Saturday, February 20, 2016

Faces of refugees

There is a lot to say about the refugee crisis that made the first page of many European newspapers for weeks the last year and still remains a very important challenge and test for the European policies and solidarity, especially at the EU level. There are dramatic aspects regarding the security, especially from the point of view of the terrorist threats, as well as of public diplomacy. or human rights.
As I am living in Germany, refugees are more than an abstraction or desperate beings shown on TV. Especially in some parts of Berlin, you can see them on the street and even approach them. A couple of days ago, while passing by a local office of Sparkasse bank, a human chain in the front of the door with a patch of paper on their jackets writing: Refugee Support. I also known quite a lot of people around involved on a regular or volunteering basis in helping the refugees and even telling their stories further.
Outside Germany refugees can be an abstraction and the representations of local population can be limited to the scary images of the yellow media. Again, I am convinced there are so many details and nuances to consider when it comes to this issue, but on the other hand it is important to embrace the entirety of the topic.
Thanks to social media though, the nuances can be offered, in their simple happening. A couple of days ago, when browsing the Instagram for new interesting photos from sunny places, I stumbled upon a reference to a project of the Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei, of documeting the arrival and life of refugees reaching the island of Lesbos in Greece. His account is: #aiww. I spent the next hour looking at the pictures or video gathered: first hand images of people, many of them children, upon their dramatic arrival on the island. Expressions of hope, happiness, relief, deep sadness, insecurity...the usual repertoire of humanity in its simplest manifestation. Especially the videos and the faces of small children are very moving.
Ai Weiwei's account is an example of the good changes that can be brought via social media. It also offers a chance to information and the possibility to make your own ideas and opinions based on what you see. The final political decisions are based less on feelings and emotions, but at least for us, the citizens, it is important to see all sides of the coin. 

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