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.
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.
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.
We gladly got invited to share our experiences on hospitality and how refugees where and are received. It is an event this Thursday from 16:00 – 18:00 at the Global Lounge, a bookshop and café in the middle of the Radboud university campus.
‘Postcolonial Europe’ from our borderlands // mind map exhibition March 2016
Heumensoord: One year later. A lot of activities have taken place. Time for a knowledge exchange.
It’s organized by “the research hotspot GLOCAL“. This is a research initiative about fields of conflict, borders and development. It focuses on “transnational dimensions of ‘local’ problems related to socio-economic inequalities, (geo)political conflicts over resources”.
Sounds pretty academic- however, the talk is supposed to be a real sharing of experiences.
Apart form us, there will be:
Yannick: refugee, has lived on both the Dutch and German side of the border
Dieter Schalk: case manager at COA Nijmegen and Arnhem
Friedhelm Kahm: volunteer at Rundertisch, a citizen initiative supporting refugees in Kranenburg.
Huda Degu, who will moderate the conversation: part of University Asylum (Nijmegen Centre for Border Research).
There is also interaction planned with the audience. So, come, attend and bring in your experiences!
More info from the invite text via GLOCAL:
Not long after the refugee centre in Heumensoord was shut down, a new centre was created in Kranenburg, only 12 km’s away on the other side of the border. While the admittance of refugees is an ongoing source of public and academic debate, little attention has been paid to the possibilities for cross-border cooperation.
During this event, we will reflect on the admittance of refugees in our cross-border region and discuss the main challenges and chances. What went well? What went wrong? How can we learn from each other? In what ways can we benefit from cross-border cooperation?
The speakers are involved in these topics in very different ways and will share their personal experiences. There will also be room for the public to join the conversation. We will conclude with drinks and snacks prepared by our moderator and the refugee women group Inasako.
Back then when we sat down together for some tea and some free drawing, Heumensoord had existed for about three months. It was in the middle of the winter and people were insolated in a camp in the forest. We all rememeber how hard it was to even get there without a bike (an hour and a half walking from the city center).
The inhumane living conditions in the camp were later confirmed by the Nationale Ombudsman. The camp was closed earlier. However, does this mean that people will not be sent again to mass camps into isolation?
Jungles, borders, exclusion
Distances are so easily created and borders are so easily set up. Our map shows that a division takes place: On the one hand there is the city center and on the other hand, as if behind a wall, there is the jungle. The question arises of who actually has access to the city then?
All over Europe, currently there are camps popping up. Mass camps with disastrous living conditions. These “jungles” challenge our vision of the cities, they are a symbol of the excluded.
Exhibitions and discussion
CONTESTED_CITIES is an international interdisciplinary network of researchers from Europe and Latin America (Madrid, Leeds, Mexico City, Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, Quito and Rio de Janeiro). They research processes, consequences and resistance to neoliberal urban politics in Europe and Latin America. (via)
The conference opens up dialogue and discussion and has a special focus on visual material that will be presented alongside the talks.
The CONTESTED_CITIES CONFERENCE will be a forum of radical academics, practitioners and activists from different theoretical, disciplinary and geographical backgrounds coming together to probe the multiple forms of urban injustice that shape cities across the world. Cities have always been contested spaces in which struggles over different political visions of urban development, planning and life take place; yet urban contestation is increasing.
In recent years this has been manifested through austerity urbanism, crisis politics and processes of financialisation. Millions of urban citizens are experiencing dispossession, displacement and expulsion on a daily basis; their ‘right to the city’ has been denied by diverse forms of neoliberal and authoritarian urban governance.
At the same time there is growing global resistance and counter-strategies to these injustices, varying in form, scale and approach. The conference will develop counter-dialogues and perspectives, fighting against these injustices, in an attempt to think beyond neoliberalism. (via)
It is great that the Heumensoord-struggles find a place in this debate. Whoever goes to Madrid next Monday: Wouldn’t it be great to visit the conference and give us a shout out about it? We would like that!
Hello ladies, tomorrow we have another women’s day out! Or let’s say: we CELEBRATE another women’s day out!
Eating, chatting, dancing with women from all over the world- check the video and join in tomorrow at Hortus Nijmegen. Wanna help? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to all our supporters, namely Repowerparty for the bags with presents last time, Anushka Market and Meltem market!
For the month of March you can enter another borderland right in the middle of Radboud university grounds.
The Global Lounge, a place to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee in the book shop, becomes a place for a visual border study. On the walls you find photos of the US/ Mexican border. On the tables you get invited into mind maps about that border as well as a border experience that takes place in our direct surrounding.
Last week, the exhibition’s opening happened in the course of a Radboud Public Roundtable Discussion: ‘Postcolonial Europe’ from our borderlands. Academics, students and activists shared experiences. The discussion was incredibly rich and dense. We need more of that! More opportunities and more spaces!
It makes us happy to see such talks happening that open up a reflection zone for everyone. And it also makes us happy to see the maps exhibited. Go and have a look and tell us what you think!
Location: Roelant’s ‘Global Lounge’,
Thomas van Aquinostraat 1a, Nijmegen (inside Books by Roelants <http://www.roelants.nl>)
Radboud University, Nijmegen