Bringing together researchers, practitioners and policy makers working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland
Defend your territory! Is this what we are witnessing here? Or is it an expression of everything people struggled against after 1945? Will Hungary cite Article 51 of the UN Charter next and deploy drones above its borders? Is this really protecting sovereign territory? Everything we are seeing unfold on the Hungarian border flies in the face of what ordinary decent people have built in the last 75 years.
And after this barbarity, the UN leader claims he is shocked. When do leaders of the ‘free’ world get a grip? When do we all start to see the violation of the Refugee Convention means something horrendous for us all? If the Secretary General cannot defend this Convention and call for an emergency session in the General Assembly (not just a gathering in Europe) then let him step down. Let him make way for someone who can defend ordinary humanity. We have enough bureaucrats. We now want creative human beings who are going to stand with the Syrians and say ‘enough!’
Centrist or center-right governments, which either sponsor austerity or approve of it, are everywhere in European cities at the present. The economic crisis of 2008 put them on the defensive. They have reacted in the only way that they know: attack the vulnerable and the weak, the foreign and the marginalized. In the Middle East the crisis was felt as everywhere else but with no labour movement and almost no democratic institutions, leaders like Gaddafi, Mubarak, Ben Ali and al-Assad thought they had a clear run at their own people. People thought otherwise. When citizens took to the streets in 2011 these murderers reacted as they have been reacting to democratic demands for years. Wars that followed have destroyed whole societies. The military, as in Egypt, just played for time. They stood in the wings, waiting for their opportunity. Liberals then made the call. As things became increasingly impossible, what were people to do? In huge numbers they went on the move. Since 2011 the situation has got progressively worse. Children are not getting innoculations for things like polio and they are not getting a chance to go to school. And we see the political Right waiting for their chance to capture the popular imagination with their uniforms and simplistic chants denouncing these people. None of this is new.
Look at the film at the top of this post and then the one accessed through this link.
Then amidst the madness that we are seeing, the international media step in to play their part. We might be reminded that in Egypt there is no media that is worthy of the name. Independent thought and careful reports are completely beyond the Egyptian media. The Egyptian tabloids and TV have taken over from Mubarak. So we get the dizzying announcement today that the Secretary General of the United Nations is shocked at the treatment of Syrian refugees. He is disturbed by what he is seeing on the Hungarian border. This means absolutely nothing. When does this man start stepping up the plate and defending the vulnerable? For the Hungarian police to fire tears gas on parents and young children trying to get to safety in Europe goes against every standard of Europe. We are watching Charters endorsed by the entire global community just disappear before our eyes and Ban Ki-moon announces that he is shocked. Has he suddenly become the Pope? Will he be next calling for Mass around the world? What situation does he understand Syrian children to be in after yesterdays attacks? Where does he think older Syrian couples go from here? Is Ban Ki-moon going to sponsor a help-line?
We now need meetings all over Europe. Trade unions and professional organizations, lawyers and doctors, academics and laborers. Let’s discuss the protections we have in place for the refugees. Let’s look at the resources we have and let’s discuss the job that needs to be done for our Syrian colleagues. Lets meet as artists, women’s groups, and just people who are concerned and start getting things moving. The reality of the situation is that we have no other options. We are seeing the world slip away from us. Problems are being shaped by the thinking of people who are of another reality. And at every opportunity it is that reality that will dumped on ordinary people everywhere.
Whilst in Athens this summer I stayed in an area of the city where the Fascist Golden Dawn could be seen on the streets at night. We had to have security men on the doors of the hotel all night. Fascist groups like this thrive on Ban Ki-moon’s indifference. We are in very dangerous times and if things are not to go completely pear shaped we need to move against everything going on in attacks on the vulnerable. The situation from this point on all over Europe will be exploited by the Right. Le Penn is saying little but you can guarantee she will be busy. It is not as though we do not know how all this fingering of the Other works with Fascist politics. In 2011 we saw the Egyptian state organized ‘thugs’ to take to the streets on camels, brutalizing young people, women and people of conscience so that they returned to their homes and left politics to the usual nutters. The state in various locations just wanted people to sit back and listen to military announcements on the TV so that the first stirrings of democracy could be be squashed in great cities like Cairo. We saw how leaders like Netanyahu and Putin joined other leaders in Paris after the Charlie Hebdo assassination. These people, the great protectors of human rights right now who endorse the horrors on the Hungarian border as simply ‘security’.
More than 20 years ago, when Europe created its community, the hope of people right across the continent was for a collective that put vulnerable people first. Indeed, it expressed at least the beginning of what people thought had to follow from two horrendous World Wars. We started to live with each others difference and Europe became the model for decent laws and decent living standards, with benefits going to the needy in our societies. Cameron is now all out to turn everything related to that project back. No doubt he will splutter a few well pronounced vowels from Downing Street about the situation in Hungary but this fellow knows who and what he protects. Like Blair, Cameron does not represent Europe. Blair was told to get lost on the Iraq war. The dishonest and delusional madness that Blair stood for have no part to play in a sane and civilized world. When leaders like Blair and Cameron refer to protections they mean that they want to protect their priviledges and nothing more. They want to keep ‘their’ country safe. We have seen repeatedly where this sort of thought leads. And meanwhile Ban Ki-moon tells the world he is shocked. Let him take his shock to the borders of Hungary so that he can experience something real for a change. Let him see what his pathetic quietism leads to because we are in a situation where standing back and watching the Syrians get hammered will produce policies that we have not seen for decades. But we have seen these forces before and so we should know exactly how this all plays out …
I apologize in advance if this blog reads as a rant but I have had with the Ban-Ki’s of this world who occupy top positions in organizations that should be able to influence the way things are going in episodes that we are seeing get progressively out of hand. Cameron and the new fellow on the front benches of the Opposition in Westminster, who sounds like a WEA tutor should also be given warning. No one cares about the old Labour / Conservative stuff anymore. We want leaders who represent what has not been corrupted by their world because the world just is not safe in the hands of these people. This is clear in the way the Syrian refugees have been treated, as the films on this blog show.
Keith Hammond is now working for a PhD in International Law. He is supervised in Glasgow by Professor Christian Tams and is focusing on representations of the Israel-Palestine conflict in International Law. The aim is to bring out representations that do not just lean towards the two-state solution. He thinks there can be other solutions. He can be contacted using the form below.