Saturday 26th of January hundreds of people gathered all over Norway in a National People’s Action for people on the run to request action and responsibility from our politicians. All over Norway people gathered to protest and create awareness around what is happening on the Greek Islands. The situation is precarious and something have to be done. Together with a number of other organizations, such as Save the Children, The Norwegian Centre against Racism and Refugee Welcome Norway, A Drop in the Ocean afilliated the National Action. Our general secretary Trude Jacobsen held a strong appeal, together with her seven year old daughter Isabel, in Trondheim. Read the entire appeal here:
Translated by: Maria Sagen Vodentsis and Laura Gilbert
Shhh, be completely silent now. Close your eyes for a second, can you hear the waves? Can you hear the motor? Can you hear screaming? Listen to this.
What you just heard were authentic recordings of a woman’s desperate screams for help. She is out there in the dark in a boat with engine problems, she is saying: we are in international waters, our boat is taking in water, we are trying to get to Mytilini, we are dying, help us. In the boat you can also hear children, you can hear the fear in their voices and in their screams. Totally unacceptable, totally unacceptable was the answer our Minister of Justice gave when he was confronted with the question ‘could Norway help more some more people?’. Maybe some of the children from this or other boats.
If we help more than the ones we need, those we have committed to through the Dublin agreement, it will destroy our warm welfare society, his party colleague said a little later on.
Do we live in a warm welfare society? Welfare society yes, but is it warm? Or is the welfare making us shut down in our own cold bubble, wanting all the good things all for ourselves? What happened to solidarity in our part of the world? When was it erased like an old chapter? Did it happen eventually as a result of oil and wealth? Or did it suddenly happen when the last living witnesses from the second world war passed away?
We are like these people who are now sitting in ice cold and wet refugee camps on the Greek islands. We were also on the run from a power-crazy ruler, who had occupied our country, we were trapped in our own country and a lot of us had to flee the country in order to survive. We are just like them. My own grandpa was a refugee. First he was a prisoner here in Trøndelag, were he was kept at the Falstad concentration camp for over one year. When he got out (no one knows how) he had to run away from the country to save his own life.
I got home from the Greek islands and the camps on mainland Greece just a couple of weeks ago. There are now 16 000 people living on the Greek islands and their human rights are being violated every day. I have been to these camp many times over the last three and a half years, but this time I saw something that scared me more than ever before. To see people lose hope of a normal life and losing faith for their future, that hurts. To hear mothers say ‘I wish I had died in a bombing attack with my children, rather than to slowly rot away in a camp in Greece’ makes me feel ashamed on behalf of mankind. What’s happening in Europe now will forever stand as a black mark in our history, we are watching childhood perish on our own continent, and our elected leaders are saying that it is unacceptable to help. They are saying that our rich nation can’t handle any more and our welfare society will break, and unfortunately many people believe this rhetoric which is built upon xenophobia.
Our welfare society will not break if we help some more people, it will not. It is after all, human resources we are talking about, people that can expand the knowledge of the welfare community. And so what if we get a little less money in the bank if we get richer on unity and compassion. Politics is about wanting, compassion is about empathy, solidarity is about both. I think the Norwegian people would have both will and empathy to wanting to contribute if only the politicians would let us. A really warm welfare society can only be built by people who care about others.
7 year old Isabel who is standing here right next to me, has been with me to a refugee camp in Greece. It took only 3 seconds before she joined in with jumping ropes and drawing with the kids living there.
The life-vest she is wearing was worn by a Syrian girl crossing the sea between Turkey and Greece. The vest is totally fake and I would never let her wear it out on the open sea. Isabel is going to finish off this appeal, and I think she is talking on the behalf of all Norwegian children.
Dear Erna (Norway’s prime minister), I also want more children in Norway, so together we can build a good country for the future. Children are children, no matter what the colour of their skin. All children have the right to a safe home, all children have the right to go to school. Help the children who are freezing in refugee camps in Greece NOW!