City of refugees

Anyone who is under the impression that the recent remarks from the Spanish government are just talk, is wrong.

Strolling along the beach in Barcelona, I came across a remarkable text, engraved in a marble column. It stated that the Mediterranean, once a meeting place for cultures and civilisation, is now a mass grave for thousands of people on the run. It also said that Barcelona will never stop offering them a legal and safe passage. ‘We are and will be a refuge city.’

It made my eyes well up. Yesterday, I felt completely different when I saw more degrading scenes of refugees in danger of drowning, being saved by aid organisations, only to then be rejected by the new ‘fresh’ regime in Italy. I have to say; the Italians have done a lot over the past few years. A humanity that went much further than just erecting a monument to welcome refugees. But the shortest and relatively safest route to the formerly idyllic island of Lampedusa now seems to be permanently closed.

And when I opened this morning’s newspaper, I felt even worse. The discussion merely seems to be about the best way to accommodate refugees to ensure we get rid of them again as quickly as possible. The Netherlands doesn’t house more than a few tens of thousands refugees out of the 65 million affected by war or hunger. We put them in camps, but if they run out of legal options, the government doesn’t even offer them the basics anymore (Fortunately, many municipalities couldn’t care less). The research agency of the Ministry of Justice just published a report about these doubly displaced refugees. In it, they conclude that the refugees would leave the country sooner if we provide them the bare minimum of food and accommodation. Migrants without residence permits can’t be chased away by kicking them out on the street or giving them a bare minimum of night shelter; no, chasing them away with a piece of bread and strict supervision by camp attendants will be much more effective. I can imagine that it would be, the average amount of human interaction in one of these camps isn’t anything to write home about. (Not withstanding the great work that many volunteers are doing there).

As you might have gotten from this, I am in favour of a study on the willingness of Dutch residents to take action like the Spanish did, in a smart and orderly fashion. In fact, I am sure that there are enough decent people here that want to extend a warm welcome to more refugees.



This post is also available in: Dutch

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