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A strandon ott fekszik egy kisgyerek –

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A strandon ott fekszik egy kisgyerek –

Nem homokozgat, pancsolni se megy –

Nem épít várat, sem árkot köré –

A strandon ott fekszik egy kisgyerek.

Anyját és apját nem látni sehol –

Egy csöpp test, a víz partra vetette –

Gyengéden valaki kézbe vette –

Idegen az ország, idegen a kéz —

Gyengéden odébb letette –

Változik közben apály és dagály –

Az élet megy tovább, hallani –

De valami megváltozott –

Az édes kisgyerek már nem menekül –

De nem ment el nyomtalanul –

Kővé vált szívünkbe mart –

Mit szétrepeszt

A csillapíthatatlan

sikító fájdalom.

Marius Van den Berg  írta

Tapfer Klára fordította

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September 5th Keleti Station Budapest

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DSC_6054The situation is confused today.  At Keleti a board announced the departure of a train to Hegyeshalom at 18.10 which is about 5 kilometers from the Austrian border. The station staff at the platform said they had no instructions to prevent refugees from boarding.  Some Hungarian volunteers milled around with a sign announcing this train.  People seemed sceptical and seemed to be waiting for buses.  I say seemed because almost no one spoke anything but Arabic so it was very difficult to just ask people what they planned to do.  I found someone who spoke both Hungarian and Arabic and told her about the train but when she told some families around us, all expressed reluctance and diffidence.  At that point someone else said that the Austrians had closed their border so they were staying put.  DSC_6067

DSC_6064Members of Jobbik Youth (the Youth organisation of the extreme right party of that same name) were also hanging around taking photographs and being filmed.  I asked them why they were there and they said there had been a demonstration in front of the Interior Ministry that afternoon but when I pressed them for more, they said they were unwilling to talk and an older man appeared and he said that he should speak on their behalf.  He did not want to talk either saying that he didn’t think I would accurately report what he would say. The Jobbik website today proudly announces that they have succeeded in preventing the building of a transit camp in Budapest.  The solution they recommend is to spend money on buses to take them away.

Some refugees held up signs which had been handed out by Migrant aid, warning people against traffickers.

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Europe’s mishandling of the refugee crisis is fuelling racism written by Liz Fekete

August 27, 2015

Liz Fekete is the Executive Director of the Institute of Race Relations and Head of its European Research Programme

In observations made at a side-meeting of the 87th session of the Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD),[1] the IRR’s director warned that Europe’s mishandling of the refugee crisis is fuelling racism.

I want to talk about the immediate institutional crisis in the EU, as hostility grows towards a modest plan by the European Commission to relocate a little over 32,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy. The failure of the member states to rise to the humanitarian challenge posed by the boat people arriving via the Mediterranean Sea, the mean-spirited and positively hostile response of some governments, both national and regional, and the breakdown of solidarity between the receiving countries and their richer neighbours, has had consequences. These consequences need to be discussed in terms of cause and effect, in order to fully grasp the intersection between the breakdown of a humanitarian approach to asylum and the growth of racism.

migrant deaths in Europe

But I would first like to frame my points by making two short observations. First, failures in the institutional response should not blind us to the absolute heroism of ordinary people and over-stretched civil society actors such as Refugees Welcome (Germany), Caritas (Austria) and Migszol (Hungary) who are feeding, clothing and welcoming the new arrivals. Second, we must recognise that the current lack of political leadership, and the failure to find adequate and secure accommodation, is not something new. What I will describe serves merely as the top layer of an existing situation. Europe has fallen far short of providing a safe haven for displaced people, and deaths of migrants do not just occur in tragic circumstances at Europe’s borders. The fact that deaths inside accommodation or removal centres, or as the result of enforced destitution, are met with official indifference, suggests continuity with the moral inertia towards border deaths [2]. The Institute of Race Relations recently published an audit of 160 asylum-and immigration-related deaths within EU States between 2010 and 2015, 46 per cent of which were by suicide, as desperation reached epidemic proportions.

