding Western detention cells. “Slowly but surely, the continent proceeds towards savagery”, “the boomerang effect of colonization”, which the visionary Aimé Césaire anticipated, is about to happen.

The target of this regressive descent into racial discrimination on our continent is an almost invisible issue. This attack is aimed not only on the physical beings but also on the very psyche of non-European citizens, at their vitality and identity, an attack on liberty while the migrant himself becomes objectified. More to the point, the migrant’s humanity is suppressed precisely because he carries within him the immense capacity for revolutionary transformation. A socially destructive denial is a reality already happening in obscure areas today: the psychological destruction of millions of migrant minds.

The depth and extent of this unconscious drive eroding European identity, that tends towards the negation and non-existence of migrants as human beings, will determine the outcome of our own age.


A new frontier

“The abyss is being repopulated”.
Jaime Semprun



The frontier kills.

Bleeding bodies on barbed wire fences in Ceuta and Melilla, Evros and Calais. Corpses sinking to the bottom of the Mediterranean; falling from trucks or getting lost on European soil. No one seems to notice! What about the sixteen year-old Eritrean who dodged the draft in his own country only to be run over on a highway in northern France in June of 2014 after having jumped from a truck? Who was he? His name was Mengs Medhane Yehdego.

An improbable escape.

In their improbable escape, dozens of Afghan boys tumble from trucks, after unbearable hikes from the sea up to the high glaciers. Hundreds of sub-Saharan Africans bleed to death on barbed-wire fences after walking miles through the desert. Our citadel is covered with the dead and the wounded, Europe is scattered with them: killed for nothing, killed on arrival, dismembered by dogs or beaten by the newly formed uncontrollable militias of the new Border Fascism. Death by Immigration ban. 

L’Europe entière est jonchée des corps morts de Frontière.


Racial Non-existence 

For these refugees, borders are everywhere, in local cities, towns and even on their own bodies, as permanent scars. Refugees inhabit “other” spaces: sidewalks, park benches, train tracks, train cars, fields, shopping malls, parks and arcades – behind corrugated metal, on pavement or behind bars. They are always somewhere else, collapsed in cold corners whether from alcohol or being beaten, untouchable and distant.

Migration Detention Camps are foreign and uninhabitable spaces: surveillance cameras, grates, doors and high security gates. These “welcoming” (or, better, detention) camps effectively teach racism and purposefully create and sustain the idea of an insuperable otherness of the Sans Papiers. This separation and invisibility of each migrant slowly takes hold of everyone’s mind, fostering a new consciousness where discrimination becomes a “natural” and legitimate attitude.

Today the collective acceptance of barbed-wire confinement for these men and women is a done deal. The citizens of States that advocate democracy allow these men, women and children to stand for hours and hours after their harrowing journeys – first after landing, then at checkpoints, and at one counter after the other: an infinite Migrant Line. Meanwhile, European housing developments and suburbs complacently observe the watchtowers of CARA and CIE lager camps – no need for a magnifying glass or binoculars to see the inhumane conditions going on there.

The colonizer, who in order to ease his conscience gets into the habit of seeing the other man as an animal, accustoms himself to treating him as an animal, and tends objectively to transform himself into an animal. It is this result, this boomerang effect of colonization, that I wanted to point out.” (Césaire)

The backlash of colonialism has become a hard reality like never before, feeding a categorical and defamatory contempt for dark skin, as immigrants are systematically deprived of their civil rights.

“And that is the great thing I hold against pseudo-humanism: that for too long it has diminished the rights of man, that its concept of those rights has been – and still is – narrow and fragmentary, incomplete and biased and, all things considered, sordidly racist.”  (Césaire)

Migrants are not entitled to human rights.

If you arrive alive, you are locked up in a Migrant Detention Camp with an identification bracelet on your wrist. You receive a number in exchange for your identity. In a compound in Pozzallo, Sicily, Mohammed is number K058.

K058, P053, LMO6, N067.

After that, you become an outcast on the street.

What has become of Europe today? The streets reveal a chilling answer. Our society is producing outcasts by the thousands: new invisibles, non-existents (including Europeans and migrants alike). If a census were to be conducted today, how many migrants would be counted among those forced to spend their night bedded down in cardboard boxes under a porch, taking shelter under plastic tarps or hiding in urban cracks, forced to use sidewalks as pillows or relieve themselves outside? The Dublin rule of law enforces an open-air prison that locks up, rejects, and expels them, blocking and paralyzing hordes of individuals in its vortex of bureaucracy. National authorities send people back and forth like un-addressed parcels, denying their existence. Indeed, their very existence becomes frozen indefinitely.

