DAY 263: The point of it

December 7th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

I’m writing from an increasing sense of despair. I read, every day, reports like this:

‘Medical teams working with asylum seekers on Greek islands are seeing multiple cases each week of minors who have attempted suicide or otherwise harmed themselves, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today, calling for the immediate evacuation of vulnerable people, especially children, to the Greek mainland or within the European Union.More than 9,000 people—a third of whom are children—are stuck indefinitely on the island of Lesbos in Moria camp, which has a maximum capacity of 3,100 people. There have been numerous critical incidents highlighting significant gaps in the protection of children and other vulnerable people, MSF said. These include patients who have experienced violence, children who have harmed themselves, and people who lack access to urgently needed medical care. MSF provides mental health care and other medical services to camp residents.moria“These children come from countries in war, where they have experienced very extreme violence and trauma,” said Dr. Declan Barry, MSF’s medical coordinator in Greece. “Rather than receiving care and protection in Europe, they are instead subjected to ongoing fear, stress, and episodes of further violence, including sexual violence.”From February to June, in a group mental health activity for children from 6 to 18 years old, MSF teams observed that nearly a quarter of the children (18 out of 74) had harmed themselves, attempted suicide, or had thought about committing suicide. Other child patients suffer from elective mutism, panic attacks, anxiety, aggressive outbursts, and constant nightmares.The camp conditions also lead to a high risk of infectious diseases and other health conditions. In the first two weeks of September alone, more than 1,500 people arrived on Lesbos. With no space left, they are now sleeping without shelter or sufficient food and only extremely limited access to medical care.”As a result of the unsafe and unsanitary environment, we see many cases of recurrent diarrhea and skin infections in children of all ages,” Dr. Barry said. “At this level of overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, the risk of outbreaks is very high.”MSF has treated many children who have been identified by the hospital as needing care in Athens, but due to a lack of accommodation on the mainland, these children cannot access care. Instead, they are forced to live in an environment where their medical conditions and mental health deteriorate.”This is the third year that MSF has been calling on the Greek authorities and the European Union to take responsibility for their collective failures and to put in place sustainable solutions to avoid this catastrophic situation,” said Louise Roland-Gosselin, MSF head of mission in Greece. “It is time to immediately evacuate the most vulnerable to safe accommodation in other European countries.”MSF has been working outside of Moria camp since late 2017, providing pediatric care, mental health care for minors, and sexual and reproductive health care. MSF has also run a mental health clinic in Mytilene since October 2016.
 It’s easy to get addicted to reading this kind of stuff- a huge amount from the Greek islands, but also from the French coast, of course, from ‘hotspots’ throughout Europe; supplemented by the constant reports of wrecking and drowning in the Mediterranean, of which more later. That is, if you accept that you are reading real stories about real children – and why on earth should they be invented? What motive would MSF have for creating a genre of fiction which deals solely with the suffering of refugee children?
And so, if they are true, we should also feel some human involvement, that these are real people whose suffering is genuine; and that we have in some sense a duty to ‘do something’. The number of migrants – displaced people – who have arrived in Europe in the last four years is in the tens of thousands. Their treatment by governments is often disgraceful; so that they have no housing, and live where they can in conditions of appalling misery. Care for their safety and survival is left to organisations like MSF.
Coincidentally at sea, (well, it’s not an accident, rather part of a pattern of organised repression), MSF with its rescue ship the Aquarius faces imminent lockdown. An extract from their announcement:
  • Since February 2016, the Aquarius has assisted nearly 30,000 people in international waters between Libya, Italy and Malta
  • An estimated 2,133 people have died in the Mediterranean in 2018
  • Not only has Europe failed to provide search and rescue capacity, it has also actively sabotaged others’ attempts to save lives

MARSEILLE – As refugees, migrants and asylum seekers continue to die in the Mediterranean Sea, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and its partner SOS MEDITERRANEE have been forced to terminate operations by the search and rescue vessel Aquarius.

Over the past two months, with people continuing to flee by sea along the world’s deadliest migration route, the Aquarius has remained in port, unable to carry out its humanitarian work.

This is the result of a sustained campaign, spearheaded by the Italian government and backed by other European states, to delegitimise, slander and obstruct aid organisations providing assistance to vulnerable people.

Coupled with the EU’s ill-conceived external policies on migration, this campaign has undermined international law and humanitarian principles. With no immediate solution to these attacks, MSF and SOS MEDITERRANEE have no choice but to end operations by the

_104411698_hi050719578 Aquarius.

“This is a dark day,” says Nelke Manders, MSF’s general director. “Not only has Europe failed to provide search and rescue capacity, it has also actively sabotaged others’ attempts to save lives. The end of Aquarius means more deaths at sea, and more needless deaths that will go unwitnessed.”

Over the past 18 months, the attacks by EU states on humanitarian search and rescue operations have drawn on tactics used in some of the world’s most repressive states.

Despite working in full compliance with authorities, the Aquarius was twice stripped of its registration earlier this year and now faces allegations of criminal activity – allegations which are patently absurd.

Amid these smear campaigns and manoeuvres to undermine international law, people rescued at sea have been denied access to safe ports, refused assistance from other ships and left stranded at sea for weeks at a time.

The forced end to the Aquarius’ operations happens at a critical time. An estimated 2,133 people have died in the Mediterranean in 2018, with departures from Libya accounting for the overwhelming majority of deaths.

European member states have fuelled the suffering by enabling the Libyan coastguard to intercept more than 14,000 people at sea this year and forcibly return them to Libya.

This is in clear violation of international law. In 2015, Europe made a commitment to the UN Security Council that nobody rescued at sea would be forced to return to Libya.

“Today, Europe is directly supporting forced returns while claiming successes on migration,” says Karline Kleijer, MSF’s head of emergencies. “Let’s be clear about what that success means: a lack of lifesaving assistance at sea; children, women and men pushed back to arbitrary detention with virtually no hope of escape; and the creation of a climate that discourages all ships at sea from carrying out their obligations to rescue those in distress.”

Since the start of its search and rescue mission in February 2016, the Aquarius has assisted nearly 30,000 people in international waters between Libya, Italy and Malta.

The Aquarius’ last active period of search and rescue ended on 4 October 2018, when it arrived in the port of Marseille following the rescue of 58 people.

Together with MSF’s previous search and rescue vessels – the Bourbon Argos, Dignity, Prudence and Phoenix – MSF has rescued or assisted more than 80,000 people in the Mediterranean Sea since 2015.

