Hello Nijmegen. Would you like one of these amazing bags? They are made of lifejackets and create job opportunites for refugees and locals on Lesvos. Very good initiative against the waste problem on the island! Write us until Monday 08:00 am which one you’d like to buy, we pick them up at Mosaik Support Center and bring them on our way back to the Netherlands.
Did you avoid the heat during the last couple of days? Well, we didn’t. We were on fire preparing and running a party and dinner in De Grotebroek, the autonomous social center in Nijmegen. Last Saturday witnessed a blend of vegan gastronomic taste and DIY music entertainment with political activism. During eetcafe 50 people enjoyed 3-course meal including… Continue reading The party that rocked our world
Some friends from our justpeople collective are supporting at the greek border for a little over a month now. Laura gives a personal account of what is happening and what they have been doing on Lesvos. We’ve now been here for a month. With one month to go we arrived in the middle of the… Continue reading Eating together- Rare moments of freedom on Lesvos.
The wind gently sways the trees and evokes the voices of displaced people in the nature reserve Heumensoord near Nijmegen. A huge gap remains there now as if nothing significant has happened. However, Heumensoord is definitely not a blank spot in our collective mental map.
In 2015 a refugee camp was built in the middle of the forest. It was the largest emergency shelter in the Netherlands in decades. As the same time it brought about a massive network of support in Nijmegen and surroundings, mostly through informal and deregulated social organization, based upon humane urgency, interaction, volunteers and social media.
Our justPeople collective came together in this context, out of solidarity and mutual support. We are a dynamic group of international, young people who feel concerned with their living environment, in any geographic, social, informational and psychological sense.
In the following we wish to make a statement, as a response to the recent Dutch national elections, the developments of recent years, but even more so as a message to the future.
Our responsibility as humans is to counter the fragmentation of society in general, and especially segregation and racialization of refugees and migrants. We stand for solidarity and mutual aid, intercultural dialogue and respect. We stand for equality, regardless of gender or color. We do not wish to comfort ourselves through solutions that temporarily soothe us at the cost of those in need. We need our collective experiences in creating a sustainable future for us all. We are part of that, we are the future and the wind of change.
We feel statements made in such messages are far reaching and misleading, especially when displayed on an idealistic and progressive social platform. As a matter of fact, Geert Wilders’ party did win five seats, gaining 33% over the previous term. It’s perhaps a message of hope to some, a relief in comparison to the widespread fearful anticipation for worse, but we feel the sense of relief overrules the sense of urgency towards developments in recent years. It overrules the need for (self)empowerment. It overrules the silent acceptation of racist references, which have been increasingly dominating discourses in recent years, and are slowly slipped into lines of argumentations. It overrules the silent outcry of those in need who often have no voice and are silenced the moment cameras are absent. It overrules the state of the earth. Any such sense of relief soothes us with blind caps for the bigger processes in the world, persistently at the cost of others. This does not only apply to politics of migration, but rather to nearly all urgent themes of our current world: climate, education, information, health, injustice, suppression, slavery, etc.
We understand that the 2017 elections could have turned out somewhat worse. We understand there have been positive signs in the elections, such as the big turnout in general and by young people, and the relatively progressive voice of the newer generations. The green parties have increased substantially in size.
Yet it is important to make very clear that we have a long way to go. People are being suppressed, marginalized, manipulated and dehumanized from in- and outside of Dutch borders, consequential and regardless of Dutch or European policies. We are fed hate of the other, and try to use that to fix our own identity in place. A diluting and masking mechanism, considering that an identity is a process, rather than something static.
Policies made in recent years, such as those which have been dubiously called the ‘refugee deals’ with Turkey, Libya, Mali, Niger, have come from the same people who have now again won the 2017 Dutch elections. The deal that was made has always been controversial to some, but is also officially being contested more and more by large organizations such as Oxfam Novib & Stichting Vluchteling (link to article in Dutch). and academics throughout Europe because of its inhumane geopolitical game at the costs of those in dire need.
Currently the UN estimates, there are about 140 million people displaced in the world by the effects of climate change. They estimate this amount could increase to up to 300 million people in 2050. While our society is making noise to exclude migrants, the CO2 emissions in the Netherlands in 2016 by companies and industry have been the highest ever measured (link to Dutch article). Both policies and the neoliberal market are failing us and our world’s reality, and have been doing so for several decades already.
All the more reason to consider a new reality. A reality in which all kinds of people will be everywhere. A complex reality. A reality in which we urgently need to embrace necessary changes, a reality in which denial and separation are the disease, while collaboration and interaction are the cure. A reality forecast by inclusive initiatives and fathomable examples and development, where differences can be used to find similarities, and in which (social) development is a form of courage and perseverance. Migrants have always been treated as a security threat, it’s time to change this discourse into an inclusive, responsible and most importantly a self-critical notion. We need to look ahead and be brave and open towards a vulnerable future.