How can we continue to call this a “society”, when we allow thousands of former human beings to rot on the streets? These people are not free and have no hope of returning home. They are trapped in an endless limbo. Amid widespread indifference, Europe forces them into psychological and emotional torture – we do not like to call it that, but torture it is.


Imprisonment – to drive them insane

So far many hundreds of migrants, having committed no crimes, have been incarcerated in prison cells reserved only for them. Throughout Europe there are now 473 deportation and detention camps for undocumented foreigners. A world made of fences, gates, policemen, meals and more policemen, not to mention on-going mistreatment, stolen possessions, being roused from sleep with nightsticks, and routine denial of medical treatment.

In the CIE at Ponte Galeria, Rome, Omar’s cancer diagnosis arrived with a shameful delay, and time is essential for cancer treatment. Omar died a year ago.

Nejl Fathi, a Moroccan citizen, died in Turin’s CIE on May 24, 2008, even though emergency medical assistance had been requested throughout the night.

Abdeleh Saler, Mohamed Ben Said, Rabah, Nashreddine, Jamel, Ramsi, Lofti and Nasim, Said Zigoui, MehdyAlih, Mohamed Alui, Christiana Amankwa, Yussuf Abubakr, Carlos, M.M, Salah Souidani, Moustapha Anak….

The death lists from the Italian detention camps are too long to be reported here.

These migrants either do not receive the assistance they urgently need, or they sometimes become involuntary “patients” addicted to tranquilizers. Although there are no official figures, it is estimated that 40% of all migrants hosted in Italian CIEs have been given some form of tranquilizers. Here, young Arab revolutionary hopefuls are reduced to the status of “migrant-patients”, routinely forced to take drugs as a means of preventing any rebellious acts.

Periodically, those prisoners who climb onto the barrack rooftops protesting for freedom are shown on national television shouting, “We Are Human Beings” or “We Are Equal”; their words fall on deaf ears. And of course accidents happen. During one of these protests, Majid fell from a Gorizia CIE building rooftop and died on April 30, 2014, after eight months in a coma. Nobody, however, has ever heard his full name: Abdel Majid El Kodra.

The real purpose of these camps is to curb reactions from a foreign rebel: to destroy him and take away his identity, health and hope, depriving him of his plans for the future and, most importantly, of his dreams. Dreams are a real danger for the West.

The migrant mind deteriorates and falls ill when in confinement. Brutally separated from their loved ones, mothers and fathers go crazy. Some talk to themselves, while others go months without speaking: depression, attempted suicide, self-mutilation, or swallowing screws, tubes and batteries. Some in those camp-jails even hang themselves from radiators.

In January 2005, while at a Lamezia Terme, Calabria, CPT, Zigoui Said committed suicide; he was a 44-year-old Moroccan man with two children, who had already attempted suicide a few days earlier. In December 2006, in the same CPT, a 40 year-old Bulgarian hung himself.  His name is still unknown.

There is no comprehensive European study detailing the numerous mental illnesses developed by these migrants during their confinement. An investigation would reveal a large array of mental issues affecting those destroyed by the living conditions in the camps, or life on the streets.

As if the persecution and rape suffered in those lager compounds or in the Libyan Desert weren’t enough, there is the chance to be mistreated by Bulgarian, Greek, Italian, French or Spanish police officers and jailers. Many, upon release, can barely stand by themselves and many others simply succumb. Some throw themselves from the tallest building.

These camps are the initial stages of a symbolic and real annihilation.



The real and boundless taboo is our stubborn blindness to this induced madness against the new migrants: compulsive detention, lack of treatment, years of waiting for a temporary residence permit, or just losing their minds living on the street.

The denial of the migrant as a human being explains not only the desire to physically get rid of the “other”, but it is also a form of psychological denial – defined as “annulment drive” by Massimo Fagioli. This conjecture is indeed more subtle, but no less violent, because it strives to eliminate the vitality and equality of these people’s minds. Looming on the horizon is not only their disappearance in the lager camps, but also their non-existence as an idea itself – an entire population is on the verge of disappearing altogether.

We must dare to face this fundamental issue because it where the latent identity of Europe resides. Its unconscious agenda plans to facilitate migrant mental instability by implicitly considering them non-humans, and even more effectively, depriving them of their own identity – by objectifying them, labeling them in empty categories, and considering them clandestine at the margin of our lives.

The Old Continent of Human Rights has transformed Apartheid into a new Psycho-Apartheid.