Despite recent efforts of other NGOs at sea, today there are no dedicated rescue boats operating in the Central Mediterranean.

“As long as people are drowning and trapped in Libya, MSF remains committed to finding ways to provide them with medical and humanitarian care,” says Kleijer.

All this is well-known; I have repeated it over and over gain, and so have many many others who have involved themselves in the struggle to ensure the rights of refugees, at all stages of their journey; whether on arrival in some squalid camp like Moria, or during their onward journey, or finally in their attempts to establish the right to make their home in this country. There are many of us, often my friends, or their friends, who have chosen to stand with the refugees and defend their rights. But for every post which I read supporting them, I may read half a dozen which call for them to be sent back where they came, and which call them fakes, healthy adults,  undeserving our support, who should be returned (across the desert?) to the zones of war and starvation from which they have fled. Are these voices (which, I repeat, I read all the time, as can you) in any way representative of our people – or are they simply part of that lunatic fringe which social media are notorious for fostering? I sincerely hope that it’s the second.For our own survival as a nation of civilised people, we have to resist them.
I was lucky enough (and had enough money) last night ti hear Ralph McTell singing ‘The Streets of London‘ for I respect the at leat five thousandth time Lucky that it bears repeating that many times, and still speaks to the dispossessed in out cities.

DAY 262: Old obsessions

December 2nd, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

It’s encouraging to see that the idea of a  ’one-state solution’ to the problems of the bit of the Middle East formerly lived in by, among others, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Herod

XYqHxOqR_400x400

 Jesus and so on is finally getting more of an airing; the latest spat being the remarks of CNN’s Marc Lamont-Hill (which got him sacked) in which he made the the suggestion that we would be better off with one state from the river to the sea, and that a democratic one. [Many have noted that we do in practice only have one state , but that it's operating what's effectively an apartheid régime.] Let’s see whether the idea spreads to white academics (and beyond).

As we move inexorably though the cycle of festivities from Thanksgiving to the various kinds of Christmas – Coptic, Maronite, Armenian, via Beethoven’s birthday (i7th December, I think) ; not forgetting Hanukkah – I’ve been caught up in a quite different celebration – you guessed it – watching five Palestinian films in three days. I was obviously going to try to get to as many events st the Palestine film festival as I could – not many, sit happened – turning into quite an habitué of rioDalston’s famed ‘Rio’ cinema in the Kingsland Road, and the numerous nearby Kurdish bars for animated post-cinematic discussion where the names of Anne-Marie Jacir and Larissa Sansour jostled this of Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen in an atmosphere which should have been smoke-filled except that you can’t smoke even in Kurdish restaurants these days. Having missed a number of key events, I was delighted to watch Arab and Tarzan Nasser’s ‘Dégradé’, and Larissa Sansour’s ‘In the Future they Ate out of Finest Porcelain’; but I certainly missed countless other treats.. (I must recommend ‘Speed Sisters’, a tribute to Palestinian women motorbike racers which didn’t make it to the festival.)

At this point I should describe in more  detail than I have so far without being tactless) what I mean by ‘my household’ – .not in the sense of ownership, but in the sense of where I live. This consists currently(omitting cats and dogs)  of two pensioners (who tend to get up in normal time for breakfast, and talk to each other in the way pensioners do) and three members of the younger 16-36 age group (who tend to be around rarely, at completely unpredictable times, but not mostly when I need them e.g. when I’ve lost something which I really need). These, as you can imagine, are mostly on their phones – talking to friends? posting opinionated messages on social networks? Blocking each other for unacceptable behaviour? How do I know? When I need something and shout up the stairs, (‘ Where’s my diary/Capital volume I/the dustpan?’)  dustpanI need to phone or text someone who may answer  if I’m lucky. We sometimes have a meal together, as if by chance, we may even have a conversation but this isn’t apparently the stuff of sharing the same living space. The kind of thing which used to be common in the seventies (‘Comrade! You haven’t cleaned out the toilet in an acceptable way! There will be a special meeting at 3.15 to discuss and correct your behaviour.’) seems to have vanished to a bygone age. And this kind of thing seems to be becoming more the norm, so that my Somali friends too are complaining that they miss that careless sociability which used to  characterise the  family, or qoyska as they call it back home, and the kids are in their rooms on their phones. How the ideology of communal living has changed! Are you, ny friends, having the same experiences? If I try, as I would naturally do, to suggest that we should alll get together to organise a reading of Three Sisters or watch a Korean psychodrama, I can’t be sure of gathering everyone in the same room at the same time. How does your experience compare with mine?

DAY261: New directions

November 21st, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

Since yesterday I’ve been cheered by reading the UN special rapporteur David Alston’s damning recent Equality and Human Rights Commission report. ‘Is Britain Fairer?’ (See the Guardian, from whom as usual I stole or borrowed the information.) Take child poverty: the rate in the UK is 30% of children. But that number is 50% for black children and 60% for those of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin. Ethnic minorities are more at risk of becoming homeless, with worse access to healthcare and higher rates of infant mortality. And yes, the EHRC report restates and adds to the UN’s 2014 findings: women are more likely to be in low-paid work, more likely to be child carers, more likely to be the child carer in a single-parent household, and thus more likely to be the child carer of a disabled child in a single-parent household. All this also puts them at higher risk of violence, with a more urgent need for legal aid that has been slashed, and a higher possibility of falling down the cracks of the immigration system.

Austerity creates not just poverty, but also what the EHRC calls a “two-speed” society, one where certain groups are trapped, excluded from prosperity. The result is an acceleration of disadvantage. Nearly 400,000 more children and 300,000 more pensioners are living in poverty compared with five years ago.

