Representatives of human rights?
We often deceive ourselves that this situation has arisen under the pressure of the far-right. As a countermeasure to far-right politics, European technocrats and moderate strategists claim that refugee flows and Europe’s external border should be strictly controlled. Following this strategy, ‘moderate’ political parties have, increasingly, hardened their asylum policies and taken a tougher stance with respect to refugees.
What, however, if we were to recognize Césaire’s insights and realize that the current asylum policy is rather the product of the decades-long dehumanization of refugees by the European bureaucracy and technocratic politics, with the legacies of colonial imaginaries and geographies steering them firmly at the background? What if the deceptive self-image of European liberal democracies, in the sense of ‘representatives of human rights’, has never been justified?
Europe’s moderate parties and majorities cannot distantiate themselves from the legacies of Europe’s colonialism which rendered all non-European lives inferior. This is evidenced by many practices. It is the basis for the deep-rooted racism in Europe, which Black Lives Matter has finally put on the agenda. Inferiorization and de-humanization are also unambiguously manifested in the abandonment, detention, deportation and drowning of thousands of our fellow humans at the external borders of Europe. What if we were to recognize that Moria is just a painful symptom of more to come in Europe, following what has already been? Is it not the case that many European institutions, parties, and majorities – not just the far-right— are concerned with European lives instead of human lives?
Since the total burning down of Moria in September 2020, Europe has established another refugee camp on Lesbos, where refugees are living in shaky and leaking tents with no access to running water, protection from the weather, medical care, and legal support. Residents describe this precarious condition as worse than Moria.
There is no doubt that Europe could effortlessly accommodate 12,000 asylum seekers on its soil. All that is required is our political will. But with history telling a different story, it seems that we are giving shape to new Morias. Indeed, refugees have already found a proper name for the updated version of Europe’s largest refugee camp: it is called ‘Moria 2.0’.
 Césaire, A. (1989). Discours sur le colonialisme. Paris: Présence africaine. (original work published 1955)
This piece is based on an article that was first published on September 29, 2020 in the Dutch newspaper, Trouw.Print