We are all Refugees

by Sasha Volkoff, Pressenza Hong Kong, 03.10.2015 
We are all refugees

At the end of the day, we are all refugees
looking to return to a mythical and original lost paradise.  If we are
persistent, there will be no walls or barriers or tricks to stop us in
our path.
2015 is turning into an especially difficult year for Europe.
Difficulties started around the world in the year 2007 with the United
States economic “crisis”.  But this year we have seen the first six
months marked by the Greek tragedy which, if it wasn’t for the hardships
born by the people of Greece, would not be just an absurd piece of
theatre with the soulless Troika and European Commission blackmailing
the Syriza government in the worst possible way.  There is little to add
to what everyone has seen.  A couple of months since the matter was
front-page news, I have the sensation that the behaviour of European
governments has been riding among the surreal characters of Fellini and
Ford Coppola’s mafia bosses.  Neither Mastroianni or Brando could have
done it better.

If anyone would have believed that Tsipras’s acceptance – without
conviction – of the Troika’s memorandum would have put an end to this
great turbulence, the drama of refugees from Syria and other countries
started.  Once again, more and more European meetings at the highest
level, and once again – with permission of the poor refugees –
government behaviour that goes from Hans Christian Andersen’s “the
Emperor’s New Clothes” in the best of cases, to the character of Eli
Wallach in “The Magnificent Seven”: the mixture of an idiot who believes
that he is keeping up appearances, and a miserable person without
scruples who will do anything as long as he gets what he wants.
I believe that enough has been explained about the people fleeing
from Syria because of war, and that this war that started just over four
years ago has been stirred up from the beginning by NATO.  In other
words, countries such as Hungary and Croatia have helped to stir up a
war in Syria and now they run away from having to welcome, or at least
help, the damned.  Not only have their houses been bombed but then they
find the borders closed in their faces.  Of course, neither Hungary nor
Croatia decided to militarily support the Syrian rebels of their own
accord, but they, together with other countries such as Spain, France,
Germany and many more, participate in a US-led military structure that
has actively supported, supplied weapons and bombed directly on the
ground, those who have risen up in arms against the Assad government.
So, European governments cannot turn their backs on their
responsibility in this case.  Of course every country has the
responsibility to help refugees as best they can, and in fact countries
on the periphery have been looking after these refugees for years; the
result of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, to name a few of the
biggest.  However, no one thanks them publicly for the work done by
nations that count on much fewer resources than Europeans, given that
the latter have a greater responsibility as a result of their
participation in NATO.
What is a refugee?  There is not one single answer to this question;
the UNHCR gives the official definition as the biggest international
organisation specialising in this subject, although other definitions
can be found that are acceptable: Humanitarian asylum is the practice by
certain countries of accepting immigrants on their soil who have been
obliged to abandon their country of origin due to the dangers they face
including; racial, religious or civil war, natural disasters, etc. 
Refugees are forced to flee because they don’t have sufficient
protection of the government of their own country.
In our case, being generous in our definition, we would say that a
refugee is someone who leaves their place (country, region, etc.)
because they find the future closed there, and decides to try and open
the future in another place.  So the majority of current emigrants could
be considered refugees, as they aren’t moving because they chose to,
but because they are obliged to.
In my case, the parents of my grandparents decided to leave Russia
when the civil war started in the first years after the Bolshevik
Revolution of 1917. My grandparents, born in Russia, grew up moving
between European and neighbouring countries.  So my mother was born in
Serbia and my father in Lebanon, although brought up in Germany and
Austria respectively.  Shortly after the end of the Second World War,
towards 1950, my grandparents decided to immigrate to Argentina with my
parents still young.  I was born in Argentina, and just over 20 years
later I came to Europe.  Here, more precisely in Barcelona, I had a
daughter who is the fourth consecutive generation born in a different
country.  Both my parents and grandparents were considered refugees by
the UNHCR in that moment (in fact this organisation was born as a
response to the migration crisis after the Second World War) and they
were welcomed without problems by Argentina.  I come from a family of
refugees who were well received in their destination country.
Although there have been large migrations for thousands of years in
which entire nations have moved from one part of the planet to found new
communities somewhere else, in the 20th century it started
to be something more frequent to be a long-distant migrant.  Towards the
