Stellan Vinthagen

Why is there such an amazing mobilisation of solidarity with refugees throughout Europe now, not earlier? I think there is no doubt that what we see is something extraordinary. In several urban areas thousands are marching with the banners “Refugees Welcome”, riot police take off their helmets, train companies and city councils write welcoming letters and messages in different languages, border guards open up borders, police are letting out detained, Germany scrap the rule of asylum in first EU country of entry, citizens organise private car transport convoys, and now even charter boats and airplanes (yes!), football teams donate money and offer trainings for free, urbanites offer rooms in their homes in thousands (even on Iceland), kiosks donate their total daily income to refugees, train companies abolish demands on ID to buy tickets, etc. etc. etc.


What we see is a tremendous contrast to the years of raising popularity of anti-immigration and neo-nazi parties throughout Europe (in Sweden now the second largest party …). It is a sudden change of discourse and normative attitude to refugees/migrants. But why? How do we explain it? Obviously it is connected party to the raising numbers of refugees, but they came in the thousands the years before also, they drowned in the Mediterranean waters, they got cut by razor wires on the fences, imprisoned, deported – by a inhuman EU-deportation-machine.

Let me just remind you that it was just about a year ago EU had a Europe wide police search for “illegal” persons on streets and in the public transport system, and it was just a couple of months ago there were a proposal from EU circles to use the air force and bomb (yes!) the “smuggler” boats in North Africa … Something profound has happened, something else than refugees flying poverty and war. That is as old as humankind, and the atrocities in Syria, for example, has been going on for several years. My thought is that this depend on something particular which we that are interested in liberation strategies could learn from.

I think the discourse change happened because the HUMAN SUFFERING (particularly of families with small kids) became much more VISIBLE, in a NEW way and CONTINUOUSLY . When thousands of refugees comes in batches of 100 at a time, through different paths and at odd times, it seems like a never ending flow, a kind of normality. But when thousands come walking together, a family after the other, day in and day out, it is a visible catastrophic situation. Then even mainstream mass media starts to write human feature stories, and the news will discuss it day after day.

After some days, you need new kind of stories (that is how media works, producing “news”). I am not sure what conclusions to draw, but I think there are lessons to learn for us. What about you, what do you think? Why is this happening now? What could we learn if we want to change a dominant discourse and mobilise the main population, not just our friends and radicals in solidarity?

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