By Ada Colau Ballano, mayor of Barcelona, Spain
The day before yesterday 50 people died by suffocation in the hold of a ship. Yesterday more than 70 people were found dead inside a lorry. Today we wake up with two shipwrecks: perhaps more than a hundred dead. We have a sea full of dead people. Borders full of wires, spikes, blades… and dead people.
Men, women, boys and girls, dead.
And a part of Europe weeps, cries out, a part wishes them to be saved, to not die but… but does not want them to come over. They should go away, they should disappear, they shouldn’t exist and we shouldn’t have to see them on TV, let alone on our streets, with their blankets, in the subway or on the steps of our homes.
Some irresponsibly promote fear of “the other”, “the illegal”, “those who come to sell without a permit”, “to use our healthcare”, “to take our school places”, “to scrounge”, “to beg”, “to commit crime”…
But fear is just that: fear. Our fear to live in a bit worse conditions against their fear to not be able to survive. Our fear of having to share a small part of our welfare against their fear of hunger and death, which is so acute that it gave them the strength to risk it all in order to come over without any baggage other than their own fear.
Fear against fear. And theirs is stronger. So, Europe, Europeans: open your eyes. There will not be enough walls and wires nor teargas nor rubber bullets to stop this. We either approach a human tragedy starting from our ability to love that makes us human or we are all going to end up dehumanized. And there will be more deaths, many more. This is not a struggle to protect us from “the others”. Right now it is a war against life.
Governments have to stop threatening with the “call effect”. What Europe urgently needs is an “affect call”, a call for empathy. They could be our children, our sisters or mothers. It could be us, just like many of our grandparents were forced into exile.
Even though it is a matter of State and European competence, from Barcelona we will do all we can to participate in a network of refugee-cities. We want cities that are committed to human rights and to life, cities of which we can be proud.