On Monday, April 4th, the first 200 refugees were deported to Turkey. They were accused of having “illegally immigrated.” This is grotesque, what kind of law forbids people to survive? The refugees are people who have lost everything, who have literally walked for thousands of miles, crossed snowy mountain trails, hid in lorries, crossed the sea in tiny dinghies in cold and stormy weather. They survived circumstances that killed many others. Now they are detained and are waiting for their deportation to Turkey or even worse, their home countries.
Only Syrians have the chance to avoid deportation by applying asylum in Greece; a country that already struggles with 25% of unemployment and other effects of the economic crisis. How can this be called a “solution”?
The EU-Turkey deal on refugees is inhumane and violates international law. Taking into account that the Turkish government is brutally persecuting the Kurds, is expelling Syrian refugees back into war zones or shooting them at the border, Turkey cannot be referred to as a safe country. The deal does not serve the protection of refugees, but the protection from refugees. Europe is sealing itself off. Let’s not deceive ourselves. Closing the borders of Europe and reaching a momentary ceasefire in Syria won’t put an end to the refugee crisis—it was only removed from our immediate attention.
Where is the outcry of indignation in Europe? Millions of people took to the streets in southern Europe to fight the austerity measures. Except for Barcelona, where 15,000 people protested against the EU-Turkey deal, Europe’s streets remained silent. By putting this dirty deal into effect, the European Union loses its last remaining commitment to humaneness. Everybody knows that this is a crime against humanity, but people just let it happen. Western democracy whose very basis was the guarantee of human rights is currently step by step being transformed into an inhumane regime of violence. If we allow this dealing with refugees to continue, we must not be surprised once we are denied even basic rights in the future. All EU citizens are accomplices in this injustice, if they continue to stand by doing nothing. When injustice turns into law, resistance becomes a duty.
A prosperous continent of 500 million people must be able to integrate a few million newcomers in its midst, without losing its identity. The propaganda of mass media makes us believe refugees and the IS are the threat to Europe. In reality we learn by the Panama papers that it is not the refugees fleeing war but those super-rich evading billions from tax who threaten us. Even the Pope states that so long as we allow international arms deals, we will continue to have wars, and therefore more and more refugees.
There is no solution for the refugee crisis unless we dare to address the root causes of this historic migration. This, however, is only possible by introducing fundamental systemic change, because the refugees are a direct result of our economic system based on war and exploitation. The wealth and power on one side of the world is being paid for by the unspeakable suffering on the other side. Not only refugees are in dire need of a system change from the globalization of injustice into a globalization of humaneness, but also those who still believe to live in safe places of apparently eternal prosperity. In order to initiate such a shift, we need decentralized models in various places around the world, showing how people can live well and secure—sustainably, without exploitation, independence from the systems of global capitalism.
There is still a way to get there. The refugee crisis, like climate change and the economic crisis, is merely a symptom of our crisis of civilization. According to a NASA study, our entire industrial civilization is likely to collapse within the next two to three decades due to the environmental and social disasters that we ourselves have created. Already now, apocalypse is the reality countless people and animals face. According to UNHCR, there are 60 million refugees in the world—a number that won’t decrease, to the very contrary.
We could be the ones they are now deporting! The 12,000 people in Idomeni who stay out in the mud, without any prospects, without hope, protection, almost without any care—they could be us.
Now is the time to renew and deepen our “welcome”—not just as a gesture of charity, but as a way to collaborate with refugees on changing the destructive mechanisms of our civilization. Now it’s time to connect the “welcome” that our hearts wish to express with a strategy and a plan for the benefit of all.
There are examples for another way. One is Riace in Italy—in 1998, there was no social life in the Calabrian village of 2000 people; young people moved away and businesses collapsed. Then they integrated more than 200 stranded refugees. With their initiative Città Futura (City of the Future) the village has flourished ever since. Today, around 500 asylum seekers from Africa, Asia and Kurdistan live door to door with locals, working social and environmental jobs in the village; their children go to school. New craft businesses were opened. Wim Wenders, who filmed a documentary about Riace, said, “The true utopia is not the Fall of the Berlin Wall, but way people live together in Riace.”
Sure this did not happen without friction and conflicts, but it happened—to the benefit of both sides. There are dying villages all throughout Europe and people continue leaving the countryside for the urban centers. Thousands of such places could now be revitalized in cooperation with those refugees who are willing to start anew and to build a new home; given that the social and ecological knowledge necessary for this endeavor to succeed will be available.
The Portuguese government actively recruits refugees with agricultural knowledge to regenerate the sparsely populated Alentejo region, which is threatened by desertification. Imagine several countries come up with this idea. Imagine their projects are linked to training opportunities in permaculture and decentralized energy autonomy, with the emergence of an environmentally and socially responsible small-scale industry and the creation of jobs in many regions! Imagine that traditional and modern knowledge of ecological restoration and social sustainability will be integrated, applied and taught! Dying regions could thus really turn into flourishing landscapes.
In order for this dream to turn into reality, credible model are needed, like the one the “Blueprint” project is working on. The group recently met at the Peace Research Centre Tamera in Portugal. “Blueprint” consists of inventors, development workers, environmental visionaries, people with knowledge of community building, political activists, experts for energy autonomy and natural building. They all are involved in projects around the world; now they want to combine their work and their knowledge to holistic model projects for a post-capitalist and regenerative culture. In Tamera, they have found a community that has gathered skills on conflict resolution, communication and integration. The “Blueprint” team and many other professional development workers and volunteers from around the world are prepared to accompany the first models for collaboration and revitalization together with refugees.
A utopia? Too expensive?
We rather think the EU-Turkey deal was too expensive, financially, legally and in terms of human plight. However, models for decentralized sustainability will sustain themselves after a short time, its long-term effects will serve all—the refugees, the locals and nature.
Peace Meditation by Sabine Lichtenfels about the “Border in Idomeni”
More about Blueprint: s//www.tamera.org/project-g…/articles-project-groups/…/
More On Riace: //www.theguardian.com/…/12/italian-village-migrants-sea