Bryon Camilleri never lost sleep because I called him fascist. It’s not going to change now. And yet I feel that the moment his fascist speeches and his fascist conduct go unremarked will be the time when his creed wins.
Consider his remarks yesterday commenting about the draconian laws being introduced in Italy to discourage volunteers from rescuing people drowning in the Mediterranean Sea. He praised the rules underlining their alleged motivation: that the presence of boats operated by non-profit organisations in the water where African migrants risk drowning amounts, in and of itself, as an incentive for illegal migration.
You can spot a fascist argument from miles away even if it is not accompanied by ridiculous gesticulation and military uniforms. They defy logic, they are psychopathically insensitive, they are steeped in racial prejudice, and they replace a state’s obligation to provide security for the people living within its territory with a myth of exclusive territorial entitlement.
Saying that the presence of rescue boats in the Mediterranean Sea is an incentive to illegal migration is like saying the presence of ambulances is an incentive to jump in front of fast cars. Whether provided by ships along the way, or by specialist state or military resources, or by voluntary NGOs, rescue at sea is a worst-case scenario for the people needing it to avoid a watery grave.
Byron Camilleri is suggesting rescue boats are a means of transport, an element in the plan of travellers like the Gatwick Express is part of your plan to get to your meeting in Mayfair. If rescue boats were just another part of the journey, we’d be using them to cruise the Mediterranean instead of the floating megahotels of Costa and MSC.
It is pointless to remind Byron Camilleri of his claim to socialist thinking. But how do his supporters avoid seeing in these racist arguments the same right-wing logic of people who told them that free health care and sick leave payments was an incentive to get sick, social housing was an incentive to gamble and drink their salaries, and unemployment grants were an incentive to be lazy?
The response to this right-wing rhetoric has always been that people prefer to work rather than to get unemployment benefits and they prefer to work rather than stay at home sick.
Byron Camilleri said, rather obviously, that migrants should not have to resort to people traffickers to travel. Nobody disagrees, except the people traffickers. What is he doing about it, though? What means of safe travel is he (and the rest of Europe) providing to migrants wanting to get here that would remove their need of traffickers and, failing that, to be rescued from drowning by an NGO? Nothing at all.
Understand the implication of saying that rescue provided by volunteers amounts to an incentive to travel by boat by flipping that coin to its negative side. The absence of rescue boats is equivalent to death at sea. It is death at sea that Byron Camilleri presents as his deterrent to migration. Don’t come here or we’ll let you drown.
They will say that’s not what they’re doing. Instead they’re ringing up the Libyan coast guard so they fish the migrants out and drag them back there. Often drowning is preferable to that. Death is often sweeter than slavery. And even if it weren’t they had long before decided to risk their lives to reach their destination in Europe. A Libyan camp is hardly a consolation prize.
For a fascist it makes sense to threaten ‘outsiders’ with death or worse. Fascists have no consideration for the lives and wellbeing of others and in their mind the state is subject to no limitation in pursuit of its policies, of their policies.
Criminalising the civic initiative of volunteers who refuse to stand idly by as their governments allow human beings to drown is fascist. And Byron Camilleri approves.