Refugees need freedom, not handouts

للغة العربية اضغط هنا*

As a refugee rights activist and an immigrant who has experienced all of the trials and tribulations faced by those seeking asylum in Europe, my head is full of thoughts and questions I’d like to share.

Do we see the repetitive media messages, particularly those delivered by the German Chancellor, materialize on the ground? In reference to efforts for integration, Angela Merkel proclaimed, “We have done it.” But how accurate is this statement when, in many cities across the country, we see xenophobic demonstrations targeting Muslims and foreigners in general.

Does the burning of more than one hundred future resettlement shelters reflect a culture of integration and welcoming?

When the German parliament issues new laws that restrict or prohibit freedom of movement for refugees, thus forcing them to remain in deteriorating asylum camps, or the distribution of canned food rather than offering a stipend; does that reflect a culture of integration and welcoming?

German society, propelled by the political elite, spread their culture of integration and welcoming by making refugees feel victimized and dependent. All the while forgetting that they are contributing to the instability elsewhere in the world that has forced so many to flee. They forget that German companies continue to export arms internationally, including to active conflict zones. Take for example the arms deal with Saudi Arabia, currently leading the offensive in Yemen under the guise of legitimate support.

In order to stop the flow of African refugees, Germany has chosen to incentivize dictatorships (Sudan, Eritrea, South Sudan) to monitor their borders. This has been accomplished in part by generous financial support and the establishment of refugee camps outside of Europe.

With these new restrictions, the so-called culture of integration and welcoming has failed miserably in Germany. This becomes particularly clear if we consider the results: The refugee protest movements, which began in 2012, continue today. Refugees remain confined within German borders – a decision that was approved by the German parliament at the beginning of 2015. This confirms the death of the culture of welcoming and integration in Germany.

What is required to solve these problems goes beyond the scope of law. Great effort must be put forth to end war, and cease the support to dictatorships propped up by European powers.

As immigrants, refugees and citizens, we must fight together to stop the rampant racism created and sustained by the government and their policies of forced isolation.

Refugees must not be seen as victims or burdens, dependent and in need of help. There should be political solidarity. Refugees do not need food and drink in so much as they need freedom, dignity, and safety from xenophobic attacks. Finally, they need protection from the laws that restrict their movements and remove their freedoms. They live in authoritarian conditions in countries said to be democratic.

*The Inequality Series is a partnership with the Norwegian NGO, Students and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH).

Through writing and dialogue, SAIH aims to raise awareness about the damaging use of stereotypical images in storytelling about the South. They are behind the Africa For Norway campaign and the popular videos Radi-AidLet’s Save Africa: Gone Wrong and Who wants to be a volunteer, seen by millions on YouTube.

For the third time, SAIH recently organized The Radiator Awards; a Rusty Radiator Award went to the worst fundraising video and a Golden Radiator Award to the best, most innovative fundraising video of the year. You can view both winners here.

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