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Why EMA started, and must continue

Europe Must Act exists to mobilise the voices and power of people who believe in human rights and the need to defend them. Since we began, nearly two years ago, we have grown into a pan-European movement of supporters and activists, all campaigning for humane responses to migration across Europe.

Our work started on the Greek islands in March 2020, when volunteers came together to demand relocation and the closure of overcrowded refugee camps. Within days, 160 grassroots groups had joined our call to action and within weeks over 100,000 people had signed our petition calling for the EU Commission to relocate people from the islands.

As the number of people signing our petition rapidly grew, we quickly realised the breadth of support for people seeking asylum, and the potential power of our campaign. What started as a single petition has now become a mass solidarity movement.

In less than two years, Europe Must Act has established over 50 EMA chapters in cities across Europe, empowering local activists to engage their communities in support of people seeking asylum. We’ve coordinated international action days, with EMA supporters across Europe staging rallies, exhibitions, speeches and online events. We’ve supported displaced community members and EU citizens to engage their politicians, through petitions, letters, social media and meetings. Our Raising Voices project has worked with people on the move who wish to share their stories, producing videos, audio and written testimonies that shine a light on the realities of seeking asylum in Europe. And we’ve facilitated visits by politicians to the Greek islands, to see the conditions with their own eyes.

Through this work, and the many other elements of our campaigning, we’ve been left in no doubt that across Europe, there are people who believe in welcoming people seeking asylum. From individual activists to large NGOs, and everything in between, we know that solidarity and humanity exist in our communities.

But all too often, the views of those who believe Europe can and should be a place of welcome are sidelined. Instead, issues of migration and asylum are presented as ‘problems’, ‘crises’ and ‘threats’ by many of our politicians and policy makers, and much of our media. The individual stories and human rights of those seeking sanctuary are minimised and ignored, and the relentless focus is on how to stop people trying to reach or enter Europe.

The growing dominance of the narrative of containment and deterrence has chilling real world consequences: today, human rights laws and obligations that have been enshrined in international, EU and national legislation for decades are being repeatedly and increasingly undermined and violated at our borders. Authorities appear more concerned with enforcing security and control than upholding the basic human rights of those who hope to find safety in Europe.

In less than two years EMA has been able to build a movement of human rights defenders, united in a belief that Europe should welcome people seeking safety and a new life here. But we know our work is just getting started. Pushbacks, violence and deaths on our border are becoming ever more normalised. As the scale of the problem grows, the voices of those demanding human rights for all must grow louder too. In 2022 and beyond, we will keep growing our movement and campaigning for change until human rights on our borders are restored.

EMA is fundraising to ensure we can continue our work in 2022. If you would like to donate please click here.

Keep up to date on our work and how you can get involved by signing up for our newsletter here.


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