And the more excluded one becomes from society, the more likely one is to become isolated, which means childpovfewer advocates and weaker connections to those in power, who include those who report the news and lobby the government. It is easier for the media and politicians to deny the pain of those who are already invisible. Nowhere is this more clearly shown than in the length of time it took to draw public attention at last to the Windrush scandal, a human rights miscarriage of life-and-death proportions. This is the wreckage which the Tory government has caused in Britain; and which the prospect that no attempt to solve the insoluble Brexit conundrum – Northern Ireland border and all –  has any chance of succeeding. Of course, I may always be proved wrong as I so often am, but it’s nice to feel you”re on the winning side if only for a few hours. But then, I’ve been still more cheered by the news that the Brexit, game, if it ever happens, will be played for another two years.  At his rate I’m  very likely to be dead by that time.  So, I’ve happily set aside current affairs and  got absorbed in

caledonian-rd-and-barnsbury-overground-station-9abbb8d7a7854cfae0e0ba8c1364eb49 reading rather too much, and getting more than usually confused by, much stuff on fifth century Christianity (but you knew I was obsessed with that) and a new interest, literature on LGBT Palestinian grassroots activism which I think my readers will agree is much more absorbing than the intricacies of Tory infighting.  There are naturally several articles in Jadaliyya which draw a firm line, if one was needed, between pinkwashing and pinkwatching, a comradely dingdong which has taken up some space in my sister publication; and I’ve been helped in my understanding, naturally, by Holly Lewis’ ‘The Politics of Everybody’, with its scholarly discussions of what Marx, Engels, Kollontai et al thought – and Holly points out that they thought much more than you thought they thought – of  queer identities (inasmuch as they did). All this, as I say, is a welcome relief., after all this hanging about waiting for something, anything to happen on the Brexit front. You’ll naturally want to know about (or rather listen to) the Palestinian queer music – in particular ji2eto Ela Ahli (‘I came to my family’, from al-qaws) and I’ve  been trying to incorporate the works of this varied and exciting group of people; and somewhat frustrated by my limited ability to actually reproduce their music, in my own  clunky format. I just nonetheless refer you to their pages on “Ghanni A`an Taa`rif” or ‘singing sexuality’, in the hopes that you can find them.

 I was somewhat appalled to find (but there are always new discoveries to be made, after all) that my sister, after all this time, had been living a mere quarter of a mile from Brewery Road without knowing where it was. That road, where a crucial suicide took place in Samuel Beckett’s Murphy (the landlady having had to decide whether to run to the York Road or Caledonian Road police station to report it) is pretty much at the centre of my mental map of literary London; and I’ve had it on my mind, as an old  sweet song might keep Georgia, for over thirty years. But we all have our own obsessions, our tracks along which our minds are destined to run. And who knows what new maps will be drawn by London’s current arrivals? Hard at work they are, at the University of East London, drawing in their minds a new nightmarish country in which, no doubt, London meets Raqqa; and neglecting their more profitable studies on courses in non-abelian categories or antibiotic-resistant bacteria or gender-based violence. to sit and spin yarns for the benefit of idlers in cafes. But who am I to moralise? And where, after Brexit, will this country of the displaced Syrians and Afghans claim as its home?

 

DAY 260: Decline and fall

November 16th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink


I was thinking these times were unprecedented, what with all this Brexit stuff and other things which I don’t begin to understand; and then I remember (not that I was there) the departure of the Romans from this island in the fifth century, which must have aroused some of the same emotions. With those who were attached to the old empire  and fought to keep the legions, the vino, the bread and circuses none side, against those who hoped for a new start with Hengist and Horsa and such migrants on the other. I hesitate to draw a moral. It is, though, exciting to be living through such times when a drama, half tragedy and half farce (as they usually are) is being played out – with half the Cabinet resigning, and an increasing lingering doubt over whether our poor country can be governed at all – and if it can, who will be governing it by the end of this week How many people really support the pseudo-solution we’ve been offered? The Government, as weight expect, is quick to offer pseudo-statistics:

‘Prisons Minister Rory Stewart found himself performing what may be one of the fastest U-turns in British politics after using a fabricated statistic about public backing for the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan. Mr Stewart, 45, a Theresa May loyalist, was pulled up by BBC Radio 5’s Emma Barnett when he claimed in an interview on Thursday morning that “80% of the British public support this deal”. Asked to back up this claim, he first asked for a chance to “get the language right”, before saying he had been “producing a number to try to illustrate what I believe” because “the people who are rejecting this are 10% on either fringe”.’

. Like C.P.Cavafy, we feel that we need the barbarians, 8267-lec8-1536x865and we don’t have them:

Why this sudden bewilderment, this confusion?
(How serious people’s faces have become.)
Why are the streets and squares emptying so rapidly,
everyone going home lost in thought?
      Because night has fallen and the barbarians haven’t come.
      And some of our men just in from the border say
      there are no barbarians any longer.
 Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
Those people were a kind of solution.

I strongly recommend Prof. Maiani’s article on http://eumigrationlawblog.eu/regional-disembarkation-platforms-and-controlled-centres-lifting-the-drawbridge-reaching-out-across-the-mediterranean-or-going-nowhere/#more-2188, describing the recent evolution of European border control at land and on the sea, its growing illegality and inhumanity. To give an extract:

‘France has been pushing back migrants crossing from Ventimiglia,Ventimiglia Italy for years. This practice is illegal. At present, France is only authorized under EU law to carry out terrorism-related checks on what should be an open border. Furthermore, systematic pushbacks of this kind constitute collective expulsions prohibited by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Lastly, they contravene due process guarantees established by the EU Asylum Procedures Directive and Dublin Regulation, namely the right to make an application for protection, the right to have the responsible EU MS determined through the application of the criteria laid down in the Dublin Regulation, including those based on family ties and on humanitarian considerations, the right to a personal interview and to a reasoned decision; the right to an effective remedy having suspensive effect against a transfer decision.

Uncontested for years, the French push-back practice is now becoming a model for other European countries. With local elections in view, the German minister of Interior has threatened to follow France’s lead and push back asylum seekers at the border with Austria. The Austrian Chancellor promptly followed suit, announcing border closures with Italy and Croatia while advocating, with an exceptionally bad choice of words, for an “axis of the willing” between Germany, Austria, and Italy against illegal migration. Meanwhile, in Italy, the new government decided to flex its muscles and close its ports to boats carrying migrants rescued in the Mediterranean.

In short: minimum consensus for reforming the CEAS seems lacking, unilateral measures threaten the integrity of the CEAS itself and of the Schengen travel area, and a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the Mediterranean due to uncertainty and conflict around points of disembarkation.

It fell to the European Council to find political ways forward for a European solution to the unfolding crisis. The conclusions eventually adopted at the meeting of 28 June 2018 placed CEAS reform on the back burner and shifted focus to new measures designed to “prevent a return to the uncontrolled flows of 2015 and to further stem illegal migration on all existing and emerging routes.”’

Where will we go with the post-Brexit border, if we ever see it; and will it indeed contain the border

irishborderbetween Ulster and the Irish Republic? Are the Irish to become barbarians again? We are holding our breath.

Bosnia, Croatia, and the newest violent border drawn by the EU.

