A modest suggestion
how to decrease flow of migrants towards Europe,
in an efficient, noble and long-lasting way.
The idea of “resettlement quota” imposed on the EU states is apparently not working, plus it generates a lot of quarrels both internationally and on a national level1. Europe is simply unable to cope with the stream of desperate people, fleeing “conflict zones in Africa and the Middle East”. And no morally high rant can change it. This is just too much, too complex and too fast for ye olde Europe. While the ex-colonialist (or neocolonialist, if you please) metropolies should be held accountable, the current solution – reluctant (sometimes lethally reluctant) admission of immigrants simply does not work. It is a palliative approach, not helping to uproot the source of the problem.
The Frontex “Risk Analysis2” for 2015 is clear. Syrian migrants are the largest group within the population heading Europe. Last year figure – 80 000 – has been tripling every year for the last three years. This year, till the end of April, Frontex registered 17 000 people coming from Syria3, 90% of which arrived via Cyprus, Greece and Bulgaria4 borders.
And that is just a tip of an iceberg. The yearly inflow is only 2% of the refugees’ population, registered by UNHCR in the region. Total number is almost FOUR MILLION DPIs5 , spread between Turkey (over 1 700 000), Lebanon (over 1 100 000), Jordan (over 600 000), Iraq (over 200 000) and Egypt (over 100 000). These are only the people who stay in UNHCR-registered refugee camps. An unknown number is staying beyond every registration.
All these figures show that the inflow of immigrants from Syria soon may grow much bigger. Can we do anything to stop it?
What do they want?
What does actually make people to leave their village, their neighborhood, their country? To spend all money, get indebted? To risk their lives in humiliating conditions, and finally to be processed by people wearing rubber gloves, like a biologically hazardous material? Is it really because – as the popular thinking goes – of the greed of wealth, the desire to live in the “land flowing with milk and honey” where we live? Is it enough to make people burn the bridges and head who-knows-where?
Knowing people, knowing ourselves, we know it doesn’t work like that. Only radical, catastrophic changes can uproot people and throw them away from their homeland – straight into a tent in the refugee camp. Because this is where they arrive from – not from their villages, but from the camps. Camps, where the aid transports seldom get through – either stopped at the border checkpoint or robbed by the local go-getters. Camps, raided by local militias, police or army. Camps, often demolished under a pretense of “searching for terrorists”.
People live in the camps not because they love outdoor living nor because they look for adventure. They have escaped – often narrowly – death, tortures, rape or slavery. Now, even if their villages are free again, they cannot go home, as their houses, fields and roads are mined and booby-trapped. They live an a stasis, with broken past and no future. And, when they cannot stand it, then they head Europe. Because they have nowhere to go.
Except, now it is not true anymore. There is a region in Syria, where there is a place for everyone (except ISISmen etc.). Where various ethnic and religious communities, people straight and LGBT, men and women live together in peace. Where the political system is based upon feminism, grass-root democracy and social ecology. It’s Rojava.
In 2012, faced by the dysfunction of the Syrian state, local (mainly Kurdish) communities along the Turkish border proclaimed the Rojava Autonomy6, an independent “stateless democracy” comprising three cantons: Efrin, Kobane and Cizre.
Rojava, organized upon a pretty radical and democratic (especially for the Middle East) ideology7 of Democratic Confederalism, soon became a real safe haven in Syria. Safe for all those facing the threat of death, mutilation, stoning, forced marriage or just coerced assimilation8.
Rojava became famous, when the Daesh (aka ISIS, aka the Caliphate) attacked Kobane. In January 2015, after more that three months of siege, the defenders broke the spine of ISIS and, supported by the West’s air strikes, pushed the enemy back, now way beyond original limits. Fights carry on, but more and more territory is ISIS-free.
Fleeing ISIS, over half a million of people left Rojava. It makes 1/8th of the total number of refugees. Some of them already started going back home.
Recovery in pains
But there is not much to return to. ISIS and air strikes together turned the town of Kobane into a pile of rubble9. The countryside is less destroyed, but also thoroughly mined and booby-trapped10 by ISIS in retreat. Booby-trapped ruins, stuffed with dead bodies of ISISmen, are true incubators of plague11. Another challenge to face.
Reconstruction goes ahead. Supported by Kurdish communities from Turkey and Europe. By friends of Rojava. The whole campaign unrolled. And came to a grinding halt at the Turkish border14.
