The suffering of refugees is an enduring dilemma, present throughout history. The constant number of deaths at the EU-borders is an unbearable shame, yet European media and society do not pay enough attention to this ongoing humanitarian crisis. People die on a daily basis, making this the new normal.
When Berlin-based artist group “Center for Political Beauty” and tens of thousands of demonstrators besieged chancellor Angela Merkel’s office, urging for safe passage for refugees and dignified funerals for the dead, a flashmob that would spread all across Germany. People erected white crosses in the middle of cities and villages, remembering those who died at the borders. This strong symbolism inspired Senior Fellow Armin Wühle and a couple of supporters to start his Action Project, To Those Who Die at Our Borders (Den Sterbenden an unseren Grenzen), an online photo campaign.
Armin’s Action Project aimed to break the widespread indifference and awaken people to the atrocities that are occurring at the EU’s border. He wanted to provide information about circumstances on the flight and the dangers of the EU-border security measures.
There is a widespread apathy for the people dying on their way to Europe. If something happens on a daily basis, it often becomes ordinary – people become dull, numb or indifferent towards the suffering.
Wühle’s team were determined to draw attention to helpful initiatives which work on site and need money and support for their life saving work (“Sea-Watch”, a private sea rescue organization; “Mobile Info Team”, a legal aid service working in Greece; and “City Plaza Hotel Athens”, a former hotel that offers refugees a safe place for free during their travels)
The project focussed on a collage of pictures, shot by local artists paired with a interview with a refugee who shared their personal experiences.
Armin and his supporters timbered about 30 white crosses and put them in places of everyday life, like cafés, playgrounds and cinemas. The crosses replaced people, signifying the loss of life. They wanted to demonstrate that the people who die at the borders are not only numbers, but humans. They could be our neighbors, friends, children – and they could have lived next to us, if a safe passage would have been provided to them. They wanted to give a feeling for this huge number of deaths – the UNHCR found out that since 2014, over 10,000 people have died on their way to Europe.
If you count all the crosses on the pictures, you’ll get around 200… which is about 2% of the people who actually died.