We also understand that the voice of many, in some cases represented by those voting for segregating and fear-dominant leadership, has been silent for years. We understand that the general discontent of people is a reason to vote for a fearful call for change, a reference to the familiar folk in a time where sense of direction is lacking. Changes are fast and decisions are made uninformed or undemocratic. We understand the sense of fear. We understand the impact of global decision making, mirroring a sense of powerlessness and shortsighted versions of diverse and complex realities. This sense of fear comes from a fear of losing the security of the livelihood of many.
But we cannot justify creating a common enemy. In the Netherlands, the euphemism of “participation society” has created a framework, where all our social networks and social safety nets are slowly taken away by use of the name of ‘efficiency’, guided by economic models and economically dominated rhetoric. We see it in the education system, housing possibilities, and in the health care system.
The housing market in the Netherlands has become increasingly privatized by neoliberal politics, which now results in refugees in need of new homes being portrayed as a direct competitor to the less wealthy people in the Netherlands. Fear is channeled into anger towards migrants, fueled by frantic media and politicians. justPeople opposes this. We channel the insecurity of the future into action; action to change our livelihoods into an inclusive society. Towards a society that we would like to live in, based on solidarity and mutual aid. We can come together, repair bikes together, share tea and knowledge.
We are not stating that we can fully change the world. As a matter of fact, collective development can only be carried on through personal experience, which is a matter of falling and rising within surroundings of reflectors. However, in all relative privilege we have, we can indeed create a good example, facilitate those reflectors to strive forward and use our means, networks and creativity for pragmatic development. These are similar means to the ones our parents used to create the social roots we do have.
We can make the world a better place only by taking initiative. On the streets, in social centers, in community shelters, in living rooms with friends and family, a better future is made. We cannot look up the hierarchically defined ladder, only to be disappointed time after time and give up, directing our frustration towards others near us, or anonymously depicted strangers who we project our own deficits on.
A better world starts with you and your network, no matter the results of any election. As it has always been, women’s rights, rights for people of color, rights for the LGTBI-Q community and rights for marginalized groups in general have been gained on streets, in social environments, and in reflection of experiences of those in need. We believe a common cause can be found in many of the issues in the world of today; we are all in need. Solutions are often not a one-size-fits-all, which is why solidarity and creativity are virtues that go through and beyond politics.
It takes courage to raise your voice and direct a clear “no” to racism, or any form of segregation. To direct a clear “yes” to inclusive solidarity initiatives and supportive communities.
We still have a long way to go and many lessons to be learned, but we look into the future with positive energy.
Do you feel inspired to make the Netherlands a better place for us all, despite the politicians in The Hague? Do you want to channel today’s insecurity into tomorrow’s better world? Check our projects where we build the future we want, without racism, without sexism, without racialization, with love, with solidarity and most importantly with positive energy.
Hundreds of refugees and other protesters sit down in front of the port of Mytilini, Lesvos, protesting against the conditions they are forced to live in and the policies that create this inhumane situation.
Read the protesters’ statement:
Read the protester’s statement:
“We have spoken, we have shouted, we have pleaded!”
Still we face imprisonment, deportation and inhumane treatment and an uncertain future. Months of waiting and suffering and still we wait for answers. We have come together to claim our rights!
The time is now for the world to see our struggle and to act. We cannot wait for more corrupt political decisions to decide our fate. We who have suffered in these conditions have united for freedom.
How much longer can we wait? Why are we kept prisoners on this island? Why are our voices being silenced? Whe are we being traded between Turkey and the Eu like slaves or cattle? Unity and numbers give us power! Our freedom has been taken, united we will take it back!
We are peacefully demonstrating today at the port of Mytilini because Eu policies have kept us prisoners on the island of Lesvos. Although we are in Greece, a false border between the mainland and the island has been erected and we have been trapped on the island for months. We are not free to come and go from Lesvs to Athens trough this port, which is Lesvos’s main contact point with Greece and the rest of Europe. We have fled wars and persecution, and yet we are being treated like criminals.
We have made recommendations to the EU and the European commission, but our letters remain unanswered, and our invitation for European leaders to visit us in Lesvos has been ignored. We are nonviolently resisting today so that the world can no longer ignore the situation in which we are being forced to live.
We thank the Greek people who are standing beside us today and in solidarity have supported our right to freedom and and to live in dignity in Europe.”
I am writing from Lesvos. The trip has started. I arrived here with my travel company a few days ago after a drive that took us a few days. The route: Netherlands-Germany-Austria-Slovenia-Croatia-Serbia-Bulgaria-Greece. Especially the borders Solvenia-Croatia (hello Schengen!) and Croatia-Serbia took a long time to get through as they checked every single car.
Now Lesvos. A lot of impressions. The most important thing I want to write about today is the unbearable waiting here on the island for a lot of people and why it is important to support activities, information spreading and autonomous living. I am gathering information slowly and trying to understand, however, I am not an expert and information is also ever changing and sometimes arbitrary, so excuse that if I cannot fully give facts always.
