“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”
‘Home’ by Warsan Shire
In every war, there are gains and losses. In every war, these two concepts are distributed equally between two sides. The spoils of war are shared between governments, arms dealers and arms makers, as well as every kind of businessman that sees this hideous act as a process to increase their profit. In other words, the side that favours imperialism and supports such acts.
The losses always fall on the common people. Workers, farmers, families and those who form the largest part of the society. In other words, they are the innocent victims of imperialistic tactics. Apart from the direct and imminent danger of losing their life, common people face the grave danger of dislocation, losing their property and ending up as war and economic refugees in another country. In light of recent events on the Ukraine front, it is crucial to understand that warmongering, the actual complexity of the border system, and the rise of extreme right-wing sentiment in Europe pose serious dangers of displacement for thousands of people. According to statistics, only in 2020 55,000,000 people were forced into internal displacement due to war, violence and conflict. Just in Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, and Syria, over 38 million people have been displaced abroad or within their own countries. In the current crisis, the White House (oh the irony) has estimated that in the first two weeks of the war, possibly 1,000,000 to 5,000,000 people will move from Ukraine towards Europe. Already, 1,500,000 people have been internally displaced due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. We are talking about a massive wave of immigration that will have detrimental effects on the lives of millions of people.
It is common knowledge that the tactics of the EU are not the most welcoming towards refugees. Just to give an example, in 2021, in only two shipwrecks, 164 people died due to the lack of help and an effective system in place that can facilitate war and economic refugees. Just try to imagine the conditions that these people will face in an imminent war in a much closer part of Europe. Thousands, if not millions, will be packed into trucks and trains running scared from killing machines. The elderly, the pregnant, and small children will have to walk thousands of miles to reach the next country, only to see uniformed policemen and army men screaming at them to go back or stand there “until help arrives”. It goes without saying that the tragedies of these people losing their family homes, their jobs and most items of sentimental and economic value that they possess. As we saw from the above examples, however, reality shows otherwise.
Under the 1951 Geneva Convention, countries are obliged to accept refugees fleeing from war (reality shows otherwise). So let’s say that some of them do manage to bypass the border and move to another country. What will they face there? Many countries do not have the infrastructure to host such a vast amount of people so quickly. The majority of these people will have a very hard time assimilating to a different society due to the recent rise of racism and xenophobia. Neighbouring countries like Poland and Hungary are known for their extreme right-wing governments and the intense conservative culture they maintain towards refugees. What we will possibly witness is a ‘selection’ of refugees by the authorities of these countries getting privileges and access to facilities and a system that will ease assimilation, based on class, political beliefs, identification and ethical background. This form of selective acceptance will also increase the levels of xenophobia. How? The media and political system will assume its usual role, that of scapegoating and victim-blaming people on the border trying to get in and people who have bypassed the borders, which will grow the support of the same right-wing conservative parties that maintain this exact culture.
It’s all a never-ending cycle that victimizes only the common people. The current socio-economic and political system is ready to wage a full-scale war in an area that historically is besotted with a vast amount of problems. People that live there have seen their lives deteriorating. A resident of the area told reporters that ‘ he was able to continue working remotely, but when Ukraine suspended banking services to rebel-held territory later that year, he was unable to withdraw his earnings to purchase nappies and food for his family.’ Although current residents who are close to the border have been desensitized due to the ongoing years of conflict, they live with the fear of a possible attack and struggle to continue their daily lives normally. The situation has been getting worse over the past few days. The US is sending an estimated 2,000 troops to the area, a move that can cause serious destabilization in the area. Although there are statements that this move is not permanent, there are fears over tensions rising at the border. The deployment of troops there aims for the inclusion of Ukraine in NATO, which means further possible aggression from the other side, especially if these troops stay there permanently.
It is vital to understand that the economic gains, the known tactics of imperialism, the rise of nationalism and the complexity of the border system are masked behind the veil of political games which only victimize daily people. We cannot understand the fear and pain these people have to go through due to war, but we can share our thoughts so that their suffering does not remain in the shadows.
Panagiotis Gkagkatsi is a PhD Student in the School of Law, specialising in International Law, Economic Sanctions, Political Theory, International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law.