Sick of waiting — a new movement among volunteers and refugees

The night of June 27th was quite surprising for anyone who happened to be in Brussels. Something enchanting, fairytale-like happened in the center of the city — a large, giant puppet, a mannequin of a sort, came to life (animated by artists), and walked the streets.

Dundu (@dundu.eu), a gentle giant puppet is a ten years old art project from Stuttgart, Germany, animated by a group of artist. He is faceless, without any marking, any clothes, his body is very simple, but the interaction and message sent to a curious audience was delivered through motion, through his gestures, walk, nonverbal communication. It was preformed beautifully by “his” artists. He brought a lot of attention to himself, only to tell them one thing — he is sick of waiting. There is more behind those words than a common phrase.

Sick of waiting is a movement that brings together many NGOs, grassroot associations, volunteers who are repulsed and frustrated by the acting politics and treatment of refugees. A two-day event in Brussels that started off with an art project, had much deeper and serious topic. The brilliant combination of art and activism, followed by speeches, by presentations of various groups engaged in the refugee crisis, addressed very clearly where our government(s), our united Europe is failing, and why.

“We are all sick of waiting, refugees and volunteers alike” — this is a message that starts teh presentation, that exposes the betrayal, broken promises, neglect that lead into unspeakable tragedies and that took some lives of those trapped in Greece, on islands, in camps.

The demands of this group were very clear and simple:

— They are asking for instant and permanent relocation and resettlement of waiting refugees that was promised by the European Council in 2015.
 — A refugee status and permanent residency for those who are relocated in all EU countries;
 — To increase the number of those who can benefit from it; 
 — For families, a reunification that will not be prolonged and neglected through periods of time that might be fatal to their members;
 — Faster and more efficient ways of dealing with refugees issues;
 — Decriminalization of humanitarian work.

The presentations in the European Parliament took place on June 28th, in one of the conference halls. There was not a single person who was not affected by the disturbing reports on refugee treatment all over Europe. Heartbreaking videos, documentation of neglect, violence and deaths, highlighted the importance of immediate action and revision of our entire European politics. Very passionate speech, given by Mimi Hapig, from group “Soup and Socks” presented not only fact and statistics on poor performance of those in charge of the crisis, but gave names and faces to the victims, of those who suffered the most. The plan that the European comity has for refugees is not being preformed, it is slow, inefficient, it costs lives. Waiting is killing them. Family reunifications are prolonged, revised and brought to absurd while those who are waiting on it live separated for years. Family bonds between brothers and sisters are completely ignored in the process of reunification, and sometimes forces parents to separate, so they could provide care for all of their children. The conditions in which refugees are living while waiting are ignored, regardless of how bad they are. The health, age, invalidity of people is also not taken into consideration. One of the victims of this policy was among us, a refugee called Bassam Alrish, from Damascus, Syria, who told us his own story, his separation from his family, his frustration, how he is not able to help his father whose health is deteriorating by day, the horrible details of their lives in refugee camps… Stories were numerous, and very different, but all horrifying. Time is a key factor when it comes to providing necessary help for the refugees. There can’t be waiting, waiting kills. This was a clear message of every testimony we heard.

Gaëlle Gormley (Act For Ref) from Lyon, France, gave us a rather colorful picture of the lives of refugees once they reach their final destination — France, and all the difficulties and struggles they have to endure. The process of getting the status of the refugee is long and painful, but once you have it, different kind of problems rise.

Maria Penalosa and Berta de la Dehesa, both representing the movement Sick of Waiting, promised a lot more actions, a lot more engagement to reach the goals, to change the current neglect of the refugees. They announced the next gathering in Athens, Greece, next September. You can find more on their web page: https://www.sickofwaiting.org

This small group of engaged and very brave people dared to address the incompetence and cruelty of the existing practice. They dared to show videos and stories, in the European parliament, that testify and document abuse of the refugees:

- the recorded conversation between Italian coast guard and refugees on a sinking boat, where they are begging for help and the only answer they got from Italian autorities was “call Malta”, and that resulted with the death of 34 people;

- the testimony of refugees, a young Syrian woman who is addressing the EU from a rat infested camp in Greece, explaining the violence and illnesses in the camp;

- a video from the Balkans, where there are well organized group who are hunting refugees like animals, using all the esthetic and machoism from action movies, beating them if and when caught;

- heartbreaking stories of separated families, who can’t even spend their last moment with their loved ones;

- deaths, suicides, murders, abuse…

In addition to the shock given by all these grim reports and testimonies from people who witnessed it daily on the ground as volunteers, and from those who experience it themselves, this presentation also gave a great picture of the international network of organisations and collectives doing its best to improve the situation.

Networking, partnering for more efficiency, joining forces to demand more humanity for refugees and better respect of their rights is the only way to one day, manage to make the world finally take the right direction, to one of global friendship and solidarity.

This kind of cooperation and unity gives us all not only hope, but an example of how to act in the refugee crisis with our own forces.
The intention of this gathering at the European parliament was to present the critical situation to any deputy of the European Parliament willing to attend (they were all sent an invite to join a few weeks ago) and later, to meet with Giulio Di Blasi, in charge of migration and asylum at the cabinet of Federica Mogherini but he cancelled at the last moment, thus avoiding to meet and confront the activist, to hear their presentation and demands.

Ironically, they kept them waiting, and then never showed up.

The next gatering is scheduled for September 30th, in Athens. They will continue to fight for the right of refugees, or to put it more accurately — for their lives, for their existence.

Europe needs to change its policy ASAP, and we all need to become aware of the fatalities that are caused by the lack of efficiency so far. 
I would like to invite you all to join them, on September 30th, and contribute to this movement. 
#sickofwaiting

Paris, July 7th, 2017. Refugees at Porte de la Chapelle, waiting for an evacuation
Brussels, June 27th, 2017. #sickofwaiting
Brussels, June 27th, 2017. #sickofwaiting
Brussels, June 27th, 2017. #sickofwaiting