Refugees stranded in Bosnia allege Croatian police brutality
This year, more than 13,000 refugees and migrants have so far arrived in Bosnia, compared with only 755 in 2017 [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]
  • In 2017, 755 refugees and migrants arrived in Bosnia
  • In 2018 so far, that number has exploded to 13,000
  • Many complain of verbal and physical abuse by Croatian police, including theft
  • Croatian police deny allegations
  • UNHCR has received reports of at least 700 people alleging violence or theft

Velika Kladusa, Bosnia and Herzegovina - Brutally beaten, mobile phones destroyed, strip-searched and money stolen.

These are some of the experiences refugees and migrants stranded in western Bosnia report as they describe encounters with Croatian police.

The abuse, they say, takes place during attempts to pass through Croatia, an EU member, with most headed for Germany.

Bosnia has emerged as a new route to Western Europe, since the EU tightened its borders. This year, more than 13,000 refugees and migrants have so far arrived in the country, compared with only 755 in 2017.

In Velika Kladusa, Bosnia‘s most western town beside the Croatian border, hundreds have been living in makeshift tents on a field next to a dog kennel for the past four months.

When night falls, “the game” begins, a term used by refugees and migrants for the challenging journey to the EU through Croatia and Slovenia that involves treks through forests and crossing rivers.

However, many are caught in Slovenia or Croatia and are forced to return to Bosnia by Croatian police, who heavily patrol its EU borders.

Then, they have to start the mission all over again.

Some told Al Jazeera that they have attempted to cross as many as 20 times.

The use of violence is clearly not acceptable. It is possible to control borders in a strict matter without violence.PETER VAN DER AUWERAERT, WESTERN BALKANS COORDINATOR FOR THE INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MIGRATION

All 17 refugees and migrants interviewed by Al Jazeera said that they have been beaten by Croatian police – some with police batons, others punched or kicked.

According to their testimonies, Croatian police have stolen valuables and money, cut passports, and destroyed mobile phones, hindering their communication and navigation towards the EU.

“Why are they treating us like this?” many asked as they narrated their ordeals.

Karim Abdmeziane, a 34-year-old Algerian, said Croatian police beat him with a baton, kicked him and punched him in the head [Courtesy: Karim Abdmeziane]

 

“They have no mercy,” said 26-year-old Mohammad from Raqqa, Syria, who said he was beaten all over his body with batons on the two occasions he crossed into the EU. Police also took his money and phone, he said.

“They treat babies and women the same. An officer pressed his boot against a woman’s head [as she was lying on the ground],” Mohammad said. ”Dogs are treated better than us … why are they beating us like this? We don’t want to stay in Croatia; we want to go to Europe.”

Mohammad Abdullah, a 22-year-old Algerian, told Al Jazeera that officers laughed at a group of migrants as they took turns beating them.

“One of them would tell the other, ‘You don’t know how to hit’ and would switch his place and continue beating us. Then, another officer would say, ‘No, you don’t know how to hit’ and would take his place.

“While [one of them] was beating me, he kissed me and started laughing. They would keep taking turns beating us like this, laughing,” Abdullah said.

Another refugee shows a large bruise, sustained after an alleged police beating, that has been healing for weeks [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]

 

 

Muhammad Burada, 16, from Morocco says Croatian police broke four of his mobile phones and beat him with a baton. ‘Everyone here has been beaten. Each officer is like a monster,’ he says [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]

 

A refugee shows his bloodied legs after an alleged police beating [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]

 

A family leaves the Velika Kladusa camp in the late afternoon in another attempt at reaching the EU [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]

 

Shams’ and Hassan’s house, shown in a photo on a mobile phone, that was destroyed in Deir Az Zor [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]
A refugee shows his chest injury after being allegedly beaten by Croatian police [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]

No Name Kitchen, a volunteer organisation that provides assistance to refugees and migrants on the Balkan route, has been documenting serious injuries on Instagram.

In one post, the group alleges that Croatian police twice crushed a refugee’s orthopaedic leg.

Peter Van der Auweraert, the Western Balkans coordinator for the International Organization for Migration, says he has heard stories of police brutality, but called for an independent investigation to judge how alleged victims sustained injuries.

“Given the fact that there are so many of these stories, I think it’s in everyone’s interest to have an independent inquiry to see what is going on, on the other side of the border,” Van der Auweraert said.

Here’s a https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADveyY_udz0 from South Sudanese refugees

“The use of violence is clearly not acceptable. It’s not acceptable under European human rights law, it’s not acceptable under international human rights law and it is to my mind also, not necessary. It is possible to control borders in a strict matter without violence.”

A Muslim man prays before attempting to leave the camp for Croatia [Mersiha Gadzo/Al Jazeera]

Hers’s a song by some South Sudanese refugees

 

DAY 259: The editor

November 13th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink



Or, if only I’d had an editorial subcommittee to blame for the last post’s goofs. The suggestions which have come at me from various directions that I should discard it and replace it, pretending that T’d actually written something else, I discard and despise. I shall have to stick with the confusion between postage stamps and banknotes which even the moderately keen-eyed reader will have noticed; and continue with the written work, in all its imperfections. The ever-faithful Corinne Squire (hi there) forgave the error,  read it as if it was OK to write about stamps and gave me some good advice, particularly recalling that there had been a series of stamps in memory of David Bowie; and pointing me to her own much more scholarly blog at https://displacesblog.wordpress.com. Which I’ll leave you to explore.

Major Blow to the hostile environment: Docs not Cops.

A backroom deal allowing the Home Office to request patient data from the NHS to target people for deportation has been scrapped following a legal challenge. The agreement gave the Home Office access to confidential patient information to aid immigration enforcement. It was written in secret before being published in January 2017. This year, Migrants’ Rights Network (MRN), represented by human rights organisation Liberty and Matrix Chambers, took legal action against the arrangement because it VIOLATED PATIENT CONFIDENTIALITY, DISCRIMINATED AGAINST NON-BRITISH PATIENTS 5676

Hostile environment van

AND LEFT SERIOUSLY UNWELL PEOPLE FEARFUL OF SEEKING MEDICAL CARE.Under the pressure of the legal challenge, the Government announced in May 2018 that the data-sharing deal would be suspended – but remain in place. (See https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/nhs-data-sharing-home-office_uk_5be97198e4b0e843889a1b5d?ncid=other_twitter_cooo9wqtham&utm_campaign=share_twitter.)