The equation «colonization = “thingification”» (Césaire) is particularly relevant within the context of this global migration. However, we are already beyond these walls: the regression now underway is the objectification of the Western psyche. This deliberate blindness towards “other” migrant human beings and any possible human relationship becomes equivalent to negating ourselves – hence we too will go mad. The new Psycho-Apartheid is a profound indicator of a collective European malaise.


The Non-Affective Mutation

The spectacle of the mass grave has been accepted.

The migrant “other” has become a material or a technical issue requiring military-like countermeasures: crushing, drowning, expulsion and deportation. Our immigration policies, under the merciful veil of “control” parlance, exude clear references to neo-nazi ideas: for the EU, migrants are not real human beings. Dehumanized by the society of the spectacle with continuous television loops focusing on their Bodies-Boats, Bodies-Pain, Bodies-Despair, these tragedies no longer arouse emotion. After making them inhuman, we can proclaim live on TV that the EU will cooperate with the dictators of the countries from which these people have fled, in order to stop the disturbance of our supermarket-lives, throwing these potential but rebellious political refugees in the confinement camps and delivering them to the border police of their native countries. What really matters is that they will die somewhere out of our sight.

This mass grave stance is a clear political choice enforced by EU authorities.

The origin of this change in historical psycho-anthropology for the European psyche lies in the same negation of history. The migrant is not just a victim, but also a sign of yet another step forward of our spectacle society towards objectification. The mutation of a collective identity, the depletion of life in general, and the fact that amnesia has become a substitute for compassion – all this gives new vitality to widespread racist attitudes.

This mass insensitivity is exactly the result of a historical event denial: the current migrant revolution is unstoppable. To deny it brings madness and blindness. Therefore, the ongoing genocide is both physical and psychological, produced and kept in motion by our own Western psychopathology. This will be our demise: we have denied both the “Other” and History as well.


Psychopathology of the Counter-history

The migrant is living history, a subject in transformation, an expression of these changing times and of new possibilities and freedoms. Those who want to halt change and remain in a familiar place are terrorized. The actual question is the momentous conflict between a healthy, vital and free migrant identity and a demoralized and objectified one. In targeting the migrant with discrimination policies, we are trying to set back a dreaded history. The arrival of this new irrational identity could threaten the rational identity of the Old Continent: it could lead to actual change, and it is therefore dangerous.

We prefer not to notice that we are facing not just some “migrant landings” but rather a revolution – the Migrant Revolution.


War rages on

Concealed actions are becoming clear in the final hours of Operation Mare Nostrum. Negligent rescue operations, ongoing mass rejections and a sudden arrival of the FRONTEX (European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union) – these policies have been planned and established well in advance.

The logic of denial is war, and as in well-turned logic, the negation of what is invisible becomes materialized through violence. To invalidate another person psychologically is a step toward military aggression.

This blind spot, the removal of truth from our civilization, is manifesting itself with sudden destructive consequences. This psychopathological drive that created such abyss in our Western culture has unleashed a violent assault in the Mediterranean. An invented and fake “invasion” has created a kind of liquid frontier, and migrants are trapped between two fronts: wars and dictators on one side and the high walls of Europe on another. A carnage is to be expected.

Here is the materialization of the Border Fascism: a hotbed of violent practices, divisions, abuse, mistreatment and murders; men killed on the barbed wires of the West. All this is revealed by the European strategy to relocate the frontier to new North African lager camps. Not yet declared, this war on immigration has been a de facto policy for months.

The Mediterranean has become the Front Line.

Truth is a moment of untruth. Throughout 2014 the rules of the game were True/False or Sink/Swim. The truth was hidden and news about the almost daily shipwrecks off the coasts of Libya or Tunisia was censored, giving all the appearance of organized massacres. Boats filled with migrants were rammed, rejected or just vanished – a generalized Desapariciòn. The victims are unnamed immigrants and so the deal is done. The “rescue” boats are actually military boats with their prows pointing towards the enemy.

The West is terrorized watching this shift of Southern populations from poor areas to wealthy ones, but it is unable to see migration as an opportunity to overcome the Western identity issue. Haunted by being overrun and losing its fragile identity, the old anti-historical Europe has instead decided to militarize its borders and take aim at any new historical actor.

“Humanity reduced to a monologue, and you think all that does not have its price? The truth is that this policy cannot but bring about the ruin of Europe itself, and that Europe, if it is not careful, will perish from the void it has created around itself.” (Césaire)

Isolated and stripped of her own identity, Europe is denying the migrant as a human being and will be left to perish by her own violent monologue.

Negation produces War.


Flore Murard-Yovanovitch


Translation by Bernardo Parrella

Aimé Césaire, Discourse on colonialism, translated by Joan Pinkham

Graphic Design: Marta Magister




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