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This Yes builds walls. This Yes is racist.

17. May 2022

Media release NoFrontex Referendum Committee of 15 May 22

With today’s vote, Switzerland is complicit in the death of and violence against tens of thousands of people. This is a great disappointment! But let us not forget: resistance against the deadly migration regime existed before the referendum and will continue to exist. As part of this, NoFrontex will also continue to campaign against Frontex and for freedom of movement. We ask the Swiss electorate: In view of the violence and misery at the Schengen external borders, how can you justify this Yes to Frontex expansion?

The NoFrontex referendum showed how Switzerland co-finances and co-administers Frontex. It brought Switzerland’s responsibility for the violence, misery and deaths at the external borders of the Schengen area to public attention. The revelations of the last few weeks underlined what has been in the air for a long time: Frontex does not rescue, but is complicit in the violence at Europe’s external borders. Frontex has no sea rescue ships in the Mediterranean, but observes from the air how people drown. Frontex systematically informs the so-called Libyan coast guard about boats that are sailing from Libya towards Italy. The coast guard intercepts refugees and forcibly returns them to Libya. A similar picture emerges in the Aegean: Frontex provides the Greek commandos with information on border crossings, which they use to enforce their violent pushback regime. Frontex is the backbone of this policy – the agency does not strengthen human rights, but considers migrants as a threat and wages a real war against migration. As a Frontex member, Switzerland is also complicit.

A referendum from below

Because neither the big parties nor the big migration/human rights organisations opposed the Frontex expansion, a referendum from below emerged. It was activists and grassroots organisations around the Migrant Solidarity Network who took up the referendum and carried it to the end – many of them excluded from the vote itself. As an extra-parliamentary, anti-racist movement, they made the referendum possible in an extraordinary final spurt and intervened in the political discourse over the last three months: numerous events, demonstrations and other actions took place. European supporters visited Switzerland and networks of resistance were strengthened both locally and nationally.

Review: Scandal after scandal around the European Border Agency

In the time between the handover of the referendum and the vote on Sunday, hardly two weeks passed without a new scandal about Frontex becoming public: Various media investigations prove that Frontex is systematically involved in pushbacks and deliberately conceals them. Legal complaints against Frontex are piling up, the EU Parliament voted against the discharge of the Frontex budget. On 29 April, Frontex head Fabrice Leggeri resigned.

At the same time, Frontex supporters continue to claim that the agency can be improved. But this is window dressing: not only the systematic human rights violations testify to this, but also a look at the planned expansion. The current reform has cemented the structural problems, the uncontrollability of Frontex and its lack of transparency, not improved them.

Frontex divides the world and hierarchises people

The concerns for national or European advantage fomented by the Yes camp today lead to the racist result that Frontex seeks to perpetuate inequalities between North and South with surveillance and violence. The Frontex expansion protects a colonial world order that violently discriminates against and disenfranchises people from outside Europe.

Current wars, but also climate change, economic crises and the ongoing pandemic require global solidarity and sustainable policies for all. Migration cannot be controlled with military isolation and Frontex – the last 20 years have shown that. It is time for a paradigm shift: the Frontex system has failed. Instead, what is needed is anti-racist dialogue, anti-colonial resistance and spaces of solidarity for relations at eye level.

The resistance continues. Migrant voices need to be heard.

Migration is a fact, not a threat. People will continue to leave countries and seek a perspective in Europe. At the same time, the struggle against the deadly EU migration regime also continues. The networking of numerous grassroots groups and organised collectives throughout Switzerland and beyond is an asset. Global and anti-colonial perspectives on migration became visible and gained new momentum. NoFrontex lives on at many levels: through critical exchange on freedom of movement, lived solidarity or organised anti-racist resistance.