We recently asked TAM students, who are or have recently been in Europe and Turkey, to comment on what types of refugee situations they have witnessed. The small details involved in daily life are often missing from the mainstream news reports. As always, the TAM students did not disappoint and responded with a host of fascinating insights. Please read their comments below:
“The migrant crisis in France is among the most talked about in Europe. I’ll do my best to describe what’s going on in the city I know best, Paris, as well as the suburb in which I live, Ivry sur Seine. For those who follow the migrant crisis in the news, things are looking up for migrants who come to France. Hollande has just agreed to accept 24,000 refugees over the next 2 years. How France intends to process those refugees, where the country intends to house them, and where those who aren’t accepted will go is less sure than a figure, however. These uncertainties are the reasons it is important to keep one’s ear low to the ground, rather than having one’s nose buried in a newspaper, to understand how the crisis is affecting the city (and the country). Refugees come from all over. To give some examples, I live near a center that houses refugees primarily from Eritrea. There are centers in the city housing families and individuals of Afghan, North African, and Sudanese origins. When they don’t live in centers, migrants will often establish tent communities in the streets or underneath bridges. These may last a few weeks or months, but inhabitants of these dwellings have recently faced angry police squads tasked with the immediate removal of all individuals and their belongings. (Here’s an example that has circulated among refugee and asylum-seeker supporters, which someone managed to record on video).
Events like these lead some to believe that France is using its agreement to accept more refugees than its neighbors as a way to earn kudos in the European Union. That said, there is an outpouring of support that I find uplifting. Here at Sciences Po, student organizations are built around collecting donations and supporting refugees throughout the country, not just in Paris. A group recently went to Calais to deliver clothing and supplies to newcomers arriving in the French port city. I recently attended a town hall meeting in the 9th arondissement intended to inform Parisians how they can support refugees in their communities and at the centers throughout the city. Supporters can do anything from donating clothing and food to welcoming a family into their homes. I intend to go to one of the centers within the next week to give French and/or English classes.”
From Berlin: “I’ve mainly been exposed to how the transatlantic community is reacting to the refugee crisis thanks to my internship. Last week, with EU meetings going on to try to figure out how to manage the influx of refugees, we received a lot of submissions. It’s clear that Angela Merkel has received a lot of criticism both from Germans and from the rest of the European community for her decision to open borders and then with the consequences that had. We posted a critical article comparing Merkel to Thatcher in her last days http://www.atlantic-community.org/-/has-mama-merkel-met-her-maggie-moment- . Also, there’s been a lot of criticism of NATO and the US for not doing enough about the refugee crisis – its been said that the US is so far away that we can easily sort of ignore the crisis and leave it to Europe because we are geographically separated from it. As far as civilian responses and vibes in the city, I haven’t noticed too much, except general comments like ‘this is really crazy what’s going on’, etc. Furthermore, as far as submissions we’ve received here at the Atlantic Community, where I intern, – again they are focused on possible problems of integration and fears of xenophobia… but no real solutions being offered, as far as I can tell… just a lot of calls for stronger reactions from government officials.”
And another student in Berlin explains, “Though I have not had any first-hand experiences in Berlin of dealing with the refugee crisis, there are smaller subtleties that I have noticed. For example, I have heard about and seen advertisements for numerous benefits concerts and fundraisers, trying to raise money for the crisis. There is also plenty of reporting in the news about the crisis, especially at the EU level and about what Germany intends to do.”
Yet, another TAM student who had recently been in Prague, posted his response, focused on Sweden, on his own blog: https://europhilejournal.wordpress.com/
And another, who had just been in Bath, sent her blog post too: https://londonlive7.wordpress.com/2015/09/17/how-is-the-migration-crisis-affecting-you-a-view-from-britain/