The Sickness of It All

Jośe Palazon is a Melilla resident and runs the organisation Prodein. As an activist he helps migrants locally but also strongly attempts to make the invisible visible. Prodein was the organisation that released the shocking video showing a young man from Cameroon being beaten heavily by the Spanish Border Police. As a result of this violence, he lost a kidney and ended up being paralysed. He was sent back to the forest without medical treatment. Also inside the forest, where migrants live in makeshift camps for months or even years, there is no medical treatment available as international organisations, among them Médecins Sans Frontières, have withdrawn from the forest.

In the report of March 2013 entitled “Trapped At The Gates of Europe”, the organisation declared among others

The progress made to date, however, will be limited if migration policies continue to criminalise and marginalise sub-Saharan migrants and prioritise the focus on internal security over respect for human rights. The protection of migrants and the defence of their fundamental rights fall outside the scope of MSF’s work as a medical and humanitarian organisation and this is one of the reasons why MSF has decided to hand over its activities in Morocco this year.

MSF urges the Moroccan and Spanish governments to stop the abuses perpetrated by their security forces, comply with international and national human rights agreements and guarantee that sub-Saharan migrants are treated humanely, regardless of their legal status.

MSF has worked in Morocco since 1997. Since 2003 the organisation has focused its operations on guaranteeing access to healthcare for migrants. MSF handed over its activities in Rabat in 2012 and is currently handing over its remaining operations in Oujda and Nador.

Jośe Palazon is also the eye behind the lens of this video. A stilt from this video recently went viral. The Times characterised the scene as surreal while Palazon noted

It was a good moment to take a photo that was a bit more symbolic. The photo reflects the situation really well — the differences that exist here and all the ugliness that is happening here.

The stilt portrays African migrants sitting on the fence that separates Morocco from the Spanish enclave Melilla. While trying to make their way into Europe on 22 October 2014, they are looking onto a golf course. The Club Campo de Golf in Melilla was given 1.1 Million Euro by the European Regional Development Fund to “strengthen economic and social cohesion” in the EU and correct imbalances between regions. This only applies for regions within the European Union, of course. The per capita income of Melilla is 15 times higher than that of surrounding areas in Morocco. While migrants are severely suffering without sufficient water, food and medical treatment to recover from police injuries or illnesses, games on the public golf course can cost about 22 Euro per 18 holes. The organisation Ecologists in Action from Madrid described the location of this golf course as insulting and asked the European Union to open an investigation into the golf course in form of a petition. This request was dismissed on the grounds that the golf course were to “increase tourism, create jobs and promote sport and sporting values”.

If this image stands for anything, it would the be the incredible sickness of it all. The European Union has a lot to do in order to wash this dirty little secret clean. It’s not even 70 years when millions of people within Europe were fleeing as a result of the Second World War.  Solidarity between and within the Member States was one of the founding thoughts of the European Union, an organisation that from 2007-2013 spent 4 Billion Euro in the framework of the “Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows” (SOLID). This amount was reduced by one billion for the “Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF)”, set up for the period 2014-20, with a total of EUR 3.1 billion for the seven years.

The beginning of the Lisbon Treaty sets out the core values of the European Union and the later inserted Article 1a reads:

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.

It is infinitely hypocritical to apply these values only to individuals that are recognised as citizens of the European Union. Particularly since paragraph (5) of Article 2 Lisbon Treaty states:

In its relations with the wider world, the Union shall uphold and promote its values and interests and contribute to the protection of its citizens. It shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights, in particular the rights of the child, as well as to the strict observance and the development of international law, including respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter.

What we are witnessing is a route that increasingly reflects racism, especially so in the context of border protection. Paragraph (2) of Article 2 of the same treaty speaks of appropriate measures with respect to border protection:

In its relations with the wider world, the Union shall uphold and promote its values and interests and contribute to the protection of its citizens. It shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights, in particular the rights of the child, as well as to the strict observance and the development of international law, including respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter.

Dear European Union, if you want the world to be a better place, start with yourself and begin practising what you preach. A note from an ashamed European citizen.

– Lily

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