Global Solidarity With The Refugees

By Yazan Al-Saadi & Elia El Khazen

al-Manshour

We know all the numbers that need to be known.

We are aware of all the ratios of refugees to citizens in every country, from Lebanon to the UK, Libya to Greece, Macedonia to Canada.

We have seen all of the ruling class directly blame the refugees for their own policies’ shortcomings. The “refugee crisis” they insultingly call it, as if these desperate men, women, children and elderly were but a oncoming storm or a swarm of locus, an act of nature.

We have seen them channel the legitimate anger of workers towards acts of islamophobia, racism and petty nationalism, blaming the “other” for what neoliberalism’s destruction, gleefly utilized by legions of ruling elites, have brought onto us.

We have stood firm against the attempt of many authorities, and their ilk, to smear refugees entering various countries, describing them as an “invasion”. This label in particular is especially revolting when it in fact was various forms of historical and contemporary invasions, instigated, armed and politically covered by our own countries, that are why refugees were, and to continue to be, fleeing from their homes.

We have witnessed respective governments launch grenades and tear gas, fire rubber bullets and live rounds at refugees. We have witnessed these authorities watch silently as refugees helplessly sank in their boats, or cornered the refugees in pathetic ‘reception centers’ encircled by barbwire and are checkpoints. Any parallels with concentration camps arising from these scenes are clearly excused and to be expected.

These authorities have unashamedly denied paperwork, basic rights and services, affronted human dignity by their common use of torture, detention without trial, murder by negligence, and their constant vomiting of absolute hate against vulnerable refugees.

Our own government in Lebanon has gone even further by implementing a sponsorship system in which visa is only granted if tied to a property owning Lebanese citizen. Syrian refugees registered by UNHCR are forced to sign pledges not to work and to return to Syria when their expensive permits expire or when the Lebanese government demands it. Syrian refugees, and other so-called foreigners of the lower class, are subjected to illegal curfews that pepper the most affluent quarters of the country. These classist measures will only serve to compound abuses that are already burdening refugee communities.

As the Balkan route has been shut to more than 40,000 refugees and rendered their lives similar to the wretched squalor of Calais refugee camps in France, over a million refugees in Lebanon live under equally dire conditions every day. Already, as various reports have shown, the restrictive system has caused over 70 percent of Syrian refugees to fall below the poverty line. Many of them work in dangerous conditions for mediocre pay, with little to no benefits or legal protections, and they are in constant threat of arrest. Large numbers of Syrian refugees are trapped in a cycle of debt and indentured servitude, in addition to suffering from daily emotional, sexual, and physical abuses, in a nation that does not allow them free mobility within its borders.

Ultimately, the Syrian refugees are being punished for the Syrian revolution, an uprising that has captivated the world and polarized most of the ideological Left.

The traditional and Stalinist Left, both in the Arab world and in the West, have helped carry the message of Bashar el-Assad, which demonized courageous Syrian communities who rose up against his brutal and illegitimate regime. The echo his claims of a “security threat”, while others have repeated the horrendous discourse that these refugees are a ‘weapon’ in the hands of armed groups. While there are many different groups to blame, it is the Left, especially, that have made these refugees easy pray for neighboring and Western governments to ostracize, marginalize and exploit in the most offensive and inhuman ways.

This xenophobic discourse has also encouraged distracting competition between migrant workers and local workers, who are tricked into clashes with each other over mere scraps that fall off the ruling class’s bountiful table. In such a time, when the Leftist solidarity is needed most with the refugees, many of its members have betrayed the inherent principles under the justification of pragmatism and political allegiances. They can defend themselves in whatever way they think fit, but the fact of the matter remains: they are useful idiots for power-holders of today’s status quo.

A plethora of iNGOs and local NGOs are also partners in enabling this grotesque state of affairs, in which their actions have permitted the ruling class to reap the benefits of the absence of local states when it comes to services. INGOs and NGOs mainly turn a blind eye as oppression remains supreme, and only seek to offer cold comforts and small bandages to deep, deep wounds. For these organizations, it is the donor that is the priority rather than the refugees.