Scaremongering in the media

The roots of the current spate of attacks on migrant accommodation centres start with a scaremongering media discourse and equally irresponsible words from some politicians. Migrants are represented in the media as toxic waste, a dangerous mob, human flotsam, an unstoppable flood and a terrorist threat. In the UK, they have been compared with insects, through the use of inflammatory terms such as ‘swarms of people’ (British prime minister David Cameron) and ‘like cockroaches’ (Sun columnist, Katie Hopkins). The British foreign secretary, Philip Hammond singled out African ‘economic migrants’ in Calais, describing them as ‘marauding migrants’ ‘threatening our standard of living’ and opining that ‘Europe can’t protect itself, preserve its standard of living and social infrastructure if it has to absorb millions of migrants from Africa.’ (It’s also worth noting here that, in relation to Calais, there has been barely a flicker of concern about the fact that at least thirteen migrants, including two teenagers have died attempting to reach the UK since June.)

Spreading hostility not curbing it

The consequence of such scaremongering – which portrays migrants as a security threat – is that it has become much more difficult for electorates to understand why migrants take such a perilous journey, particularly if they hail from African countries, the problems of which are barely covered in the European press. In this climate, too many politicians are pandering to prejudice, acting for short-term self-interest, whipping up distrust, spreading hostility, not curbing it. fence imageUnless politicians at a national, local and regional level are encouraged to act responsibly, xenophobia will continue to be manipulated into something more sinister, and potentially deadly. France has sealed its Italian border at Ventimiglia, Hungary is constructing a wall at the border with Serbia (reportedly with the use of prison labour). The Czech interior ministry demands cultural compatibility of those relocated,[3] and the governor of Lombardy threatens to financially penalise northern Italian prefects who go along with the national relocation plan. Luigi Ammatuna, the mayor of the Sicilian port town of Pozzallo, in the Ragusa region, summed up the Italian North-South divide well when he said that the North’s anti-immigration stance was ‘spreading bad feeling’ about migrants across the entire country, adding that its leaders are ‘heartless’ and ‘selfish’ for not working with the government to solve the crisis. Meanwhile, the leader of the powerful Northern League, has declared that the ‘League is prepared to occupy every hotel, hostel, school or barracks intended for the alleged refugees’.

Anti-black racism, anti-multiculturalism

The first step is to end rhetoric which, in some countries, has now gone beyond anti-immigration into a wider anti-multiculturalism and a discourse with heavy overtones of anti-black racism. Here we can specifically identify the interventions of electoral extreme and far-right politicians. For example, the Finns Party – the second largest party in the Finnish parliament – has representatives such as Olli Immonen MP, who wrote on social media that he was ‘dreaming of a strong, brave nation that will defeat this nightmare called multiculturalism’.[4] And Marian Kotleba, the state governor of the Banská Bystrica region, told a rally of 8,000 people in Bratislava protesting against relocation of refugees, ‘I wish you a nice, white day … we are here to save Slovakia’.

Demonstrations and vigilante-style attacks

Such rhetoric encourages hostility at a local level, where examples abound of migrants, seeking safety, being greeted by hate-filled mobs. In Prague, anti-immigration demonstrators waved gallows and nooses, calling for the death of ‘traitors’, i.e. all those who support migrants. In Treviso, Italy, 100 migrants had to be evacuated from one town after two days of protests spearheaded by fascists from Casa Pound – and after the Northern League mayor for the Veneto region had called for the refugees to be cleared out of accommodation near tourist resorts, warning that the region was in danger of ‘Africanisation’. And in Germany, where attacks on refugee accommodation centres for 2015 – specifically arsons – now exceed that of the whole of 2014 (in turn, attacks in 2014 were up threefold from 2013), journalists and local politicians are now facing death threats and the car of one east German politician was blown up.

