We are gathered here as citizens of Maastricht, citizens of the Netherlands, citizens of Europe, and citizens of the World. Together with people all over the continent, who went to the streets yesterday, are taking to the streets today, and those who will do so within the upcoming days, we send a strong signal to political decision-makers of all levels: That human rights are non-negotiable.
We send this signal, because for several years now, the national governments of the European Union fail to resolve a humanitarian crisis taking place on the Greek island of Lesvos, on the Mediterranean Sea, and in refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon, and Libya, and beyond each and every single day.
On February 27, the Turkish government stopped its unworthy detention of asylum seekers, which was sponsored with money from EU governments. Next thing we know, the Greek authorities expel refugees who had a right to request asylum , collectively suspend any right to asylum , and relentlessly attack men, women, and children alike with teargas . Journalists [4a], humanitarian workers [4b], and parliamentary observers [4c] are attacked, the Greek coastal guard refuses to rescue a boat in sea distress for more than 4 hours , an innocent child died . On 2 March, Muhammad al-Arab was shot by Greek border guards and died of the consequences . We want to hold a moment of silence.
“It is luck, which decides where on this planet we’re born” (Erik Marquardt).
Human lives have become a playing ball for political leaders, for national governments, and for the Presidents of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and the President of the European Council Charles Michel alike. Instead of ensuring the help of Europe to the victims of war and terror, the only people they expressed solidarity with are the border guards , who themselves perpetrate acts of violence. They openly and proudly betray the values on which the European Union was founded, betray the Geneva Convention, betray universal human rights. And they replace it with a toxic and smug European nationalism. The Dutch government: stayed silent.
The most of us standing here today can call themselves lucky to have been living in peace their entire lives. We are incredibly rich, and we need to show that human rights count for everyone. To remind ourselves and to remind our politicians of that, we are lucky to have had several people speaking on this topic.
Maastricht advertises itself as a city in the “heart of Europe”. We thank all of you for showing on this evening that this heart isn’t cold. As a world town, Maastricht is an open, and inclusive place. Maastricht is a city of dignity and respect for human rights and peace.
European national governments must stop in blocking municipalities from taking in people. The Dublin regulation needs to be abolished. And most importantly: The refugees stuck at the border deserve a safe home now, here in Maastricht, in Limburg, or in the rest of this damn rich continent.
We can do more. We must lobby the city of Maastricht to become a safe harbour for those in need and to directly take in people when they are in distress. If you are interested in that, please contact me. Individually, we can donate the money to those for whom it may make the difference between life or death. Maybe opt for donating the 3.80€ you would have spent on an overpriced Jupiler to a local NGO operating on the ground – it does make a difference.
Lastly, we clearly resent nationalism and racism, no matter whether Dutch or European. And we support lawmaker’s efforts to use more of our luxury to help out those in need.
Thank you all for coming this evening. Thank you to Janneke, Marla, and Bela for giving their testimony, and alerting us. Solidarity is for everyone, and not only for Greek boarder guards, and we hope that one day, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel will also understand that.
And now one last time: Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here!
Please keep up to date with current developments, and rely on sources such as independent journalists and organisations closely monitoring the situation. For a more comprehensive report on the human rights violations, see (Human Rights Watch), the (UN Refugee Agency), and (Amnesty International [a]). If you are looking for background information on the fortification of Europe and the promotion of inhumane policies, consider reading (Amnesty International [b])‘s published report.
N.B.: Speech slightly adapted in order to fit the blog post format.
: The Greek authorities repeteadly tried to dismiss the suspected murder as “fake news” [7a]. Multiple sources, preliminary investigations, reports from eye-witnesses, and graphic footage of the incident strongly suggest otherwise [7b].