Illegal migrants, failed asylum seekers, even refugees; all of these labels are inadequate catch-all terms that can only dehumanise, and rarely capture the range of human experience you find at the ports of France, on the streets of Athens and London.
On hearing about the deaths off the Italian island of Lampedusa last month, I was struck by the prescience of these words. Yasin, who made the comment, was Eritrean, like many of those who died. He made the same journey and survived.
A question for the European politicians thrashing out a plan to provide “assistance” to Syria: if a bedraggled Syrian escapes the war, if he escapes the chaos of the refugee camps in Iraq or Jordan or Turkey, if he arrives tired but hopeful on your doorstep, what will happen to him?
Flowing from Bulgaria to the Aegean Sea, the River Evros forms a natural border between Greece and Turkey. At night the shallow waters and islands provide a lifeline for the migrants and asylum seekers using the river as a passage into Europe. Many drown attempting to cross. Or they are deliberately pushed back by EU border patrol. A Syrian refugee tells his story.
An Iraqi Kurd peeps out from under a pile of blankets on a wet pavement. “OK you journalist,” he says. “Tell me where are the human rights in Europe?”