In December 2015, the British street artist Banksy revealed an artwork in the refugee camp of Calais. The graffiti depicted the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs, with a black bin bag thrown over one shoulder, and meant to point out that Jobs was the son of a Syrian migrant who went to the United States after the second world war. More recently, Banksy criticised the use of teargas in “the Jungle” of Calais with a new artwork on the French embassy in London. The work depicted the young girl from Les Misérables with tears in her eyes.
Ai Weiwei, the Chinese artist and activist, also used art as a way to raise awareness. He recently recreated the image of Aylan Kurdi, the infant whose body was tragically washed up on a Turkish beach and who instantly became the symbol of the plight of refugees from Syria.
Tens of thousands of young adults are also unaccounted for. Very probably, most of those adults and children aren’t being trafficked, but are with friends and family, working as best as they can.
However, the chaos that the unpreparedness and ineptitude of European leaders created last year has pushed, for lack of trust, many young and adult migrants to shy away from authorities, which have therefore lost track of them. In effect, after having registered with Italian or Greek authorities, they have “disappeared” in order not to be on the radar screen while they are travelling further North in Europe to join with family or friends: otherwise they could be picked up by the authorities there, arrested, detained and sent back to Italy and Greece, which is not at all what they want.
”Denmark is poised to pass a law requiring newly arrived refugees to hand over valuables, including gold or jewelry, to help pay for the costs of lodging them. Under the proposal, asylum seekers who enter the country with more than 10,000 kroner, or about $1,450, in assets would have to help finance their stay.”
– The New York Times, Denmark Moves to Require Refugees to Hand Over Valuables
Isn’t this just outrageous? Will they collect those valuables in train stations, reminding us all of images from another era?
I would understand that, in resettlement cases, a proportionate financial contribution be expected from refugee families who can afford it (this could be assessed with the help of UNHCR). But taking from people who have risked so much and have little in the first place is beyond comprehension.
As a domino effect of border closures in Europe, Turkey, pressured by the European Union, is now applying visas to Syrian nationals, whom everyone knows are genuine refugees fleeing a bloody civil war and to whom Turkey will in effect never deliver visas. The consequences are immediate. Lebanon forcibly returns the refugees to Syria, in violation of the non-refoulement principle. This consequence was foreseeable and Turkey was fully aware of this: it too violated the non-refoulement principle “par ricochet”. Although neither country has any obligation under the 1951 Refugee Convention (Turkey has a geographical limitation and Lebanon hasn’t ratified it at all), the principle is now considered jus cogens.
European countries should also be held responsible: they count on such human rights violations by transit countries – which they pressure or financially induce into adopting repressive policies – to serve as deterrence for potential future migrants. The fact that this deterrence has never seemed to effectively materialise doesn’t seem to refrain Europe’s enthusiasm for proxy containment mechanisms.
”Since President François Hollande of France declared a state of emergency after the terrorist attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, more than 2,700 police raids have been carried out. They have yielded very little that can be linked to terrorism, but have traumatized citizens and left havoc in their wake.” – France’s Diminished Liberties, the New York Times
Institutionalised discrimination triggered by fear will have consequences in the psyche of all who live in France, foreigners and citizens. The lack of resilient human rights safeguards easily available to all against State-sponsored ethnic profiling and violence will resonate over several generations and instill enduring distrust of authority.