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For months European governments have offered a shameful spectacle of egoism, bickering over quotas and failed regulatory systems. But if leaders have proved once again incapable of rising up to the gravity of times, we are energised in witnessing the emergence of migrants and refugees themselves as a real political actor in Europe, with unexpected support and mobilisation of European civil society.
It is not an exaggeration to say that refugees and migrants are managing to do what we haven’t achieved until now: seriously challenging European politics. From Kos to the Austrian border, the mobilisation and perseverance of migrants has overcome all walls and fences it crossed and re-opened a political and institutional debate on European asylum and migration policies.
The call of this new migrant subjectivity hasn’t gone unheard. There has been an upsurge in transnational solidarity among European citizens. Across the continent people are welcoming refugees, opening up their homes for shelter, donating food and medicine, or assisting with travel. Countless volunteers are helping out on Greek islands, while 30.000 people took to the streets for the rights of refugees in Austria, hundreds of thousands are signing various online petitions and a European day of action for refugees has been called on September 12. After years of escalating racist rhetoric, this attitude was not a foregone conclusion.
For years civil society in Europe has called on the European Union to reform its migration policies and to scrap the disastrous Dublin principles, as with the Charter of Lampedusa we drafted together with hundreds of social movements and migrant groups. And for years the EU and national governments have ignored these calls and relied on a fundamentally flawed system, with consequences both brutal and costly.
Now the double push from below of migrants and European citizens has started to upturn mainstream narratives, but for the moment the response of elected politicians is still highly unsatisfactory. Beyond humanitarian solidarity, citizens and migrants need to continue to question the political institutions themselves that impose the murderous borders.
After the darks summer months symbolised by the hashtag #ThisIsACoup, the #MarchOfHope shows that another Europe still exists. And it is the egalitarian spirit of the anti-austerity struggles and the solidarity of the fights against borders that are now drawing its lines.