NHS DIGITAL HAS NOW CONFIRMED TO THE COURT IT WILL COMPLETELY WITHDRAW THE DATA-SHARING DEAL made between itself, the Department of Health and the Home Office.

Review: The Book of Exodus (Moses)

When this author’s Genesis appeared a few years back, I was impressed by its bold post-modern approach to narrative. The decision to give two directly conflicting versions of the Creation was an encouraging start; from which much else flowed. We were, at all points, presented with a fractured narrative with constant digressions; the character of ‘God’, a capricious being who was capable of destroying everything he had created in a flood recalled many more recent antiheroes; and similarly for God’s reactions as they’re shown in the fine stories of Noah’s sons, cursed for observing his drunkenness, or of the destruction of the Cities of the Plain. The sacrifice of Isaac in particular, as Kierkegaard has pointed out, is exemplary. in its presentation of God as a dubious and contradictory character.

In contrast, it must be said that Exodus comes as something of a disappointment, with a single ‘hero’ and relatively simple linear storyline. The adventures of Moses as a traditional clan ruler follow a fairly routine pattern, the main surprises being God’s role (which has often been pointed out) in hardening Pharaoh’s heart, and the later disturbances around the Children of Israel, the Golden Calf, 321-primary-0-440x400and the tablets of the law. Apart from these, one misses the boldness, the invention, and the constant disruption in Genesis. It’s tempting to think that the author is trying to appeal to a more popular readership, (‘Let my people Go‘) being the main storyline) and he may indeed be successful. However, in terms of literary craft, this reviewer finds Genesis a more exciting and  groundbreaking work. I’m intrigued by a few extracts I’ve seen from the forthcoming sequel Leviticus which suggest that Moses is toying with the idea of abandoning narrative altogether in favour of, one might say, the form of a legal textbook with prohibitions and punishments. We shall see.

 

 

DAY 258: The post

November 10th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

 It’s changed names so many times of course, that word, and so many meanings are assigned to posting (where is one posted to?). I keep posting, but do the posts ever arrive where they’re posted to? It’s been on my mind a good deal lately for the ephemeral reason that some people are proposing to put my mother’s image and superscription on the £50 stamp (‘Render unto Caesar…’). But, aside from other objections, what conceivable occasion would I ever have fo needing such a stamp – what extortionate branch of Royal Mail would charge me that much, and or what? Sending quail’s eggs to the Falkland Islands? I use stamps myself pretty rarely, as I imagine you do, relying mainly on email… I know that many countries have, or used to have competing stamps of brightly coloured tropical birds – an unoriginal choice of themes, finally. Does France have a series depicting cheeses? Does any country boast a stamp with a locust or a

images

herpes virus pictured on it to break the monotony of birds, butterflies, famous citizens and what not? I have myself, reader, been out to post a letter at the al-Quds post office on. Salah-al-Din street and survived the rather stressful experience; and I can tell you that if. you were minded to send a postcard from the West Bank, what image you got on the stamp wouldn’t be the first thing on your mind.

Of course, those who know me well (hi, folks!) will know that what I’d really like is a series of stamps depicting human rights judgments – I think of ECtHR – Hirsi Jamaa and Others v Italy [GC], Application No. 27765/09 (handing 200 migrants over to Libya), a. neat judgment, comes to mind. But what would be even better in our day and age would be to get the video of the court’s decision (you can, with the judges trooping in in robes) and fix that the stamp played it when the letter was read – I leave the details to my more technologically adept friends. Of course they might prefer to sell a stamp with a picture of say David Bowie Ziggywhich would play’ e.g. ‘Rock’n’ Roll Suicide’ when you read the letter; and I wouldn’t want, or be able to, stop them. I do recall a series of siamps featuring the Beatles, but they didn’t incorporate the features I’ve suggested.

But to return to the post, and to set aside for the moment – oh do please let’s set them aside! – Poe’s purloined letter, Lacan’s seminar on its introduction and Derrrida’s discussion of Lacan’s position in his lengthy squib Le Facteur de la Vérité (not one of which seems to make any reference to stamps). What of those posts of which we’re so fond, in Facebook or indeed this one which I’m writing here – equally unstamped? Is the evil Zuckerberg empire phasing out the stamp? Note that when I post 2000 words to tis blog, if I get round to it, I simply click ‘Post’ with no need to pay or get a stamp or anything. But could I opt to ‘buy’ a ‘stamp’ which when I ‘posted’ the letter made a donation to the zakat of my choice? There I think the internet is pretty near to allowing, nay encouraging such behaviour with its constant pop-up windows favouring this or that blameless charity.

Elections

You will have noticed that I’ve avoided commenting on the recent elections in the Maldives, or indeed in the so-called United  States; largely through my huge ignorance of either, although the victories of Native American, Muslim, Palestinian, LGBT etc candidates must be seen as a cause for celebration.I’m hard at work researching both countries in the hopes of providing well-informed commentary, but it would be nice if some organization provided. me with a grant to make me better informed.. Here‘s some music from the Maldives, which as we always know is he best was of learning about a people; if it makes reference to the imminent danger of disappearing under the sea, I can’t make it out. The same goes for those Congressional districts which have been won by Native Americans, Muslims, Palestinians and LGBT candidates.

DAY 257: Possessions

November 4th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

One does keep accumulating them, thinking that an extra two books or two bookcases may come in handy. (I don’t mean just great-aunt Layla’a framed watercolours of Tripoli or uncle Hamid’s carpet-slippers.) And then, when one reaches that final shore, as so many have done on the bank of the Evros river which separates Greece from Turkey, one parts with them, and with one’s life, in a moment.

pavlos_takes_whatever_itmes_he_can_off_each_body_individually_bagging_and_cateloguing_each_one_copyThe possessions of the drowned, taken from their bodies on the shoot the Evros, are catalogued in the hope of identification.