In the new chapter of the War on Refugees, the Lebanese government, along with its Turkish and Greek counterparts, have signed on to be foot-soldiers at the gateway to “Fortress Europe”. These ‘minions’ of the European strongholds are guilty of crackdowns on refugees merely to appease ridiculous European notions of “the spillover effect” of the Syrian revolution that threaten their tightly-held shores.

This is essentially why governmental aid are tied to magnitude of crackdowns, the ferociousness of security batons cracking skulls, and the containment of refugees in the not Western, ‘Global South’ parts of the world. The politicization of aid is but one cog in this dark machine. It will only result in the creation and furthering of more and more informal, abusive conditions for refugees, for children, for countless men and women.

For all these reasons and so much more, this Saturday is the first time since last year, when refugees stubbornly and rightly broke through Europe’s ever-expanding walls, that mass movements across 15 European countries along with Lebanon and Australia have coordinated various demonstrations to show solidarity with refugees in all places.

Join our call for solidarity. Organize in your city against the oppression, crackdown and scapegoating of refugees by your authorities. Challenge discrimination in all its forms.

Only solidarity prevails in the face of xenophobia, islamophobia, racism, sexism and classism.

Long live the refugee, the 21st century’s vanguard, who challenges the tapestry of repression by simple acts, and by their very humble existence.

Refugees of the world, we are with you. Refugees of the world, unite.

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In Istanbul, Meeting The Iraqis About to Take Illegal Route Into Europe

Nawzat Shamdeen (Niqash)
During a visit to Istanbul’s “small city of Arabs” neighbourhood, NIQASH’s correspondent meets three friends who fled Islamic State-controlled Mosul and who are about to try to get to Europe, to seek asylum.
6.01.2016  |  Istanbul

As the day surrenders to darkness, Aksaray Square in the Turkish capital city, Istanbul, becomes a launchpad for the dreams of hundreds of Iraqis and Syrians desperately seeking a better life in Europe. The neighbourhood of Aksaray – or the small city of Arabs, as Turkish locals call it – looks like any busy neighbourhood in Baghdad or Damascus, with its cheap cafes and hotels filled with Arabs. And it is there that people smugglers meet with their clients to negotiate fares, and from there too, that would-be refugees are taken to the coast in order to make the illegal and perilous sea crossing to European shores.

I met there with three young men originally from the city of Mosul in northern Iraq; Mosul was taken over by the extremist group known as the Islamic State in June 2014 and has been controlled by the group ever since. Life is not good for residents of Mosul who don’t agree with the draconian philosophy of the Islamic State, or IS, group and many locals have tried to escape. These three young men are among them and one of them is a friend, a journalist named Abdul Muhaymin Bassel. When we met, the trio had already negotiated with a Syrian people smuggler and were supposed to meet him near the train station in Aksaray Square.

“From death…to death,” Abdul called to me, joking as he climbed aboard.

The people smuggler had told them to buy life jackets, rain coats and to carry only a small sports bag of their belongings. These are the only things allowed on the boats that will be used to carry them from Turkey to Greece. The items are sold everywhere here, with pictures displayed on signs outside dozens of small shops in lanes around Aksaray Square.

The people smuggler’s name is Tariq and he is in his late thirties. By the time he meets my friends, he has collected all of his clients for this journey after making a series of telephone calls. He left nine of them, including the three from Mosul, standing in the Square while another five were taken to an empty space underneath a bridge where he negotiated payment and departure dates in relative privacy. Prices are set by Tariq, who is successful, a big name in local smuggling circles, and non-negotiable – it costs US$1,300 for the trip and this includes the bus to the coast. Other people smugglers charge more per person – between US$2,500 and US$3,000 – and they say the would-be migrants will cross on a bigger boat. But this can often be a more complex process as the bigger boats are more likely to be stopped by the coastguard. Cheap rubber boats are faster and tend to encounter less official resistance, even though they are also more dangerous.

