As the topic of Coronavirus monopolizes our conversations, we are looking for light at the end of the tunnel. Lockdown measures are being slowly lifted across several European countries, including Greece. However, thousands of refugees and asylum seekers are being left in the dark.
The virus is yet to arrive in the Aegean Island refugee camps, but lockdown measures tighten the already inhumane restrictions on people’s freedoms. Tensions are amplified in a situation already beyond breaking point. Yet it hardly comes as a surprise that the people Europe has neglected for years are experiencing further injustices in the face of the pandemic. UNHCR has called on European countries to urgently increase efforts to strengthen asylum systems. If not now, when?
The COVID-19 emergency has undoubtedly put a strain on our communities, but it has also shown us the scope of what is possible. ‘Business as usual’ told us that we had no space to accept refugees and asylum seekers. Now we have seen conference centres, airports, universities and fairgrounds transformed into hospitals. Human’s resilience and adaptability is awe inspiring. What we can achieve when we show determination is far beyond the limits we usually set ourselves. It has taken a pandemic to show us that. Now, as we restructure our societies, no longer can we give the excuse “we don’t have space.” We must emerge from the lockdown determined to be better.
On May 23rd we call on Europe to recognize what is possible. We call on our leaders to recognize that #wehavespace to welcome asylum seekers and refugees. We ask that our cities pledge to accept people from the Aegean Islands refugee camps. In light of the current lockdown restrictions, we will protest with distance.
How can you get involved?
Lockdown restrictions give parents a fantastic opportunity to teach their children skills often neglected in the classroom. Parents can have conversations about empathy with their children as they colour in posters to display on their window. Children can even write their own message of solidarity. Take a photo of the poster, post it with the hashtag #wehavespace and a link to your local petition.
Two sentences can be enough to convey a certain feeling. Two sentences can be enough to get people out of the world they live in. We want to get people out of their daily-life-bubble and raise awareness on the situation refugees face everyday living in the camps on the Aegean islands by spreading their message. We have prepared a selection with ready-to-print documents from our #RaisingVoices campaign you can paper your neighborhood with. Go out and raise your voice with us!
Let's all show solidarity with refugees and show European leaders that #WeHaveSpace to welcome them! We're looking forward to Saturday and hope you'll be joining us for this special event. You can join our Facebook event page for further information and updates.