We think again of boundaries, of so many kinds. In Greek myth, there is a ferryman to carry you over; in the life of many who seek for asylum, no ferryman appears. As ‘Al Jazeera’ reports, The land border between Greece and Turkey, a nearly 200km frontier mostly formed by the Evros, has seen increased traffic since the European Union and Turkey struck a deal to shut down the route into Europe via the Aegean sea. ‘The bodies are usually discovered half naked. They have been in the Evros, the river dividing Greece from Turkey, for weeks. And the currents or the fish have taken their clothes. Sometimes there are personal effects – a pair of glasses, a chain of beads, a bracelet – that can offer a clue to someone’s identity.But usually they remain unidentified, stored here at a hospital morgue in the northeast Greek town of Alexandroupolis – silent witnesses to the horror of a refugee’s journey. ”It’s very difficult because we have women, we have little boys, girls, we have children,” Pavlos Pavlidis,Screen Shot 2018-11-05 at 10.54.19 a forensic pathologist at Alexandroupolis’ general hospital,  told Al Jazeera. The UN said Turkish authorities at the land border with Greece intercepted almost 20,700 people between January and September this year, compared to 7,500 reported for the same period last year. According to the UN’s refugee agency, an estimated 4,300 people had arrived this year at the Evros Greek-Turkish land border by the end of October. More than 800 crossed using this route in October alone. And we could see the meticulous Pavlos Pavlidis as the chronicler of these lost lives, who at least piles up the possessions in the hope that he can somehow attach a name to a brooch or a sandal.

Because attempting to cross Evros can de deadly. ‘It was so dangerous, so cold,’ recalled Martin Jafari, an Afghan refugee who said that he lost three friends while attempting to cross the border. ”They were three of my best friends,” he told Al Jazeera. ”We were out in the open … We didn’t have any food or clothes.” Refugees are forced into the Evros river because of a double-barbed wire fence on the border, paid for by the EU to keep refugees out,

[Digression: Small animals, For most of my life,  I, like you probably, had thought that the smallest and simplest animal was an amoeba, and that was that. Oh dear, it's never that simple; and. the problem of how you classify rather small shapeless water-borne creatures seems quite fraught: are they a phylum or a genus or what? And how many different kinds? Luckily, it's not my problem; but the hot favourite seems to be something pleasingly called Chaos.Screen Shot 2018-11-04 at 16.47.02Chaos chaos ingesting something (?Paramecium). I don't know whether you'd meet many of them in the Evros and whether they cause the notorious amoebic dysentery.]

 But the barbed wire fence (to return to that) is, as so often, only part of the story. I strongly recommend you, if you have the time, to read the report by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbjtrary executions of migrants, which focuses on the mass casualties of refugees and migrants in the course of their flight. It addresses killings by both State and non-State actors, and denounces a quasi-generalized regime of impunity, worsened by an absence of accurate data on the dead and missing. To get the whole thing, you’ll probably have as usual to do some fiddling with passwords (it will help to be an academic, or know one) The author is the sharp-sighted Agnes Callamard (see below),

Agnes_Callamard

Agnes Callamard

The report foregrounds the mass casualties of refugees and migrants in the course of their flight. And you might like to the cast an eye on it. I quote a chunk, which once again calls attention   to the growing criminalisation of what should be a duty:

‘The present report focuses on the mass casualties of refugees and migrants in the course of their flight. It addresses killings by both State and non-State actors, and denounces a quasi-generalized regime of impunity, worsened by an absence of accurate data on the dead and missing. The Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings calls urgently on States to address this human rights crisis by prioritizing the protection of the right to life in their migration and refugee policies.

The report presents evidence that suggests multiple failures on the part of States to respect and protect refugees’ and migrants’ right to life, such as unlawful killings, including through the excessive use of force and as a result of deterrence policies and practices which increase the risk of death. Other violations to the right to life result from policies of extraterritoriality amounting to aiding and assisting in the arbitrary deprivation of life, and from the failure to prevent preventable and foreseeable deaths, as well as the limited number of investigations into these unlawful deaths. The report also presents best practices in search and rescue operations and for the dignified treatment of the dead, but points out that States do not implement them as they should, and fail to resource them adequately.

The scale of casualties among refugees and migrants demands urgent attention at national, regional and international levels. The report presents recommendations for this purpose. The equal protection of all lives, regardless of migration status, is a central underpinning of the entire international human rights system: it must be upheld in the context of the movement of people and must form the foundation of all governmental and intergovernmental policies.In our modern world, millions are on the move globally, with thousands dying each year as they seek to escape war, persecution, climate degradation, and poverty. Responding in the name of deterrence, governments are exacerbating, not reducing, the dangers faced. Appalled by human suffering, people around the world are stepping up to offer rescue and support, including food, water, medical services, lodging and transportation. The result is that civic humanitarian services are reaching levels not seen since the aftermath of World War II.

Governments have reacted by harassing even prosecuting “spontaneous” or organized humanitarian acts.

At the direction of the Security Council, governments have instituted counterterrorism legislative frameworks that, given their stringency, potentially criminalize even life-saving medical aid or food relief, and in any case impose chilling effect on the provision of humanitarian aid for people desperately needing help.

Various States have also adopted laws or measures preventing or hindering organizations from providing life-saving services to girls, women and LGBTI persons, thus contributing to increased rates of otherwise preventable morbidity and mortality.This report asserts that saving lives should never be a crime. It argues that the failure to exempt humanitarian services from the overreach of punishing policies, active obstruction of the provision of life saving services, and/or criminalization of acts of solidarity and compassion constitute violations of the State’s obligation under the right to life. Any deaths that may be attributable to such measures amount to arbitrary deprivations of life which engages the responsibility of the State.’ Fighting talk! Will we see action to follow it up?

Digression: You’ve asked: ’Is ‘Becks  Blue’ halal or haram? An number of my friends have become quite exercised on the status of the popular ‘non-alcoholic’ beer; turning to the ever reliable Google, I found, naturally, four different answers from different imams. (You’d think were only two, but in religious matters you’d be surprised.) I think that the best advice is to play it safe, whatever that means.

DAY 256: The programme

October 26th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

200px-Dome_of_the_church_of_Jacob's_Well

Dome of the church of Jacob’s Well

So what have I been doing during this weeks of silence? The question has often struck me, and yesterday particularly as for the nth time I sat waiting in a hospital for more tests, and reading Finnegans Wake on my phone to pass the time. (Yes, reader, you can easily find it, or at least the first chapter, at http://finwake.com/1024chapter1/1024finn1.htm; and that’ll last  quite a long time even at the hospital. You may notice in particular a great deal of interest in the Qur’an in that many-layered work, as in: ‘Our cubehouse still rocks as earwitness to the thunder of his arafatas but we hear also through successiveages that shebby choruysh of unkalified muzzlenimiissilehims thatwould blackguardise the whitestone ever hurtleturtled out ofheaven. Stay us wherefore in our search for tighteousness, O Sus-tainer, what time we rise and when we take up to toothmick andbefore we lump down upown our leatherbed and in the night andat the fading of the stars!’) I’ve also been reading, as maybe you have, a variety of texts on Syria. In particular (there’s an awful lot to read, even if you stick to texts in English, even if you stick to texts in Jadaliyya, as I tend to do)  by the interview ‘Dissidents of the left’ with Yassin Al-Haj Saleh. Being very long, I can’t begin to give an account of what’s in it, let alone whether I think the author is right. But I was really struck by the following words which I reproduce: ‘The model for new movements could be that of refugees appropriating the world and those conscientious people welcoming and helping them. I feel that states, the richest and most powerful in particular, consider refugees a far more serious threat than terrorist groups. They are right. States are “legitimate” monopolies of terrorism, and those terrorist networks are their “illegitimate” rivals and doubles (they tend to be correlative in a way that you cannot exclude one without excluding the other).’ The relation between the two is an embodiment of the world “stuckedness” in anti-politics, while refugee passage to prosperous Europe represents the alter-politics which ismercury

