The March of Shame

They are people, like us.

They are young, they are old, they are men, women and children, they are lawyers or masons or doctors or barbers or plumbers or computer engineers. They are people, and they are coming.

Their countries fell apart, their houses were destroyed, their neighbours died. They lost friends and relatives, they lost their loved ones, they lost a limb. They fled. They took trucks or buses or cars or bicycles. They walked. They were smuggled, assaulted, abused, kidnapped on the way. They crossed a border, or two, or three. They were detained, arrested, beaten. They were parked in camps. They were told to live a life without a future, they were told to wait until their country is fixed, they were told to wait with no end in sight.

And then they came.

Of course they came.

They got on those rickety boats to cross the sea. Some of them were pushed back. Some of them sank and had to return to the coast. Some of them drowned. But they kept coming, and instead of greeting them with open arms, our governments screamed, “we’re being overrun!”

Yes, we’re being overrun. It was about time it happened.

Because as much as you expect people to stay put and die out of sight, out of mind, they have other plans for their life. As a matter of fact, they want a life worth living. And they are coming to get it.

They are coming. Get over it, Europe, they are coming. And if we still want to call ourselves people, if we still want to call ourselves human beings, we will not turn our backs on them, we will not tell them to go away, we will not let them sleep in the streets of our harbours, we will not brutalise them, we will not force them to crawl under our fences, we will not write numbers on their skin and we will not ship them off on trains to nowhere.

There’s a limit to how long you can stay behind the safety of your television screen with pictures of dead children and destroyed cities, and your only reaction is, “how sad”.

For them it’s beyond sad. They lost everything. Then they risked what little they had left to come, and they lost even more. ‘Sad’ doesn’t begin to describe that.

They are not swarms, they are not invaders, they are not quotas. They are people. They want a life, a life in safety, with a job, a home and a future for their children.  They are people, just like us.

They are people, and there’s no stopping that.

Today they are walking from Budapest to Vienna. Hundreds, maybe thousands of them, decided that they had enough of Viktor Orban’s nonsense, and when he wouldn’t re-establish the trains, they decided to walk. But these people are only the tip of the iceberg. Europe’s march of shame started thousands of kilometers away.

They are coming because of war, destruction, poverty, hopelessness. But this is a march of shame because we the people, we the European people, elected year after year leaders who don’t care about people but only about votes. And for years, despite our aging population, despite our immense wealth, despite all the good reasons for which we could open our borders, our leaders thought that pandering to the xenophobes was more important than helping people who have lost everything and that we could easily accommodate.

But they won’t wait anymore. They are coming, they are marching on Europe, and they are putting us to shame. For the young man in the picture below, the march of shame started when he pushed his grandmother’s wheelchair out of their family home and onto some road in Afghanistan. He has come thus far. Can anything stop him? Can he be made to go back?

They are coming. And now it is for us to greet them, to care for them, to give them safe passage, to help them build the home they have lost. Not because we are Europeans, not because we have values, not even because we are filthy rich. But because we must be people. Like them.

The title of this post was inspired from this tweet by @sesikar.

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Turkish Kurd asylum seeker abducted in Athens and handed over to Turkish authorities

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Posted by @IrateGreek

The Movement “Expel Racism” reported yesterday (01 June 2013) that, according to information given by the Turkish police to his lawyers and relatives, Bulut Yayla , a Turkish Kurd asylum seeker in Greece, is now in police custody in Turkey [Update: Lawyers for Refugees and Migrants’ Rights report that he was handed over to the police in Edirne. He is now held by the antiterrorism unit in Istanbul after being handed by his Greek-speaking kidnappers to another team that spoke both Greek and Turkish, and then to another that spoke Turkish and English.]. He was abducted in downtown Athens in the evening of 30 May by five men who dragged him in a car and had been unheard from since.

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Amnesty International: the situation of human rights in Greece is deteriorating

Posted by @IrateGreek

The Greek chapter of Amnesty International organized a press conference to present the organization’s annual report in front of the Aliens’ Department in Athens today. This symbolic choice reflects Amnesty’s key findings about the situation of human rights in Greece in 2013:

“Allegations of human rights abuses by police, including torture and excessive use of force continued throughout the year. Migrants and asylum seekers faced impediments in registering their asylum applications and were often detained in substandard conditions. Hate crime on the basis of race and ethnicity escalated dramatically.”

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14-year-old Ismael from Afghanistan, a victim of racist violence

14-year-old Ismael from Afghanistan was assaulted on Easter Monday in Athens by men in black who slashed his face with a broken bottle of beer. You can watch below his description of the attack in a video released by Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World) and read the English translation of the dialogue.

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