Monday, June 11, 2018

Xenophobia, the Austrian right, and the rescue ship Aquarius

I'm not sure whether this is more silly than it is obnoxious, although it was presumably meant to be the latter: FPÖ will "Heimat" in Oberösterreichs Landesverfassung verankern Die Presse 08.06.2018.

The state government in the Austrian state of Upper Austria is run by a coalition of the conservative, Christian Democratic People's Party (ÖVP) and the far right, anti-immigrant "Freedom" Party (FPÖ), the same party combination currently running the national government. This proposal was announced by Vice Governor Manfred Haimbuchner (FPÖ) aund FPÖ state party leader Herwig Mahr.

The language they are proposing to be included in the state constitution reads, "Das Land OÖ bekennt sich zur Heimatpflege durch das Bewahren der landestypischen Brauchtümer und Traditionen" ("The state of Upper Austria commits itself to preserve the Heimat through guarding the customs and traditions typical to the state.") Haimbuchner suggested that handshaking would be protected by the provision. And also would prevent pork from being banned.

We aren't exactly talking high constitutional theory here.

As you might guess, protecting pork against being banned is a dumb-as-dirt Islamophobic pitch. If there is any proposal in the Austrian Parliament or the Upper Austrian Landtag to ban pork, it has somehow escaped my notice. And, I'm guessing, everyone else's, too. It a non-solution to a non-problem.

The wording cited is so vague I wonder if it would have any definable effect at all. But putting dumb and irrelevant stuff is always a bad idea. Because some judge may seize on it as a way to make an absurdly political decision that makes no sense. Like, say, ruling that a health-food grocery has to close because it doesn't sell pork there. Or whatever.

Really, it's just cheap publicity for Islamophobic hate propaganda.

This, on the other hand is considerably more serious. Austrian Vice Chancellor and head of the xenophobic FPÖ, H.C. Strache

The Strache statement says, "Under the new Italian Interior Minister Salvini, illegal migration will no longer be tolerated. Good so!" The Austrian anti-foreigner right use "migrant" to refer to desperate refugees from war zones being rescued from drowning to suggest they are just trying to come mooch off good Christian white Europeans.

He's talking about the ship Aquarius, a humanitarian rescue ship that saves people from being drowned in the Mediterranean trying to flee from the Libyan coast on often unsafe boats. The rescue ship has been stranded mid-way between Italy and Malta, with both countries refusing it permission to land. Angela Giuffrida reports in Mediterranean rescue vessel crew keep migrants calm during standoff Guardian 06/11/2018:

Onboard the vessel are 629 people, including 123 unaccompanied minors, 11 babies and seven pregnant woman. The ship is operated by the French-German charity SOS Méditerranée and has been undertaking risky year-round, search-and-rescue missions in waters north of Libya since 2015.

Victoria Russell, a spokeswoman for Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which has staff working on the boat, said the situation was under control but could change at any moment.

“None of the people on board have any idea about this whole diplomatic standoff that is unfolding around them, but they are starting to ask questions: why has the ship stopped?” she said. ...

More than 15 people onboard have serious chemical fuel burns requiring regular care, due to oil spills from the cheaply made rubber boats they travelled in from Libya. There are also a number of cases that require orthopaedic surgery.

Some of the passengers had to be resuscitated after almost drowning during a challenging overnight rescue operation on Saturday.

“They have sea water on their lungs … they’re stable right now, but it could change at any moment, and they would need assistance that we can’t provide on the boat,” said Russell.
So, seriously, do Strache and his Burschenscaften party have any actual solutions to refugee problems like this other than to bitch and moan about foreigners?

What do they suggest that Italy and/or Malta do with this boat? Just sink it? Let all the people on it drown? It's a serious question.

The new social-democratic Prime Minister of Spain has a more human response:

Demagogic anti-immigrant rhetoric leads to this eventually leads to callousness and brutality.

It always worth remembering in connection with news about the chronic refugee crisis in Europe that a major contributor, currently most likely the main cause, is the wars in the Greater Middle East the last two decades, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Yemen and Syria, mightily encouraged by the US and other NATO powers not just diplomatically but by direct intervention and massive arms sales to the belligerent parties. A war against Iran would add yet another major source of refugees.

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