Mercury, the poisonous planet, patron of thieves [This image was inserted because I found out that Mercury contained an amazing amount of iron. Why?

Why not? And what can we do with all that iron, in the soul of the Solar System as it were. Any reference to Freddie Mercury is purely coincidental.]

becoming a universal necessity (I am referring to Ghassan Hage’s terminology in his book, Alter-Politics: Critical Anthropology and the Radical Imagination). Maybe we have to develop a combination of anti-politics and alter-politics. It is impossible to evade anti-politics vis-à-vis thuggish states like the one we have in Syria, but there is always a need to think of other forms of gathering and organization.

I was struck, as maybe you were, by an article by Owen Jones in the Guardian (a fortnight ago?) suggesting that Europe in general, and Britain in particular, was in a state of crisis from which it could only be rescued by Corbynism; and that people were precisely]y ready for that kind of a solution. Could that be true? I asked a random selection of people on the C11 bus. What things do you see wrong hat you would like to see fixed? The failures which I think of as symbolised by the words ‘Windrush’ and ‘Grenfell’: a  capitalism which has completely lost its self-confidence and can only mouth arrogant slogans proclaiming its ability to perform its duties. It’s time to collect a a list of friends and allies, around a list of what we see as needed. Ranging from the multiple injustices of our legal system (detention, stopping benefits. no housing, rat-infested housing) to the wider field where the UKBA rule and police our borders. The society we have is so obviously not the society we want: what do we want, and how will we get there? Can we? Can we get a society (and I hope this doesn’t only mean Britain) in which everyone can be decently fed, looked after properly treated and not left alone.It’s been the dream of socialists over the ages; the bugger has always been how to get there, and what a lot of junk lie in the way. How many eggs, comrade, must we break to make our precious omelette!

What Mr Jones recommends (quoting from a commission) is that a genuine, higher living wage should be introduced; and proposes that a target should be set to double the percentage of workers covered by collective bargaining – which has been in a state of collapse since the late 1970s – to 50% by 2030. Workers would get elected representatives on company boards; and the self-employed – poorer today than they were two decades ago, and lacking basic rights – would be granted work-related benefits. The report also recommends reversing recent cuts to corporation tax, which have failed to increase investment as promised, and a cooperative development act to encourage the mutualisation of the economy.

What is striking about these demands isn’t just how much more radical they are than only four years ago: it’s who has endorsed them – from the archbishop of Canterbury to business leaders. The IPPR’s polling shows that, from a radical clampdown on tax avoidance to publicly owned investment banks, to borrowing to invest, there is overwhelming support for the

bitejunking of the old neoliberal order. That I should live to see such a day!

Here’s a cheery Kurdish song, by the name of ‘Loy Loy’; the artist is Nazdar (I think)

And here is a poem (without permission) from Kate Clanchy’s Oxford children’s wonderful refugee poem anthology: ‘England :P oems from a School’. Every one is a winner. Read it, indeed buy it.

To make a homeland

Can anyone teach me

how to make a homeland?

Heartfelt thanks if you can,

Heartiest thanks,

From the house-sparrows,

The apple-trees of Syria

and yours very sincerely.

 

Amineh Abou Kerech (13)

 

 

 

 

 

DAY 255: Criminalization

September 4th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

I have as usual come very late into a debate which has been running for a very long time – having been absent for so long from the groves of academe – and having missed some essential contributions to the discussion on the criminalisation of hospitality – oh well

41008069_10155817596153481_8410628073988292608_n

 I knew about Lisbeth Zornig Andersen who was jailed in Denmark in 2016 for giving lifts to refugee hitchhikers, and  Cedric Herrou the troublesome olive-farmer on the French-Italian border, don’t we all –  but it was not till my FB friend (no don’t start me on that) Sarah Ezzat Mardini and two companions were jailed three weeks ago by the Greek police (see posts of mine passim, has this sentence gone too long?) for trafficking, in other words rescuing people from the Mediterranean, that I realised that the ‘criminalisation of solidarity’ was not only a popular concept – or practice –  among the police, but also among those of us who make it our practice to study the police. Partly, of course, to defeat them, partly to get grants , partly to win the battle for rights, you know for the usual mixture of motives. I didn’t even, such is my ignorance, know about the totally timely publication  of a special issue of my sister publication Race and Class back in February devoted to a round table disunion on the issue.[Migrants, borders and the criminalisation of solidarity in the EU (Liz Fekete, Race & Class Vol 59, Issue 4, pp. 65 - 83 First Published February 12, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1177/0306396818756793] From which (via a bit of annoying fiddling with college passwords etc) I can quote what I think is a fairly punchy account of where things have arrived so far:’And it is not just the obscene response to desperate people in the Mediterranean that should concern us. The attempt to criminalise humanitarian assistance now extends to any area where, thanks to the lack of proper state planning or assistance, bottlenecks of refugees, makeshift camps and squats (‘any place I hang my hat is home)’ emerge, such as Ventimiglia in Italy, Calais in France (where the makeshift camp, known as ‘The Jungle’ was demolished in 2016–2017) and Lesbos, in Greece. On land, then, what we see are first policies of institutional neglect, the rationale being if you just don’t do anything for people, they will move on. And, if they don’t, then what lies in store is intensive territorial policing aimed at creating a hostile environment both for would-be refugees and anyone supporting them.What has unfolded in areas where land borders are closed and displaced people stuck with absolutely nothing, is that volunteers spontaneously come, and, by providing food, shelter, water and basics like that, they make the situation visible, they make the migrants visible. And it is this that cannot be countenanced. The mayor of Calais for example said words to the effect, ‘I don’t want another Jungle, we spent all this money destroying the Jungle with the bulldozers and the riot police and everything’. She responded to the show of humanitarian solidarity by passing a law that made unauthorised distribution of food unlawful. And it is this kind of mentality, viewing displaced people and refugees as an itinerant underclass and a public order nuisance, that means laws to criminalise solidarity.’ [The situation in Calais deserves a special study,; the volunteers in well-organised kitchens the are allowed to prepare meals for twice-daily 'distributions' to a crowd of people with no shelter, and no access to shelter. The insanity should be clear. The volunteers are legal, the people they are serving are not.]    As I say, this recent discussion had completely escaped my attention, or I’d have shared it withScreen Shot 2018-09-04 at 16.12.09

