#SOSEurope – People before borders

A doll being washed up on the Mediterranean costs.                   Photo (cc) Birgit Wolf

A doll being washed up on the Mediterranean costs. Photo (cc) Birgit Wolf

Europe, the European Union not only has buried hundreds of refugees in the Mediterranean sea, but also its Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union: “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail”.  The grieve and mourning about these deathly injustice – the up to 1,600 people believed to have drowned this year alone – cannot be deep enough. With the stop of “Mare Nostrum”  substituted by Frontex in November 2014, the EU has changed the policy – deathly for hundreds.  There is no legal possibility to enter Europe which can be seen as a neglecting of the Refugee Convention by the EU – although only 1,14% of refugees worldwide enter Europe. Where has the respect for the human dignity and human rights inscribed to the Treaty on the European Union gone? Politics need to be changed now.

Are the lives of hundreds of refugees not grievable?

In her book “Frames of War. When Is life Grievable” (2009) Judith Butler explores the media’s portrayal of state violence and the way how recent US-led wars have enforced a distinction between those lives that are recognized as grievable, and those that are not –  that war is framed as to prevent us from recognising the people who are to be killed as living fully “grieveable” lives, like ours. Butler asserts that, “Precisely because a living being may die, it is necessary to care for that being so that it may live. Only under conditions in which the loss would matter does the value of the life appear. Thus, grievability is a presupposition for the life that matters”.

Based on Butler’s discussion we can similarly say, refugees are cast through EU policies and politics, and to some extent by the media too, as existential threats rather than as human beings or living populations in need of protection, in their right of asylum assured by the Refugee Convention. These people are framed like already lost, to conflict and war, to economic crisis, unemployment and starvation, thus can easily be dismissed. In a perverted logic their deaths are rationalized by the EU, with the intention to make us believe that the loss of refugees is deemed necessary to protect the lives of ‘the living’ – the EU citizens. What a shame!

…yes, the lives of people fleeing, of refugees are grievable!

Protests against this inhuman politics and manifestations of grieve about the death of hundreds of refugees – sisters, brothers, mother, sons, daughters, aunts, friends, partners, children – show that their lives are grievable – in spite of xenophobia and inhumanity manifest in EU and national European politics.


Manifestation in memoriam of hundreds of refugees died in the Mediterranean Sea. Vienna, 20 April 2015. Photo (cc) Birgit Wolf

To all Governments of EU member states and the EU authorities: Stop Frontex and reinstall Mare Nostrum! Respect the Refugee Convention and provide reasonable human asylum politics. To provide asylum is not  an act of mercy –
asylum is a human right and the EU’s and member states’ obligation!
People before borders.


About birgitstoeckl

gender & communication expert, researcher, networker, activist.
This entry was posted in equal rights & social change, human rights, refugees /ayslum and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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