Lips Sewn Shut


The growing epidemic of displaced refugees stemming from the unrest in Syria and the Middle East has resulted in millions of men, women, and children starving and homeless, waiting for a higher authority to assist them in their time of need. However, the recent actions by the Balkan countries (Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia, and Croatia), seen as gateways to the safety and freedom from persecution of Europe, to restrict visas at the border to only migrants “from where there are armed battles” provides little hope to refugees from other parts of the world. This restriction effectively only allows migrants fleeing from the horrors of Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan induced by ISIS. While the willingness to accept any migrants at all is admirable, the act eliminates the hopes and dreams of refugees hailing from other parts of the world. Most affected by this edict are African and South Asian migrants.

Termed “economic migrants”, the lives of these refugees are not valued as much as those fleeing ISIS. Thousands of Iranian, Eritrean, and Bangladeshi migrants hoping for access to the European Union are currently stuck on the border with no real option of what to do next. Those already stationed at the border but refused entrance now make their home just outside the borderlines. Living in squalor and filth, most with just the clothes on their back and tents to house them, they stay in a makeshift ghetto with little access to modern amenities.

In a form of protest, these same migrants are sewing their lips together in an effort to bring awareness to their awful situation. As seen in the photo above, the crude sewing jobs across their lips is a painful reminder that their voices do not matter to the world wide community. Almost thirteen hundred refugees flocked to Idomeni, a town on the Greek side of the border between Greece and Macedonia, to protest the Macedonian government’s decision to turn away migrants that are not deemed worthy enough to be let in.

The bulk of those protesting are primarily Iranian, but Bangladesh and African refugees are said to be among them. At least ten migrants have been reported to be on the hunger strike. Pakistanis are also prevalent among the crowds, fleeing religious persecution. Those labelled “economic migrants”, or people searching for more economic prosperity than their home country currently offers, by European government claim to be fleeing forced military conscription and service. However, their pleas fall on deaf ears as border officials are overloaded with the amount of migrants wishing to travel across the borders.

The protest paints a stark portrait of the difference between the Western world and the people desperately trying to enter it. Basically standing on top of the Macedonian border are thousands of men and women in silence while riot police use their shields to physically block their entrance. Iranians, Pakistanis, and men from many other cultures sitting next to each other and makeshift tents serve as an ever present reminder of the people suffering in their native countries. When a reporter asks them if they will go ever back the protesters emphatically respond no and gesture to the ground, as if stating they would rather die here than attempt to return. Sitting on railroad tracks, these men stay night and day because they have nowhere else to go. One protester from Bangladesh had “Shoot Us We Never Go Back” written in bold red letters on his chest, daring the riot police to use force.

Along with the unrest in the Middle East due to the brutality of ISIS and their affiliated terror groups, Africa has been the second largest region that migrants flee from to the safety of Europe. Their dangerous path towards the European Union usually consists of being stuffed into boats along with thousands of others and making the treacherous journey from Libya across the Mediterranean Sea. Unsafe practices and predatory smugglers leads to thousands of deaths yearly for these unfortunate refugees before ever making it to safer lands. It leaves no hope or optimism for the remaining migrants wishing to gain access to freedom.

The protests witnessed along the Greece and Macedonian borders will only increase if there is nothing to alleviate the suffering of these refugees. Until Europe gets a handle on the ongoing migrant crises, the amount of refugees banging on their front doors will continue to rise. More people will be living in tents, hopelessly waiting for an end to their struggle. This is exactly what cannot happen.

#refugee #middleeast #protest

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