Just another brick in the wall…

Rosa BadaWed, 11 May 2016Refugee protection

We are people in transit. Societies in transit, living this Age of Migration. Never before has moving from one place to another been so easy, both physically and virtually. People are always connected. The entire world is connected. Non-simultaneous realities coexist in the same time and place: thousands of people walking through Europe, crossing the sea in small boats while we record it all with our smartphones in real time.

Inequality is clearly separating us just as a fence would. Your luck and opportunities depend only on which side of the fence you were born on. Look at us, the ones on the ‘good’ side: we get scared as soon as we realise the walls are never tall enough, the seas never dangerous enough, distance never long enough for those people in danger. The moment you have nothing to lose you have everything to win: this is the energy that moves that nation of rootless people, dirty energy coming from the suffering, energy that never ends because it is driven by the hope of a better future.

The European Union is based on human rights. One common place, the dream of equality, freedom and solidarity. This is the vision of Europe. But the way forward is proving to be tough. We have increased equality, but clearly not enough because we are getting lost in discussions about who has the right to have rights. We forget that Europe is not isolated. The situation beyond our borders affects us all and we have responsibilities there too. We also have greater freedoms but not yet for everybody at the same level depending which ’minority’ you belong to: women, poor, ethnic, LGBTI, or having a different cultural or religious background… you will easily spend a lot of time giving explanations and fighting for your rights!!...and what about solidarity? We are so afraid to have all these new and miserable people knocking at our gates because we are afraid to lose the privileges that are built on their shoulders.  

We now feel in greater danger than we have felt since WWII. But we are at the same time more watched that at any time before, controlled through our devices, providing information about our interests, our favourite places, people, food… Big Data-Big Brother. We have the most sophisticated protection systems but we are scared about our vulnerability because we have a lot to lose. We also scared about the rapid changes we cannot control and digest. We see ourselves at the centre of the world, we talk about the million people arriving in Europe as the biggest refugee crisis in history. Yet we forget the 60 million settled in third countries or inside their own country after having to leave their homes running away from persecution and danger.

Europe does not understand there is no more ‘them’ and ‘us’: we are all ‘we’ and we are unwelcoming to our future neighbours, friends, sons-in-law, colleagues…How much indignity can somebody suffer? Why do we talk about ‘the refugee problem facing Europe’? It is not a problem for Europe: the problem is for the people escaping from violence and attacks on their human rights!! They are the ones having problems with this European wall from Calais to Ceuta to Lesbos…protecting us from the barbarians with a designed plan to destroy the European dream…but we do not really need help to destroy our common dream. The moment we lost our ethics, Europe started sinking with every man, woman and kid dying on our borders.

Memory is weak. We do not remember that we have been on the other side, and we could be again because history follows up in its own way. We are all linked. Perhaps we would rather be linked in on Facebook than in reality but we are in a chain. We often forget how many times we needed to be welcomed and how many open arms we met. Refugees and migrants have lots of things to offer and they do not only want to ‘receive’ help; they want to contribute and follow up with their own life project. How can we build a bigger Europe if we do not know how to develop the feelings of belonging to a community? How can someone get over the feeling of not being welcomed? Nobody will feel like being part of us if we cut their rights, if we cut their welcome conditions and the possibilities of being included in equality and with dignity.

Do you remember how you feel when you are welcomed? How do people receive you when you arrive at their place? Hugs, kisses, someone asking you how you are, how is your family, your work, your life…people smiling, opening their doors, offering you the best place, the best meals, the first cup of wine: people taking care of you, making you feel as comfortable as they can.

Last year, over a million of people arrived in Europe chasing a better life. The Great March from south to north is testing European democracies. Europe looks at the limits of solidarity between countries, the lack of respect for human rights, the rise of xenophobia and hate, and opportunities for populism. Why are we not all together making more noise because our governments are not facing the refugees crisis as you would expect from a democractic human rights-based system? Why do we accept delegating European borders to third countries without any human rights respect nor guarantees, cutting people’s right to asylum and the respect for their basic rights? What we are asking for: a real and common welcome policy or for technical decisions? Who is governing Europe and which principles inspire them? If policy is the art of making possible the impossible: European leaders have shown us they are good artists!!

For many people, bad news come from Europe. I imagine most of them feel like we are in the arena of a Roman circus, looking at the show and deciding thumbs up or down about their right to live. We need to change this message to them; we cannot help out with indignity and run away from human rights violations. We need to become a more decent and generous society.

The Spanish philosopher Maria Zambrano said ‘my exile has been my homeland’. Exile becomes a part of identity. It belongs to every person but everyone needs a tangible home to develop their potential too. Do we have place for all these futures, all these dreams and all these aspirations that are knocking at our door? Everyone is moved by several things to build a unique life: a family, one small ecosystem, a universal wish to do more and better things, and no person has the right to destroy it. Do not be yet another brick in the wall!

Rosa Bada is Director of the Bayt al-Thaqafa Foundation based in Barcelona that has been working with Arab Muslim migrants since 1974. 

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