To hide his clients, Tariq divides them into three groups before they begin walking to the bus that will take them to the coast.

Tariq wouldn’t allow me to travel on the bus with my friends. And Abdul waved goodbye as he boarded the bus. “From death…to death,” the 25-year-old called to me, joking as he climbed aboard. He was referring to the fact that he and his friends, Omar, 22, and Moheb, 30, had all escaped death in Mosul, where the IS group have killed many local journalists, but that they were now facing death again, as they attempted to get to Europe. They have left their families behind in Iraqi Kurdistan and also in Turkey. How Abdul sees it: This voyage is just another journey, another adventure, that he must survive.

At around 10pm the bus left, heading for Izmir on the Turkish coast. Abdul promises to keep in touch with me by phone and Internet.

Rumour has it there are gangs on the road preying on migrants, stealing their money and sometimes even body parts.

The bus drove for nearly five hours, Abdul told me later, and Tariq got off and on at short stops. More passengers joined the bus, including women and children, and Tariq would also stop and talk to drivers of small cars he met with on the road – Abdul assumed they were lookouts. “It was like we were being kidnapped,” Abdul said, referring to rumours that there were gangs on the road preying on migrants, stealing their money, possessions and sometimes even body parts, before dumping the corpses in remote areas.

The bus stopped in a dark and lonely place and the smugglers ordered the passengers off the bus, telling them to switch off their cellphones and not to make any noise. In one long line they all walked through a ghostly forest for about an hour. When they got near the coast, they were told to wait. The smugglers could see the lights of the Turkish coastguard but they were waiting for a signal of their own too.

As soon as they received that signal, they swung into rapid action, inflating a rubber boat, attaching an outboard motor to it, as well as tyres and ropes. Then they set off for Greece – there were 49 people on the boat, which was about ten meters long.

And these migrants were lucky. They made it without any problems, Abdul told me later. “And when we got to Greece they gave us food and water, with a smile,” he says. From the coast of Greece, the trio of ex-Mosul locals were on their own. Abdul says the refugees share information with another continuously on social media and on messaging apps. He says their next moves were guided by one message telling them that the borders to Croatia are open but that there might be potential delays at the borders to Slovenia. “Be aware that the authorities may try and take you to the Hungarian border. To get to Croatia, buy a ten Euro ticket to the Serbian town of Šid then walk into Croatia. The nearest village is Tovarnik. There you will find help,” the message said.

After two days of non stop travelling, the three friends shared a hotel room for the night before moving onto Athens the following night, then to Thessaloniki on the border of Greece and Macedonia. At the train station there, Abdul estimates there were about 600 others trying to catch a train. The train, when they finally got on it, stopped at the last station on the Serbian border and then they joined a crowd of others and walked about another ten kilometres. The trio panicked when they saw Serbian troops – but in fact, Abdul reports, the soldiers were kind and told them which way to go. Then followed a taxi ride, a bus ride and then another taxi ride until the group reached Belgrade.

From Belgrade, they took a bus to the Croatian border, walked for five hours in a mountainous area and then at the Croatian border were hoping to catch the train. But the messages on social media were not private. “And we were so surprised to see about a thousand people all at the station waiting for the same train,” Abdul adds. The train was supposed to go to Slovenia and then Austria but instead it detoured to Hungary. Rumours about how harshly the Hungarian authorities treated migrants made everyone panic, as well as stories about how being an illegal immigrant could get you thrown into a Hungarian prison for three years – but their fears turned out to be baseless. After waiting several hours at the Hungarian border, the migrants were told that they could catch the next train to Austria, which would seat as many as 1,400 people and they were also offered a free lunch.

Many Iraqis who made the dangerous journey to Europe have decided their lives were better back home and they want to return.

Seven hours later, the trio were in Vienna. And it was here that they say they first felt some relief and some sense of the freedom they had so desperately been seeking, Abdul says. In Vienna they were told they could stay in Austria but that they were also free to leave. The trio decided they wanted to go to Sweden and after spending a night in one of the refugee camps in Germany, they travelled onwards. All three are now in Sweden applying for asylum.