Since its emergence, Rojava has bee a major pain in the Turkish state back. Turkey was quite openly supporting ISIS, buying their oil, providing weapons and matériel, letting new recruits join and wounded ISISmen get treatment, pretty opposite to the attitude towards the Rojavans. For Rojava – especially Kobane – the border is closed. People can trickle through, but all cargo is locked out at the Turkish side, unless smuggled or bribed-through. The embargo15 is to choke the reconstruction progress, keep the land empty and keep people in the refugee camps. Or push them away to Europe. Or wherever – except back home.
Now, we get to the point. Even the most happy refugee, warmly welcome and hosted with full hospitality, stays a refugee. Someone uprooted, taken away from his or her home, village, neighborhood and country. It is an injury that never heals, even in the next generation. That is why it is better if a refugee can turn repatriate. Even if not in the same village or neighborhood, people are much better off if they return closer to where they come. That is why we all need Rojava. A safe haven for the Syrian refugees. A place, where people can start fresh, where they can find a place in a democratic and inclusive society. Rebuilt and stable, Rojava will also become an exemplary social system, a blueprint for other regions – in Syria and beyond. But just now, even still fighting for survival, it is already giving shelter to refugees – both from the camps and from danger zones nearby16. And there is place for more of them, if we help. Even if the repatriates only stay temporarily, it is better to them wait for their opportunity within the safe, democratic community in the country they consider theirs.
As for the Middle East, it is an unprecedented situation, when the grass-root political movement created an area of peace and safety amidst the war-torn country. And had enough political and military strength to push back even the most ferocious enemy. For decades, no such thing happened in Syria before.
For the first time, refugees in camps around Syria have a real choice. They do not have to stay there, waiting for the situation to change. They do not need to launch themselves desperately towards Europe. They have a safe place to return17. This is fantastic, unbelievable chance for them! And for us, in Europe, too.
So, if we want to do some REAL good to the refugees, we should help Rojava help others.
For our good and yours
Europe is desperately struggling with the refugees inflow. Refugees, not immigrants. Border blockades only increase death toll. Integration – considering the way we welcome them at the shores of Europe – is beyond the means and will available. Xenophobia, fascism and racism are on the rise. The myth of humanist Europe is breaking apart. Breaking apart is the reality of Festung Europa. No way out is seen.
And yet, just a bit of political and financial support for Rojava would significantly release the pressure. Significantly and even radically. May the political backup and financial support for Rojava allow them to admit 80 000 repatriates per year. It would reduce the whole Syrian migration stream to nil, and the whole pressure on the EU borders by 28%! May Rojava Autonomy, stable and developed, become a blueprint for all other “conflict zones”, providing peace and safety; making people stay, not flee. Gradually, it may diminish reasons for emigration. And – I hope – it is not just that we do not want refugees in Europe. We want no more refugees at all!
And Rojava is quite a fair chance for that.
Who will do it?
All of us, I hope, YOU included. Some actions, of course, have to be taken by some official bodies, bu WE must push them (or sometimes kick them) to start. We – the left, the right and the middle; motivated in various ways; a big, diversified affinity group. There is something in it for everybody. International solidarity, safety of European culture, support for revolutionary political project – pick whatever you like. Just help.
Helping Rojava is the most efficient, noble and long-lasting way to reduce the number of refugees from Syria and beyond.
What can YOU do?
First of all, check around you. If there is any credible group around, working to support Rojava recovery, just join them and contribute. Otherwise:
1. Stay informed. Join a group on Facebook18, watch our blog19, Join our discussion groups20.
2. Talk to the people around you, invite them do do the same.
3. If you are involved in any kind of social activity, trigger a discussion there. With your people, talk about helping Rojava. Find reasons to do it, of whatever kind suits the profile of your community. Hone them, write them down and publish them online.
4. Start pushing your community, local, regional and national institutions to help Rojava:
– to put pressure to lift Turkish embargo21
– to establish an official partnership with Rojava on a municipal or regional level22
– to provide support for volunteer activities (it means helping you as well)
– to run solidarity actions, or at least to make a list of such actions taken in your area23
– to create new ideas how to help Rojava and to share them online24.
If we succeed, in the next few years we may meet each other in Rojava 🙂