These past few months have been deeply affecting. For us the tragedy of Wasim and the death of his wife and 2 young children at the end of July has overshadowed most of our thoughts. That they died in the forests of Samos is still very raw and fresh. Why? Why? Why? This is the word which we can not shake from our minds.
Why was he compelled to pay thousands of euros to a trafficker in Turkey to come to Samos when there is a regular ferry between the island and Turkey that would have cost him so little and would never have placed his family in such a perilous position which led to their deaths.
Why was he treated as a criminal when he eventually made it to the police station in Samos town?
What crime did he commit? He was fleeing from a Palestinian refugee camp in Syria. He and his wife wanted a life free from terror and insecurity for their 2 children. When did this become a crime?
How has it come about that for the want of a few sheets of state approved paper (passport) governments in Europe declare that people are illegal? Why are the passports of Palestinian refugees worthless ? Have the Palestinians not suffered enough?
We write this looking over a few kilometres of sea that separate Samos from Turkey. Every day we watch the sea gulls flying back and forth. Do they need papers? Are they illegal when they catch their food here or there? Do they look down at the waves and see para-military patrol boats trying to hunt them down? Do they see death? Are they terrorised by what might become of them?
When we travel whether to Turkey, France, Britain we never think that we might be arrested, imprisoned, humiliated, degraded, frightened even killed. Why should it have been different for Wasim and his family? Are we better people? Are we more deserving?
Lamees is the name of Wasim’s wife. Layan is the name of his 9 month old daughter. Uday is the name of his 4 year old son. They died after being abandoned on a remote shore of Samos. All those who perish trying to find safety in Europe have names. For the authorities they nameless statistics. They are our brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers. They are not aliens. When are we going to demand that all those who die at the borders of North America and Europe are named and remembered?
Europe is civilised. Europe has democracy. Europe embraces human rights. We are all told this endlessly. This is also what the rulers of the world claim. This is what allows them to judge other countries not part of North America/Europe. This is what is told to the peoples of the world. When we speak with the refugees here in Greece and Samos they tell us again and again that is one of the reasons why Europe is their destination. They think they will find safety, refuge and dignity.
It is a lie.
It is a lie and always will be so until all peoples of the world are treated with the same humanity.
It is a lie because so many of the people who live in Europe and North America live in poverty amidst absurd levels of wealth and privilege. Poor and often treated as little more than garbage their children will rarely be children with lives full of play, laughter and learning.
When are we going to say enough! No more lies! No more papers !
When are we going to join hands with all the poor, oppressed and vulnerable in the world?
Together we can make miracles.
Y Basta! Ftanei! Enough!