Speaking to Abdul on Skype in Sweden, he is filled with optimism and describes the 13-day voyage as one of the most dangerous and most important in his life. He says that he and his friends were very lucky to have made it because they know plenty of other Iraqis who haven’t been able to make this journey – either they were stopped by security services, or their boat floundered (leading, in some cases, to fatalities) or they were tricked by people smugglers.

However, Abdul counters, since arriving in Europe he and his friends have also met plenty of Iraqis who say they want to return to Iraq, or who are seriously thinking about doing that. Ahmed Jamal, the spokesperson for the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirms this, saying that 7,500 temporary passports have been sent to Iraqi missions in Europe in order to facilitate the return of Iraqis who want to come back voluntarily, who had changed their minds about staying in Europe; widely publicized decisions by some European governments meant that Iraqis didn’t want to stay, and the passports were sent because often applying for asylum involves surrendering one’s own passport.

Speaking to other Iraqis in Scandinavia who are hoping for asylum in Europe, it becomes clear that many of them realise that their situation is somewhat precarious. Those from the south and from the north of Iraq may have lost hope that their lives will ever get better in Iraq and there may be ongoing daily dangers to survive. But in general they are not considered to be in as much danger as, say, Syrians or Palestinians who are applying for asylum. Many of these Iraqis will eventually be denied asylum. Some Iraqis have eventually discovered that their lives in Iraq were actually much better than they seemed to be in northern Europe, where they cannot speak the language, are unemployed and dependent on local bureaucracy.

As yet my friend Abdul is not one of these Iraqis. Despite any hardships Abdul, who is currently in Malmo, Sweden, with a temporary residency permit, may face, he says he will not go back to Iraq – unless he is forced to.

Turkey: Help On-the-Ground Organizers Create A Free & Safe Space for Refugees !

From Solidarity in Practice / Tatbiki Dayanışma / تضامن عملي

Please Donate: HERE 

For More Update/Information Read: In Edirne, they say “We just want to cross!”

Who We Are & What We’re Doing! 

We are a group of people with a shared understanding of the refugee situation in Turkey and abroad. Between us we are involved in a variety of social justice work, including refugee rights and support. We decided to act on our ideas; to put solidarity into practice.. but we need your support to make it happen!

Outline:

We are creating a flexible space that can meet the desires and needs of the people using it. This means that it can be a space for women to meet one day and can be a workshop for learning first aid or simply an evening meal on another. The space will not be issue-specific, meaning that if (somehow!) the situation of refugees in Izmir dramatically improves, the space will still be able to function as a healthy and vital place in Izmir. It is ultimately a community space by and for whoever uses it, with particular attention to refugees. Continue reading

#RefugeeStruggle: ‘We Have Rights as Human Beings’

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Excerpt from “Who’s Coming North? – Migrants’ Journeys Through Mexico”

Jorge has already been deported once from the US. His crime, a very serious one according to US authorities, was to work at a car wash.

“There’s not slavery like there was before, but there’s more deaths now,” he said. “They make slaves out of undocumented people, and once the work is done, they kick them out of the country.”

He’s lived more than eight months in the shelter, helping construct a dormitory for unaccompanied children and preparing to make the dangerous journey north to be with his wife and three kids, who are still in the US. He stayed longer than he planned to at La 72 because he believes in what they’re doing and because he wants to help others like himself on their journey.