end of the last century, thanks to progress in transport, and after the
year 2000, to move around the planet has become relatively easy.  If to
this we add the advance of economic globalisation and
telecommunications, it is logical and expected that migration will
increase.  The response by governments to this growing phenomenon has
been to put in place more obstacles at the borders (with the exception
of the Schengen Agreement between some European countries that is
currently under threat).  So, while it gets easier for money to
circulate around the planet, for the benefit of those who have or who
manage the most money, the difficulties for people to move increases.
Right now, the great migratory drama is to be found in south-east
Europe.  Contrary to what is assumed, refugees can enter with relative
ease into Europe from Turkey, but in the countries of eastern European
to the north of Greece things start to get complicated.  Hungary has
championed the path of immigrant rejection, seconded with less fuss but
just as much by Croatia and Slovenia; these three countries are stepping
stones towards the sought-after Germany, and to a lesser degree,
Austria, Scandinavia, etc.
Contrary to what has happened with the European political crisis in
Greece, this time Germany is not championing the soulless, but rather
their position has been quite reasonable.  Of course this position is
largely due to the need for foreign labour which can be well covered by
refugees from the current wave as among them are many professionals. 
But even so, for once we must be grateful that Mrs Merkel isn’t acting
as the Iron Chancellor.  In any case, if the massive influx of refugees
were taking place on the Spanish coast, surely Spain would be acting
like the hysterical Hungarian Prime Minister, Victor Orban, and the same
could be said of many European countries from east to west.
The problem of Syrian refugees is current – at this point it is
necessary to note that if for Europeans it’s a problem, it’s difficult
to imagine how the poor victims looking for a place to settle are
experiencing it –, but the aforementioned response of governments is
unfortunately already very old.  To the traditional rejection of
something strange, coming from the darkest times of human history,
something still upheld today in many people of Europe and other places,
we can add the enormous distances in terms of quality of life between
rich and poor countries, a distance that has been widening in the last
three decades thanks to neoliberal policies that have been applied
almost everywhere around the world.  And as if this wasn’t enough, given
that one of the results of these policies is an increase in
unemployment, without a solution in sight – and exacerbated in countries
like Spain – and given that this unemployment has grown in inverse
proportion to the quality of life of the population since the crisis of
2007, rejection of “competitors” is even greater in certain sectors of
the population.  It’s the classic struggle among the poor; driven by the
media at the service of big capital which, once again, ends up being
the sole beneficiary with their typically characteristic short-termism,
of course.
At this point, while thinking about an appropriate end for the article, I realise that the response by the majority of governments of civilised Europe is of such a miserable level
that there are no words to express it.  The mere fact that we must
write about this situation is already a sign of the total failure of
supposed European civilisation that they’ve tried to impose on the rest
of the world under the guise of polite manners.  Are there still
individuals on this small planet who don’t realise that we are still
talking about human beings?  People who have been born as children,
grown up as best they could, with suffering but also joy?  People who
may have some inappropriate behaviour but also big dreams?  People who
aspire to be happy if they can, just like anyone of us?  How have we
tricked ourselves to believe that the happiness of some is opposed to
the happiness of others?  Will we never grow up…?
So, what do we have to do?  We must appeal to the best of human
beings, to something that in the darkest moments has saved us from total
disaster, an empathy with others that has been called brotherhood,
solidarity, camaraderie and fraternity in different moments of history. 
Whatever we call it: when people are capable of recognising themselves in others the barriers break. 
“Competitors” stop being so, people open their houses if they can, and
put the best of themselves to help those who need it.  Today it’s the
refugees, tomorrow it could be others, even us…
It’s already happening.  In the current refugee crisis, while some
erect barriers, others open their doors and hearts.  Although the
provisional triumph seems to be of the former, it always ends up being
the latter, those who are supported by something bigger, something that
surpasses us as individuals, something that drives us from the past and
draws us towards the future.  This thing that humanises us, makes us
grown within, makes us be better people.
A few months ago when a criminal attack took the lives of a few
journalists, many people said, “Je suis Charlie.”  Today we can say,
“I’m a refugee”, “We are all refugees”.  Although it may seem that we
are different, let us not be deceived by appearances.  We are a single
heart, beating in unison.