Saturday 2 January 2016

The Syrian Exodus...

The Syrian Exodus as Seen by Children, a photography exhibition by Stavros Habakis, at the Old Town Hall in Glyfada.

More than 10,000 children have died in the Syrian civil war along with 200,000 adults. We are mostly protected from images of their deaths. Since this summer however, asylum seekers could be seen live on TV walking across the European continent seeking sanctuary - a biblical wave of people, but with no Christian welcome. 2,500 people are estimated to have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean this year alone. The European response has been slow, piecemeal and reluctant, with some EU members raising walls and laying down razor wire. Rather than providing safe refuge to those who survive the crossing to Europe, the authorities are subjecting these desperate people to dehumanising, degrading and life threatening conditions: batons, tear gas and water cannon are deployed in order to keep the 'barbarian hordes' at bay.

This is a humanitarian crisis, not a political one. From the beaches of Lesbos and Kos, to the border crossing in the Balkans, from the fences at the Serbo-Hungarian border to the train stations of Munich and Vienna, from the detention centers across the continent to self-organised spaces like the refugee camp in Calais, the hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants who have managed to make their way to Europe are treated with rising intolerance and the true face of a changing Europe is beginning to emerge. It's a face that is intolerant, ugly, suspicious of the Other, unable to share its good fortune, unable to show compassion. Fortunately, unlike the governments of the EU, the citizens have responded differently by either volunteering to help the people who are washed on the shores of the Mediterranean, or by donating generously.

Europe will have to begin to examine itself not just in its reaction to this evolving humanitarian crisis, but most importantly, to examine its role in the endless reproduction of the underlying causes of the refugee crisis and mass migration in general. War, poverty and persecution remain the principal drivers of migration and the West has a hand in furthering all of those through foreign interventions, predatory financial and commercial practices and support for authoritarian regimes across Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East.

This exhibition shows life in the camps - not just the dire situation that these desperate people find themselves in, but also their resilience, dignity and determination to survive.
























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