Are You Syrious?
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Are You Syrious?

AYS Special from Europe: Top Picks from 2021

2021 is finally over and as we peer into 2022, our eyes screwed up against all the many potential difficulties and abuses of the year to come, we’d like to take a moment to look back on the stories we covered over the last 12 months. This journey has been written by collectives across Europe and has taken us through Turkey, Libya, the Med, Greece, Spain, Poland, Lithuania and Belarus, France and Italy, Denmark and the UK.

(Image Credit: By Miguel Morales Madrigal via Art Against)


Anti-refugee rhetoric and violence (August)

The main discourse regarding refugees in the media and by politicians is not based on why people have to come to Turkey or whether there is a safe country to which they can return. Instead, an attempt is made to create a perception that everyone who crosses the border is almost without exception a terrorist, that those who live here stay for arbitrary reasons and that they could return home if they wished to with no fear of persecution. by Dilan Taşdemir, General Coordinator of Media and Migration Association


Protests in Libya (December)

In Libya’s capital, thousands of people on the move are stranded in front of a UNHCR Centre with nowhere to go. For almost two months now, the UN’s principal mechanism for the concerns of refugees has been unwilling or unable to provide them with basic support. While the international community offers no alternative to the EU-backed Libyan detention system, a new political movement of people on the move is arising: those who have been subject to torture and detention for years are now organising to make their voices heard. As “Refugees in Libya”, they are mobilising, claiming their rights, and refuting the narratives that have been put forward about them. by AYS


In 2020, artist Banksy funded a ‘homemade’ rescue vessel in the Mediterranean. The vessel “is as agile as she is pink … She is captained and crewed by a team of rescue professionals drawn from across Europe. She runs on a flat hierarchy and a vegan diet.” Naming the vessel, the crew decided to pay tribute to one of the most famous and fearsome revolutionary women in modern history, a free woman who dedicated her whole life to fighting for the oppressed and for social revolution, and as a result was subjected to prison, deportation, exile and an attempt on her life, Louise Michel.

Too often, though, Louise Michel is still being reduced to an iconic and empty symbol of the Parisian Commune or to a ‘brave woman for her time’. More attention should be given to the depth and the modernity of her reflections, which invite us to refuse every type of domination, avoiding classifications and breaking free from discriminations — be those of race, gender, age or species.


The Aftermath of the Moria Fire (May)

Conflating crisis and emergency when talking about the fire ignores that it was both symbolic and symptomatic of a larger problem, shifts blame away from where it needs to be placed, and dilutes the nuance needed to process it all. By Rachel Sweren, AYS

New Prison Camps in Greece (September)

The long-announced MPRIC was officially inaugurated yesterday, Saturday, 18 September, on Samos — the first of the five Aegean islands where these facilities will become operational. The Samos MPRIC, entirely funded by the EU Commission, is located in Zervou, a far-removed area on the island. The camp is approximately seven km from the town of Vathy, a place on the island most of the people seeking asylum are familiar with, and five km away from Mytilinioi, the village closest to the new facility. The remote location of the camp also implies that the residents will be isolated from both local communities, external services and solidarity networks. by Samos Advocacy Collective

Cases of Criminalisation (October)

On 18 November the first trial will be held on Lesvos for Nassos Karakitsos, Sara Mardini and Sean Binder. They were originally arrested in 2018 and accused of people smuggling, money laundering, espionage and membership of a criminal organisation while working and volunteering with Emergency Response Centre International, ERCI. Twenty-one more people from other groups were also charged. by AYS


On the ground in Lithuania, Poland and Belarus (December)

This is an account of our time volunteering with a small NGO in Lithuania, providing humanitarian assistance to people who successfully made it out of the red zone and were stuck in the forest. The helpline was manned 24 hours by volunteers. Most of the distress calls that came through we could not help with as they were either still in Belarus or in the red zone. by Refugee Biryani and Bananas


Abriendo Fronteras in the Canary Islands (July)

This year so far over 2000 people have died trying to get to Spain, the same figure that died in all of 2020. This is an increase of 526%. 12,622 people survived the crossing only to be met by diabolical conditions and often deportation. In response to the high level of harm caused, Caravana Abriendo Fronteres organised a week of protest to make visible, denounce and combat migration policies. By AYS


On the Balkan Route: Bihac (September)

Beyond the improvement of hygienic conditions, bringing our mobile showers allows us to spend our time together with people on the move. We spend time together, have chapati and potatoes for lunch, drink tea, people tell their stories and we tell ours. We come back to each place every week, to maintain those ties which are necessary for building political and caring relationships. Without those, our activity would risk turning into an impersonal provision of services. All camps and squats are precarious and volatile, because everyone tries the game. Even so, some faces are now familiar. On 30 August, when members of our collective were in Trieste on their way home, we met those faces again. We also try to collect information on pushbacks and on police activity, to understand how to denounce the many abuses that take place along the routes. By Collettivo Rotte Balcaniche Alto Vicentino


Solidarity across the Alps (November)

The volunteer-run refuge in the Terrasses Solidaires building has been temporarily closed to new arrivals since 24 October, as for weeks it has hosted more than 200 people, while its capacity is 80, and neither security nor a dignified stay could be guaranteed any more. The refuge volunteers and other local activists demand that authorities finally take seriously their responsibilities to host people. By Briançon Solidarity


Women Without Rights (September)

…the Danish author and human rights activist AnneLise Marstrand-Jørgensen published on her Facebook wall five stories under the common headline “Women without Rights” (Kvinder uden rettigheder). The common theme and thread in these stories is the Danish asylum system and the practices and conditions for women who have had their residence permit revoked. By AYS


The Nationality and Borders Bill (August)

The recent history of the British political landscape has been characterised by a series of decisions that have contributed to widening socio-economic divisions and inequality. The Nationality and Borders Bill is no exception and has been brought in under the repeated ‘take back control’ mantra. Under the Brexit hangover, and still attempting to prove to the public that borders are the primary answer to the ills of the British people, the Conservative government has committed to the biggest overhaul of the immigration system in its history. Needless to say, this overhaul shows blatant disregard for the rights of people crossing borders and is dedicated instead to finding underhanded routes around international human rights legislation. By No Borders Manchester.

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