When politicians lead the way

While Germany has its protest movement, PEGIDA, hostile responses in other countries are led by politicians – in Hungary, by the prime minister,[5] and in others, such as Austria, where the Social Democrats in Burgenland have formed a coalition government with the extreme-right Freedom Party, by state governors and local mayors from both centre Left and centre Right. In Bavaria, the state premier Horst Seehofer has been accused by the Central Council of Jews of provoking hostility towards asylum seekers, and across the North of Italy, hostility has been fuelled by senior politicians in Liguria, Lombardy and Veneto. Other countries like the UK and Denmark have started to cut welfare payments to migrants, in a further lurch towards the nativist agenda of the anti-migration movements. The UK government, for example, has slashed asylum support payments and is proposing to withdraw automatic support for families whose claims are refused but who for legitimate reasons cannot return home – amounting to enforced destitution. And both Italy and the UK are attempting to drive those without papers out of private housing, by outsourcing immigration controls to landlords.

The danger is that xenophobia ‘from below’ will combine with structural neglect of human rights ‘from above’. This will result in a further deterioration of conditions (overcrowding, lack of health care) in reception and detention centres. ‘Fast-track procedures’ to speed up asylum claims will not only lead to grave injustices but more forcible deportations, which also claim lives, as we saw most recently in March 2015 in Sweden when an Iraqi asylum seeker suffocated during a deportation attempt, the seventeenth such deportation death in Europe since 1991.

Though there has been a huge drive by ordinary European citizens to welcome refugees, to take a stand for human dignity, another trend is undermining it. The truth is that we face the possibility of a perfect storm unless those in power take cognisance of their positive duty to combat racism, rather than fuel it.

Related links

IRR Report: Unwanted, Unnoticed: an audit of 160 asylum and immigration-related deaths in Europe

IRR News: Taking a stand for human dignity

IRR News: Landlord penalties and the right to housing

[1] The briefing by international experts on migration and racial discrimination, which took place at the UN Headquarters in Geneva on 14 August, was organised by the Global Migration Policy Associates (GMPA). Presentations were also made by Patrick Taran, President of GMPA, and Dr. John Wrench, formerly research director at the EU Fundamental Rights Agency. [2] For a full list of deaths at the border, see ‘The fatal consequences of Fortress Europe’. For more discussion of border deaths internationally, see the Border Crossing Observatory at Monash University, Australia. [3] A spokesperson for the Czech interior ministry said that the government will oppose the reallocation of migrants within the EU unless it can have a say in selecting those refugees ‘from countries in which we will be able to send our own people’. [4] In response, 15,000 people demonstrated their opposition in Helsinki, certainly the largest anti-racist mobilisation in recent times. [5] In early June, prime minister Viktor Orbán told the daily newspaper Napi Gazdasag that he wanted to protect the Hungarian people from ‘dying out’. He said he opposed a multicultural society brought about by immigration and that ‘We will do everything to save Hungary from that fate.’ The Hungarian government has also been criticised for its National Consultation on Immigration and for a series of advertising posters with slogans such as ‘If you come to Hungary, you can’t take jobs from the Hungarians!’, ‘If you come to Hungary, you have to respect our culture!’, ‘If you come to Hungary, you have to respect our laws!’

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

Liz Fekete has worked at IRR for 29 years. She writes and speaks extensively on aspects of contemporary racism, refugee rights, far-right extremism and Islamophobia across Europe and is author of A suitable enemy: racism, migration and Islamophobia in Europe and They Are Children Too: a study of Europe’s deportation policies. Liz was part of the CARF Collective, and an expert witness at the Basso Permanent People’s Tribunal on asylum and the World Tribunal on Iraq. She is currently an associate of the International State Crime Initiative at King’s College London. Her most recent project, Alternative Voices on Integration in Europe, foregrounded the work of youth groups and innovative anti-racist projects whose initiatives are largely ignored by the mainstream.

Liz Fekete can be contacted via her Assistant, Reem Abu-Hayyeh at reem@irr.org.uk

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The Child Lying On The Shore

Marius Van den Berg is an Dutch author of books and writings about grief and loss.  Below is the translation of his poem about Aydan, the three year old Syrian boy whose body washed ashore after the boat his family was fleeing in capsized.

