In the last two years, nearly 1.5 million refugees have reached the European Union via the Mediterranean Sea, fleeing war and terror and seeking to re-establish their lives in a safe place.
If the closure of the Balkan route and the implementation to the EU-Turkey have engendered a sharp decline in the number of arrivals through the Aegean Sea, it also led to a bottleneck for thousands of refugees stranded in Greece in dreadful conditions.
At these times of upcoming elections in several EU member countries, it is necessary to remind again and again that behind these dizzying numbers, there are actually real lives at stake, real stories of men, women and children attempting a dangerous journey to flee persecution and seek protection.
The debate of whether Fortress Europe should keep on doing its best to keep refugees out will not be won by figures and statistics. None of these new record numbers of victims drowning, none of these economic studies showing the benefit of integrating refugees in our societies, none of these percentages showing how ridiculously tiny is the fraction of the world’s refugee population actually reaching Europe will change public opinion.
Kawa and his family are one of these intangible numbers that lost the lottery of life.
He wished to put a face on a statistic, a voice on a case number through what he actually does the best: Drawing; not only to share his own story by also to give the world a glimpse of his talent. Through his art, he tried to regain his humanity, that has been consigned to the status of simple statistics, and to visually raise public awareness.
Europe has failed in treating people seeking asylum as human beings rather than case numbers, striping humanity and dignity from them. Europe turned lives into abstract numbers hard to grasp by civil societies’ empathy, leading to indifference to the distress of others. And the price of this carelessness is death, in all its forms, drowning deep at the bottom of the sea or suffocating in the back of a truck, if not under the bombs back home, sweat home.
KHALLAS! Enough! It is more than time for European States to secure safe pathways for people seeking refuge. It is more than time for EU members to come up with dignifying asylum processes. It is high time for our societies to engage in supporting refugees to bring in their skills and their cultural richness, so that they fully contribute and integrate in their host societies. It is big time for us to pressure our elected politicians to get involved in geopolitical solutions so that human beings are not obliged to flee their home and risk their lives.
Amira Belhaj Soulami, Soup & Socks e.V.