“Here they give people help, a roof to sleep under, food, security, and they treat people in a dignified way,” he said. Continue reading

[Video] Pakistani Authorities Continue to Destroy Refugee Camps Around the Country

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Pakistani Authorities Continue to Destroy Refugee Camps Around the Country

Written by Jabar

“Residents of a mud shantytown in Islamabad‬ have received orders to leave their homes before their neighborhood is destroyed. The inhabitants, mostly Afghan refugees and displaced Pakistanis, say authorities believe the district is a hotbed of militancy.” – RFE/RL

The destruction of refugee camps is part of a broader strategy to expel Afghan refugees from Pakistan entirely. Mass sweeps are scheduled to take place in many areas including ‪#‎Peshawar‬ later this year. Continue reading

Refugees Solidarity Movement حركة التضامن مع اللاجئين Statement about detention of Mahienour El Massry and Dr Taher Moukhtar

Refugees Solidarity Movement حركة التضامن مع اللاجئين Statement about detention of Mahienour El Massry and Dr Taher Moukhtar

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REFUGEES SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT STATEMENT ABOUT THE
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DETENTION OF CO-FOUNDER MAHIENOUR ELMASSRY DETENTION
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AND THE ARREST OF THE HEAD OF THE RSM MEDICAL TEAM
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DR. TAHER MOUKHTAR AN HOUR AGO
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Refugees Solidarity Movement objects and condemns in the strongest possible terms to the continuing crackdown on activists, by the Egyptian government, and the atmosphere of fear that is being created in the country recently.

Two days ago, Lawyer, activist and Co-founder of the Refugees Solidarity Movement Mahienour El-Massry was detained to serve a sentence of “2” years in prison based on totally fictional reasons and allegations. Mahienour ElMassry sentenced for 2 years in prison for breaking the protest law, a law we don’t believe in and will continue fight against. We believe in the power of the people and the right we gained by blood to gain our normal rights of protesting and taking over our streets, and no one will take this right again from the Egyptian People. Moreover, Mahienour El-Massry was accused of assaulting a policeman, and destroying a police vehicle?! And despite the ridiculousness of such allegations, the Refugees Solidarity Movement will publish in the upcoming days, documents, photos and videos, showing who really got assaulted the day of the protest (a stand for late martyr Khaled Said) and who were the offender and the victim. After which we are sure, everyone will know, how fabricated are the allegations, and how corrupted is the judicial system.

Moreover, an hour ago, and after attending a solidarity press conference calling for freedom to Mahienour ElMassry, head of the medical team of the Refugees Solidarity Movement Dr. Taher Moukhtar was arrested together with about 15 Alexandrian activists, friends of Mahienour, and we still don’t know where he is being held.

Both Mahienour ElMassry and Taher Moukhtar worked tirelessly for more than 10 months with the Syrian and Palestinian refugees, exposing and putting the focus on their plight in Egypt after June 30th. Dr. Taher Moukhtar single handedly looked after and cured hundreds of medical cases of refugees detained for months in different Egyptian police stations without any charges.

Therefore, Refugees Solidarity Movement demands the immediate and unconditional release of Mahienour El-Massry and Dr. Taher Moukhtar. Moreover, demands from everyone their solidarity and action against the continues crackdown on activists and human rights defenders in Egypt, and in this case members of the Refugees Solidarity Movement.

May 22nd, 2014
Refugees Solidarity Movement

The Photo attached below is from the day of the “Khaled Said” stand. The photo shows clearly Dr. Taher Moukhtar Beaten by a Policeman with a mask, and Mahienour El-Massy. Again we hop people see who is the offender and who is the victim.

 

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Interconnected Refugee & Call for Support! Migrant Movements – Protest March against Fortress Europe! From Strasbourg to Brussels, May and June 2014

 

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From Freedom Not Frontex

The European council and the European ministers of foreign affairs make
racist and prohibitive policies against refugees and migrants on a very
high level. In reaction to the recent admitted mass drowning in the
Mediterranean, they only concluded to arm the forces that control and
aggressively prevent people’s movement, such as frontex. They will hold
their next summit at the 26th and 27th of June in Brussels.

Different groups of refugee and Migrant movements in Europe plan a protest march
from Strasbourg to Brussels. This will begin shortly before the European
parliament elections at the end of May. The marching refugee and supporting
activists will walk about 450 km within one month. In an action week before
the council’s summit, we will raise our protest against the policies of
fortress Europe! Continue reading