Driving to Brussels

February 27, 2017

Fear of populism is causing our European political leaders to backtrack on promises and betray the declared European values of solidarity, human dignity and equality all across the continent.

Even without being in government, populist parties are already shaping policies and platforms of mainstream parties who fear losing votes. Populists don’t need to win power to achieve their agenda. Mainstream parties are delivering it for them. With our silent collusion.

Fear is causing nation states to renege on commitments made in September 2015, for example, to relocate over 63,000 refugees stuck in Greece to other nations. While having to deal with its own crisis, Greece has been left having to cope with the overflow of refugees. However, less than 10,000 have been relocated after nearly 18 months.

Italy is the other nation carrying the lion’s share of refugees, with nearly 35,000 whom other European nations committed to relocate, of which less than 4000 have been so far transferred. In other words, only 14,000 of the promised 98,000 have been relocated. Less than one in six!

Inhumane

Meanwhile, these men, women and children were forced to stay in inhumane conditions through a freezing winter, left out in the cold on the doorstep of the very place they came to seek refuge. Is this the kind of Europe we want to be? Do we as European Christians sit idly by and allow this creeping poison of fear and exclusion to turn our continent into a fortress? Or is there something we can do?

Kathia Reynders, of the Schuman Salon in Brussels, says yes, together we can make a statement to our European and national leaders that we expect them to keep their promises. She has been helping to organise a car parade in the heart of Brussels for next Monday, March 6, to show EU leaders just how serious some citizens are about welcoming refugees.

Let’s Bring Them Here started as a Dutch Car Parade last November (see video) when over 350 citizens drove their cars to The Hague. Offering themselves as ‘Official Chauffeurs’ to help and speed up the relocation process, they showed their support for the promises made in Brussels. A small group of young Dutch Amsterdammers, including theologian Rikko Voorberg and artist Tinkebell, felt they could no longer ignore the terrible situation of refugees in Greece. They initiated the project now supported by numerous organisations, including Amnesty International, Oxfam Novib, European Council on Refugees and Exiles, Vluchtelingenwerk and the Schuman Centre.

Last weekend, Kathia, Rikko and Tinkebell were part of a ‘Let’s Bring Them Here’-team which travelled to Greece to evaluate the situation there and to see for themselves how distressing and desperate it still is. For a year now almost everyone has been living in great insecurity, they found. Each of these refugees has been processed for security checks and approved for relocation somewhere in the EU. The endless waiting breaks people mentally and physically. For many of them just one phone call from a European Member State is keeping them from the beginning of a future. But that phone call is just not coming as Member States are stalling the process.

Parade

So next Monday, citizens from all over Europe are driving to Brussels to offer themselves as ‘Official European Chauffeurs’, willing to bring refugees to their respective countries–‘if that’s what it takes to make it happen’.

‘By driving our own cars to Brussels’, declare the organisers on their website, ‘we as drivers show that if necessary we are even willing to relocate the refugees ourselves to our own countries! We are offering our assistance, so that European leaders really have no excuse for not keeping their promises. We might not have planes, trains or boats to offer, but what we do have are our cars and willingness to be their chauffeurs and bring them here.’

After gathering in the Jubel Park, the cars will form a parade and drive to the Schuman Roundabout where the main European institutions are situated. The parade takes place just a couple of days ahead of the European Council meeting of all EU leaders in the same location. Images of the action will be shown during the days when EU leaders will meet later that week, on a big LED-screen on the roundabout right in front of the building where the meeting takes place.

So, Kathia, how can we get involved?

Answer:

  1. Drive to Brussels on March 6th! Register here.
  2. Invite others to join you on the trip to Brussels, by sharing: movie, FB event, sign-up, website, Facebook, twitter.
  3. Use #refugeepromise
  4. Even if they can’t make it to Brussels next Monday, people can post a selfie with their license plate to show their support  that day.

‘We’re doing our bit and taking a stand,’ says Kathia. ‘It’s time European governments lived up to their commitments.’

Till next week,


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