The 8 x 140 of the European Commission

Grigoris Semitekolo, "Imaginary Landscape", 1993 Grigoris Semitekolo, "Imaginary Landscape", 1993
 Ioanna Atopou

On 20th March 2016,  the European Commission posted on Twitter the new stand of the European Union referring to the management of what was called the Refugee Crisis. The previous, yet again extraordinary, European Council in the presence of the Turkish Prime Minister, European leaders signed a new agreement in which, as is clear in EU - Turkish joint statement, the main goal is to stop refugee movement from Turkey to the European Union, in particular to countries of central Europe.

Bearing in mind the latest developments, the Commission’s tweets became something of interest. As was expected, the Commission’s twitter “handler” made a well-contrived introduction to the main issue. In order to create a good impression, as well as to show that EU is a constitution where rules and laws prevail, the discussion opened by referring to the need to “tackle human trafficking network”, so it would be good to have a public opinion regarding the legal framework developing by EU against illegal immigrants prior to commencing the main topic, which was  immediately followed by the subject of implementation of the new agreement. This, of course, justly aroused innumerous reactions resulting inability to continue the main theme.  

EASO warns: “The Greek northern border remains closed. Those in EL can still be relocated. Others coming today will be returned to Turkey.”  Although the description is more than 140 characters, this still merits the whole deal. The Commission retweets, throw us a link to answer all the questions we may have on the subject and then starts talking to the public: As of today all new irregular migrants will be returned to Turkey, in full accordance with the European and international law. The relocation programme for migrants arriving in Greece after 20 March is closed. Syrians who have tried to come to Greece after 20 March will be last in line for resettlement from Turkey. EU Member States determined to make that plan work.

In Greece, the implementation of the European project started on 20.03.2016. The incredible, without precedent readiness of the state apparatus in the case of the refugee drama is more than impressive. The people who remained trapped on islands were transferred to inland “reception centres” early on Saturday morning. Ships are under way; camps are being erected or have been already set up. On islands, the prepared registration centres are invited to play their role. Those people rescued from the sea voyage will be transferred there, will be registered and according to “European and International Law” will be detained; and, afterwards, will be returned to Turkey where a few lucky ones will supposedly be offered relocation. However, this plan of action is debatable. Whether they will be able to apply for asylum is  again debatable.  Meanwhile, the staff and the costs that will be needed from Greece have been already estimated with the EU in the  supervisory role
The European Union declares the loyalty to the international laws and regulations in every official document, but when a necessity occurs, the laws become flexible. Moreover, the Union has never given a second thought each time to protecting itself. Complete failure so far to help the war and famine displaced persons is simply the other side of the Union currency: but at the same time bureaucratic mechanism of refugees’ registration and repressors of Member States operate automatically. However, some small defects shown by FRONTEX will not concern us for long because the organization which was created to supervise the Member States will be replaced by a European Border Guard that will be able to intervene in the field. Every possible inability of the Greek state will be solved. The Union will assist them. There should not be any doubt about the effectiveness of the plan. After all, the responsibilities undertaken by Member States are as follows: to send staff, goods and money, to set up the people’s return, to relocate several thousand from Greece (as long as they indicate willingness, it is not necessary to take them all) and finally, a flight with refugees from Turkey to the EU. When the relevant headlines are announced, we should not worry any more. Europe will have made it…

Counting and recounting the 8 Tweets, each one of 140 characters sufficient to describe dystopia. The hashtag used by the handler is #RefugeeCrisis but the Commission refers to irregular migrants and Syrians. As can be verified by any user of Twitter, they are careful enough not to leave any room for hope. The word “refugee” has been connected along time ago with the word “crisis”, the migrants are always irregular, the Syrians are now called “Syrians” and they travel as a hobby with inflatable boats crossing the Aegean Sea, while when returning to Turkey they will find themselves at the end of the waiting list. All this running on the computer or mobile screen show you how you should feel: order and security, desperation and frustration. It makes no sense how many images of misery you will compare to 140 characters to prove that people suffer.

The matter is not how many numbers and facts you present to repel the word “crisis”: how many women and children arrive to Europe, where do they come from, how do they survive in the refugee camps, what are their hopes, what are they looking for, which is the per capita GDP of European citizen, which are the wealthiest countries in the world and how many of them are located in Europe, in which countries is there a kind of welfare state, which countries have reached historically high levels of peace, which  countries have the best education system, how many millions of EU or its Member States budget are destined for the “management of migration flows”, for border protection, for funding research identification programs, registration programs, surveillance programs, what exactly is the “eurodac” system and how much does it cost (1, 2, 3) ? The answer is that none of this matters.

The countries that make up the European Union – not excluding Greece–  translate refugees to crisis. And we are all aware know to date how the Union confronts its crises. Besides, we have the recent experience of being at the heart of the economic crisis: applying inhumane policies maintaining the status quo religiously, with blindness and fanaticism. What makes you think that in the case of the underdogs of the wars the “European leaders” will act differently? Absolutely nothing. What makes you hope? Perhaps the only imponderable factor, something that the regulatory states and mechanism never managed to limit: human needs and desires.

Translated by Mania Meziti