Sunday, September 13, 2015

The African Refugee Crisis

WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE
“It’s important to us that Europe is now beginning to talk about opening their borders and welcoming refugees,” says Giovanna Di Benedetto of Save the Children in Sicily. “But it is not only Syrians who have to be welcomed.” Di Benedetto produces an iPhone to show photos of dead African infants whose bodies washed ashore on a beach off Zuwara, Libya on August 28, when their smugglers’ boat capsized. Five days later, a photo on a beach off Bodrum, Turkey showed another dead toddler: Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy. That image finally jolted people into action. “Syrians of course need help, but they are not the only ones,” Di Benedetto says. Shaking her head at the photos of dead African children on her phone, she says she wonders whether Aylan’s “white skin” made the difference. 

Africans who have fled deadly, often forgotten conflicts, or various kinds of persecution—including religious and anti-gay violence—say they believe it could take years to win refugee status or residence in Europe, if they ever receive it at all. Those simply fleeing poverty, and there are many, are not eligible for asylum. Instead, many predict a long, tough road towards acceptance and employment somewhere on the continent.

“The EU is talking about the Syrians,” says Valeria Morace, an Italian working in the Messina center for unaccompanied minors. “But politicians don’t talk about Africans in general, because they are not really doing anything for them.”

Our companion blog on African affairs, Socialist Banner, has covered this issue on a number of occasions. 

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