you. Even worse, an earlier debate (around 2012) about the Greek attitude to strangers, migrants, the term philoxenia (remember how much Odysseus was made welcome or unwelcome by his various hosts, Nausicaa, Polyphemus, Circe,.. It’s  probably in its turn  the continuation of a long earlier discussion of how we treat others/strangers in which I suspect I can see the names of Giorgio Agamben among other old mates surfacing. The author of the 2012 piece (no I won’t give you the doi, you’ll have to find it out for yourselves)  was already describing a Greek camp by trying to rephrase the experience in the lingo of biopower: (Where any place I hang my hat is home)

‘Among the street volunteers, however, I noticed the reversal of hospitality. During their visits to refugees, volunteers cast them as hosts and interpreted their own offerings to them as the reciprocated gifts of guests. This was a conscious political act: As hosts—though “disputable” ones—refugees were attributed the power and agency that they are typically denied in institutional aid contexts. Even the selection of the term refugee instead of the bureaucratic label asylum seeker that is adopted in the setting of the camp was a political choice made by volunteers to challenge established political hierarchies. However, in practice, volunteers on the street exercised biopolitical power over their hosts through their attempts to “educate” and “advise” them. The camp and the street are thus more than physical spaces; they also synopsize models of refugee management and overcome dualistic simplifications and binary oppositions. They speak volumes about alternative political modes of dealing with the stranger.’

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 16.12.09And so on (I refer you to the article and subsequent discussion.) and the biopolitical implications of such projects. The placement of the refugees–asylum seekers in the setting of filoksenia, as indicated by the figures I employ of the “worthy guest” and the “disputable host,” links the workings of biopolitical power with established cultural schemata of sociality and social relations.’

The placement of the refugees–asylum seekers in the setting of filoksenia, as indicated by the figures I employ of the “worthy guest” and the “disputable host,” links the workings of biopolitical power with established cultural schemata of sociality and social relations.’

But we, where we are, have to start somewhere, and why not start now with today’s injustice? We can be sure that it’s here to stay, and the triangle refugee rescuer cop will remain in place – along with the smuggler, who is certainly an important player, and should be brought in. But not in the way that the current EU leaders are doing.

 

DAY 254: Roaming

September 1st, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

So, I find it almost impossible to write about where we are, or what we can do in what seems like (but is surely not) an almos surely terminal state of affairs. Nothing is by defnition ever terninal, alas, we must keep struggling on though the mire. To get quickly through the least absorbing and quickest subject (me), I can hardly see and I can’t walk more than a few yards. So that’s that dealt with. Here we are in early September, past ‘Id sl-Adha and nowhere near Rosh Hashanah. But what of our poor world, we might ask? I’ve been talking to friends about what Khaled Hosseini calls ‘compassion fatigue’, which is why he says Europe’s sympathy for refugees has been drying up, and in certain cases has been replaced by hostility. (I’m not suggesting it’s that simple; but some people will surely be getting tired of compassion and other people (not the same) will be drifting towards open hostility. In particular, this week, the Greek authorities have arrested the Syriansyria refugee Sarah Ezzat Mardini, with two companions, on a charge of ‘people-smuggling.Of course, the initial ‘generous’ reaction of Europe to the large number of Syrian arrivals in late 2015 was always bound to gov way to something more repressive, generosity not being the habit of modern states. I won’t bore you with the ins and outs, and the various factions, in the attitudes of Western Europe to refugees. You all know it by now. What we all know, but no one will acknowledge, is that – for many reasons, civil war, dictatorship, climate change -refugees will keep coming, they will find ways of doing it; and Western Europe is powerless to stop them. All that can be done is to ensure the maximum of misery for those who try to come – drowning them, confining them in uninhabitable disease-ridden camps, locking them behind razor wire – to what end? How have they deserved this treatment? Is there an alternative to such stark inhumanity?

Well, my old confrère Étienne Balibar, author of the 60s pop classic Reading Capital, is still I’m glad to say going and still fighting in his 70s and has come up with a hugely relevant theory which deserves wide circulation – that of the ‘right to hospitality. Hospitality being something very like what your more up-to-date religious leaders are beginning to recognise as your expectation from your neighbour. (‘Because’, if you remember, ‘you were a sojourner yourself’, you owe it to other sojourners.) In the brief account of what the right to hospitality should be which he gives, he introduces the category of ‘roamers’ – and we have plenty of them, it must be said – and tries to lay down some rights for them which I for one find surprising, but very encouraging as a starting point for new thought [You could think of them as 'wanderers' of course, a classic European happy bunch of people.] Aside, of course, from ‘non-refoulement’, i.e. you can’t send them back to the dangerous place they came from (which these days is turned into a pretty rigid test of who qualifies as a ‘convention refugee’, a narrow category indeed, but one which could, and should be broadened); Further, and very relevant now, ‘States and their police operating on the borders or inside the territory must not brutalize the roamers:

roaming

A roamer

a notion that, alas, covers a huge range of harm stretching from the violence inflicted on undocumented individuals to the creation of what Theresa May (then Home Secretary) called a “hostile environment” for foreigners as well as their internment in camps and the separation of families.’ And, particularly relevant to the recent news from Greece, ‘ Military operations must not try to destroy smuggling networks or organisations at the risk of harming the roamers who are the victims of the latter and not their paymasters. A fortiori, decisions that forbid rescue operations or

hospitality

Hospitality

that try to thwart them should be viewed as complicity in crimes (possibly crimes against humanity).’

I suggest you let those ideas sink in. Are we, in fact, being governed by criminals; or should we rather be putting the roamers in power – and lessening the bonds of power in any case? Hard questions. If the roamers are the oppressed (and they are), are thy due a festival? How might the world change?