Work has started on an initial exploratory delegation to the Greek-Turkish border to meet with refugees, civil society organizations and activists, build relationships and develop an understanding of the situation.
The April 2014 delegation is an expansion of CPT’s involvement with this humanitarian crisis and its work in Europe.
An Afghan refugee named Ali represents the challenge many refugees face. He has made the perilous journey to Europe twice. The first time, when he was a teenager, he was deported back to Afghanistan — where he knew nobody, since he grew up as a refugee in Iran. He resolved to come back to Europe and this time to stand up for his right to stay.
During the third annual European CPT Convergence in Malmö, Sweden, in May 2013, Ali, now in his mid-20s, invited CPTers and supporters to join him in solidarity. He announced that refugees in Sweden were organizing a one-month protest march to demand fair treatment and the right to build their lives without the threat of deportation. He invited CPT to accompany the march. Although it was short notice, several reservists were able to respond to this call.
The systematic closure and militarization of Europe’s borders with its neighbors in recent years contrast sharply with the European Union’s rhetoric of democracy and universal human rights, CPT workers believe.
Thousands of refugees have died along EU borders in recent years. Miles of barbed wire and military-style border controls are forcing migrants to take the most dangerous routes — crossing the Mediterranean Sea or the narrow straits between Greece and Turkey. Those who make it face racism, violence, institutional incompetence and, frequently, confinement or deportation.
CPT’s delegation plans come after a steady buildup of momentum in the EU, beginning with the first European CPT training in 2009 in London, annual convergences since 2011 and creation of a part-time Europe CPT outreach worker position in July.
CPT’s institutional growth in Europe is reflected in rising numbers of delegates, trainees, interns and Corps members from Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Poland, the Czech Republic, Italy and Switzerland.