UNITED press release
DEATH BY POLICY - TIME FOR CHANGE!
To mark International Refugee Day, UNITED is publishing an updated edition of its List of Deaths, a new website and an interactive map. We call on civil society to protest against the fatal policies of Fortress Europe that lead to the deaths of desperate people looking for safe refuge.
In recent months, stories of the thousands of people who have drowned in the Mediterranean sea while attempting to reach Europe have shocked people all over the continent and seen the issue of refugee deaths rise towards the top of the European political and media agenda. But despite the attention generated by the situation in the Mediterranean, EU representatives seem unable to come to any consensus on sharing the burden of migratory waves between southern and northern Europe, with nationalistic interests dominating discussions. Meanwhile migration continues, with the risky conditions at sea not seeming to provide any discouragement to migrants.
Complicating the issue yet further is the fact that refugee deaths are not limited to the Mediterranean: refugees die of suffocation and exposure hiding in freight containers and the undercarriages of planes; refugees die in the dire conditions of detention centres; refugees die in police custody and at the hands of deportation officials; refugees are murdered by fascist thugs, denied both the protection of the authorities and recourse to justice. As diverse as they may seem, all of these deaths are a direct result of the fatal policies of Fortress Europe: the political agenda which puts the protection of Europe’s borders ahead of the protection of the lives of the world’s most desperate and vulnerable people. This is DEATH BY POLICY.
Since 1993, UNITED has been documenting the effects of these fatal policies by compiling a list of the thousands of people who have died in their attempt to reach Europe. Now including details of over 22,000 people, the UNITED List of Deaths has become a key tool (1) for activists, artists and researchers dealing with the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.
In Strasbourg, the activist group Collectif pour une autre politique migratoire has held demonstrations using a 100m-long print of the list which they unfurl at the European Parliament, defiantly reminding MEPs and the European Commission of their failure to act. Across the continent, Turkish artist Banu Cennetoglu displays the list on public billboards, reminding the people of Europe of the lives lost in search of the security and prosperity that they take for granted. In Amsterdam, Prof. Thomas Spijkerboer and his team have used the list to assist with their research into undocumented migrant deaths in Europe’s maritime borders, shining a much-needed light into this neglected area of study.
This year, to mark The International Refugee Day on 20th June, UNITED is once again publishing an updated version of The List of documented deaths of asylum seekers, refugees and (un)documented migrants due to the restrictive policies of Fortress Europe. We have launched a new website, which includes an interactive map that clearly shows that the issue of refugee deaths is not limited to the Mediterranean and Europe’s southern borders: this is a Europe-wide problem, which, if it is ever to be resolved, will require a Europe-wide response. Now more than ever, it is essential that we stand UNITED against refugee deaths.
Wake up the policy-makers! It is extremely important for the purposes of the campaign to raise awareness of this issue throughout Europe. The main targets are media and the general public. With their help it is possible to force European politicians to reconsider European immigration policies and to develop a human vision on migration.
Why 20th of June?
The Europe-wide network UNITED for Intercultural Action brings together more than 550 organisations from 48 European countries and a wide variety of backgrounds to work together on common activities and projects against racism, fascism and nationalism and in support of migrants and refugees. In order to bring new perspectives to the debate and to highlight the issue of migrant rights and refugee deaths, UNITED has been coordinating an annual campaign around this date since 1996. In 2001, following years of pressure and advocacy from campaign groups such as UNITED, a special UN General Assembly Resolution was adopted to declare 20th June as International Refugee Day. As the former African Refugee Day, this date was chosen as an expression of solidarity with Africa, which is the continent that hosts the most refugees.