See the small child lying on the shore?
Neither splashing water or playing with sand,
Neither building a castle or digging a hole.

See the small child lying on the shore?
Neither father or mother anywhere to be seen,
His little corpse just washed up here.

A gentle hand raised him up
A stranger’s hand in a strange land
A gentle hand bore him away

The tide ebbs and flows
Life goes on people say
But somehow now transformed

The darling child can no longer flee
That pretty child has left his mark
A small child has pierced our jaded hearts

Grief
Unquenchable pain
A bitter song wailed

Marius Van den Berg
translated by Terri Potoczna Fussen

 

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Bitter Lake – a retrospective on western involvement in Afghanistan

Thanks to James for the link – this is an excellent documentary film.  I have chosen the so called history teachers’ edit as I personally find it more straightforward. A history of Afghanistan since WWII, via Arab Israeli conflict, Cold War, Oil crisis and de-regulated banking, 1979 Soviet invasion, Islamic fundamentalism, 9/11, 2001 US/UK invasion, 2008 banking crisis and ISIS. Basically one man’s account of how we got to where we are now.

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Demonstration in Budapest: “Not in my name”

DSC_5991Parliament square Budapest was full of peaceful demonstrators expressing indignation at the government’s treatment of refugees.  An unimposing group of two Jobbik supporters sheepishly defended xenophobia.

By the way, here’s a true story:  On a train to Berlin there was a carriage containing a family of Syrian refugees, a Hungarian couple returning to their home in Berlin and a Hungarian man travelling alone.  The Hungarian couple who obviously lived in Germany were talking about how nice it had been to be back at home for the holidays but then started to complain about all the dreadful migrants spoiling their country.  The lone traveller suddenly spoke to them:

“No, they are refugees, you are the migrants.”

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Iceland’s Government say 50, Icelanders say 12,000

After the Icelandic government said they could take no more than 50 refugees, a Icelandic author and professor Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir has set up a facebook page calling on people to help.  So far, 12,000 have said they would open their homes.  They have posted their names, surnames and addresses on the FB page.

 

Thousands of Icelanders Volunteer to Take In Syrian Refugees More than 11,000 Icelanders have offered to take Syrian refugees into their homes

 

Icelanders call on government to take in more Syrian refugees | World news | The Guardian 12,000 in country, which currently accepts just 50 refugees, sign open letter with many saying they would house Syrians in their own homes

 

 

 

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Hungary’s refusal to let the refugees out sparks protests

 

Migrants stranded as Hungary bars them from rail station – BBC News Hundreds of migrants are stranded outside a major railway station in Budapest after police seal off the terminal to stop them travelling through the EU.

 

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Police reinforcements deployed at Keleti to prevent refugees entering the station

DSC_5878DSC_5877 copySyrian refugee child at Keleti last night. His family were happy to have their tickets and that they would soon be boarding the train. They did well to get away. This morning the government sent in police reinforcements to prevent refugees from even entering the station even though they had previously been allowed to purchase tickets. A loudspeaker announcement informed people that according to EU law, only those with valid Schengen visas would be allowed to travel. A complete U-turn.

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Refugees allowed to leave for Germany

DSC_5894At Keleti Station in Budapest this evening there was a crush as people tried to board the trains taking them to Germany.  The news that they would actually be allowed to get on trains had spread fast amongst refugees and there was a huge throng.  The mood was anxiously optimistic.  Many people tugged at my sleeve and asked me to photograph them in family groups.  Some people posed with their tickets, clearly relieved to be getting away from Hungary at last. A young Syrian spoke to me about the appalling and unsanitary conditions in the camp where he had not even been able to take a shower for seven days.  He was angry and said that he didn’t want any money from anyone, he just wanted to be treated like a human being and not an animal and to remember that he and others were fleeing a war.

 

 

 

 

 

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