What is beauty without freedom?
First: Lesvos is beautiful. Paradoxically, you can easily be in the center of Mytilini,
the capital, sipping on your tasty cappuccino overlooking the crystal-shining water of the Aegean sea in the harbour. Sure though, if you look for it, you see the hardship, the camps, the poverty. Pretty Lesvos has turned into an island of detention.
Even the most beautiful place only remains beautiful, if you are free to leave.
For the vast majority of people who have fled their homelands, this is not the case. The EU-Turkey deal means for everyone: it’s complicated.
The good thing is that there are people who do care. People with European passports have given abandoned buildings a good use. They can house the ones in need.
There are some who go crazy in the detention center’s, namely Moria’s, conditions and therefore stay outside sometimes. Others have to be very wary not to be controlled by the police. As this can also mean just spending unclear amounts locked up at the police with your mobile phone taken from you. Those are the things I think of “how can this be?” And “isn’t there a law that keeps this from happening?”. Yet, these things do happen. And yes, people are simply deprived of their rights: The fair access to an asylum procedure and the protection of human dignity.
The waiting and the hopelessness
The horrible thing is that humans are left with no choice.
Being sent back to the home country means imprisonment. The EU-Turkey deal means de facto for everyone with the wrong passport (e.g Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and others) that they are either deported their home country or to Turkey. Both options mean imprisonment. Now imagine you worked for months and years in order to flee. You crossed the sea in one of these tiny boats. You’re happy not to have drowned.
Yet what then comes is waiting. With nothing to do. Some have been on the island for over a year. Reminds me of Heumensoord, Dutch emergency refugee camp, where we have already observed and accused this unbearable waiting with justPeople.
Even RTL, a not very critical TV station identifies their situation as an eternal waiting (in German). They underline the suffering. I usually don’t like the yellow-press-sensation vibe. In this case though, it’s true. It’s just the way it is. I met Samir from Afghanistan. He’s been here for months. Hanging around, waiting. I ask him if he likes sports. Me thinking “don’t give up, you must keep moving and starting with your body is the first thing you can do”. He just shakes his head. If he was somewhere else, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, places he dreams of, then yes: Football, the gym, tennis. His eyes are expressionless, almost empty. “Here, my head is crazy”, his hands in his hair. “I cannot sport”.
Fearing the black hole
Some still have a bit of hope for at least asylum in Greece. The rest of Europe is anyways closed for everyone apart from Syrians. However, even that is tricky: they are also first sent back to Turkey. There, the promised relocation to the rest of Europe is in fact not happening.
At the moment, 11 Syrian Kurds are on hunger strike since five days. They protest against the long waiting time (10 months) and inhumane conditions. They fear being deported back to Turkey. For Kurdish people this would definitely mean prosecution, imprisonment- I don’t want to imagine all the bad things this would mean. Deportation back to Turkey is what most people fear. From people from Bangladesh and Pakistan I have heard that they upon arrival are just arrested for an unclear amount of time to spend in prison. It’s like disappearing into a black hole.
Keep busy! Activists fight for dignity
What activists here on Lesvos try, is to bring back a little bit of dignity and choice to the ones trapped in this torturous fear and boredom-situation. That is why alternative living in abandoned houses is crucial: for the ones who cannot stand Moria anymore or fear deportation into misery. Cooking and sharing food, teaching each other languages, building DIY benches or making music are fun. And here they are essential to literally prevent craziness knocking on your mind’s door, that starts to get unsettled, living in such a vacuum, living in such a hopeless situation.
Autonomous living spaces fear eviction this week
The shelters of autonomous living are fearing eviction all the time. Now more than ever.
This upcoming week, the police plans and announces evictions and arrests. Being arrested is never a nice thing. But two things here make all of this tremendously worse: Firstly, here an arrest brings you into an uncertain state of imprisonment that is out of sight for a fair and humane treatment. Secondly, some people will just be deported to Turkey where things are far worse.
Cater for humane treatment first! Cater for human dignity, stop criminalizing and treating people as numbers that you can push back and forth. It’s a crime against humanity.
Protest against the eviction of autonomous living spaces!
For many people it is the only place with a shine of hope and dignity they have got.
JustPeople are organising a potluck picnic on April 15th at 2pm. The place is the Kronenburger park. Come and bring along some snacks,floormatts,blankets,cake,chips,dip whatever you’d like! Hope to see you there 🙂 FB event.
Alert Fund for Youth granted support for “Engage! Postcards from the border”! It is a pretty cool organization that promotes engaged, young and independent projects striving towards a more equal world. So, it’s justPeople and Alert teaming up, yay! Laura has been crowdfunding to buy a camera for this trip. About having found Alert as… Continue reading Alert supports activism documentary project in Greece and Nijmegen!