I do not have an iPhone

So I could qualify as a real refugee if war happened to me again, no? I mean, I do have an android phone, and yeah, if I had to flee again, I would most likely bring it with me because it’s a lifeline to everyone I know as well as to essential emergency services, plus it weighs practically nothing, but it’s not an iPhone, so I could pass for a real refugee, right? Or maybe it would be better to hide it anyway and remember to wear my worst clothes ever rather than the ones that would keep me warm and dry at night, because you better fucking look the part if you find yourself on the wrong side of a humanitarian crisis. You better look like you’re visiting from the Dark Ages if you want to satisfy the privileged gaze.

People who bring their phones to the loo with them now scoff at others who are uprooting their entire lives for bringing theirs. Are you kidding me?

Do iPhones in the refugees’ hands bring it too close to home that they are just like you and me? Is it because people wanted to see Middle Easternes as backwards and awfully primitive and generally beneath the mighty capitalist Westerner or something? Pls explain.

By the way, I once met a vendor of the Big Issue who had an iPhone so he could accept electronic payments from people who don’t have cash on them. I don’t know how it works, exactly, since I don’t have one myself, so obviously, the correct conclusion here is that I am actually way worse off than him, the scrounging bastard.

What say you to that, people suddenly interested in the plight of the homeless for the first time in your lives? Where is your god now?

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Welcome to Europe

…where we like to set fascists to guard our borders.

I can’t help but wonder if the reason why Europe is now acting this way toward refugees is because they think they’re somehow different than them. Honey, you’re not. Underneath it all, you’re as much animal as the rest of us—and judging by the sort of guards you’ve put on the Hungarian-Serbian border, perhaps even more.

Have a look at Jim Marshall’s album from the last day before Hungary sealed its border with Serbia. He’s headed back tomorrow, so make sure to follow his public posts.

If you have any relevant language skills, check out this page by the Central European University.

I know we can do better. We have done better.

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An unexpected bonus of “collecting” the good stories concerning refugees and sharing them is that people quickly start showering you with them. I get tagged on Facebook stories several times a day and friends from around Europe send me links so touching they occasionally make me cry.

Obviously, I’m aware of the nasty crap, too. I just thought we all needed some encouragement here and there so as not to entirely drown in it. But this hasn’t suddenly turned into a cheerleading blog.

Some of the current wave of refugees has now reached Denmark and it hurts to see these groups of people making their way towards Sweden on foot. I never thought I had any feelings of ownership toward Denmark, but the photos of refugees walking really freaking hurt. There are people on the ground helping, both Red Cross and private citizens, but none of it changes the fact that Denmark right this minute apparently is a country you do not want to seek shelter in. And OW.

Denmark makes the headlines. :-/

Denmark makes the headlines. :-/

I can’t imagine what it must be like to stand there and watch this happen right outside of your town. Because my immediate association is to that time in the early 90s when we from our living room window watched a convoy in the distance heading toward Banja Luka. They did not stop in our town, and if you hadn’t known you were in deep shit before, you certainly knew it by then.

These are the stories people will be telling years from now, to their children, to their countrymen, new or otherwise—’in 2015, we crossed a good part of Denmark, one of the richest countries, on foot’. On foot, and I will never get over this.

Update: 2:45 pm GMT. Danish Rail are now letting the refugees travel for free, and Swedish Rail aren’t checking tickets either, I am told.


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The Future

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I’ve collected some more encouraging links since last weekend’s ‘Some faith in humanity restored‘ post. The latest one just this morning, when I saw a Facebook friend had shared this link, which itself is a compilation of stories about the solidarity between people, with the simple caption: ‘The future’.

‘Ordinary citizens across Europe are stepping in to help refugees where their governments have failed’, the article headline reads, and boy, have they failed. Except maybe the German one, who is currently accepting Syrian refugees without forcing them out via the Dublin Regulation. All the others seem eons behind. Some still hope they will eventually catch up though:

Here’s a photo posted by a friend from the BH Protest Files, taken in Toronto:

Next Saturday (12th September), solidarity demos are announced in London, Dover (which is where refugees from Calais touch ground) and Sarajevo, the last one by another friend from the Protest Files.

Speaking of Calais, that Facebook group I mentioned last time now has more than 21,000 members and is a complete flurry of activity. London24 and the Guardian have published guides and tips on how you can help, and then there’s this sweet video about people from Portsmouth taking direct action. :)


CalAid volunteers collected tents and sleeping bags after Redding Festival to take to Calais:


And here’s another lovely video from Germany: citizens welcoming refugees in Munich.


From Denmark, there are a few stories to share. About five minutes after I had published my last post, a friend wrote on Facebook how she had been moved to tears at a collection point for aid to the Greek island of Lesbos. There had been collection points all over the country, and the turn-out had been overwhelming. Apart from diapers, clothes and sleeping bags, around 200,000 DKK (nearly £18,000 / $30,000 / €27,000) were collected, in just two days, from what I can tell. They’re still sorting and packing some of the donations.

After a refugee centre in Denmark was vandalised last week—a mini van set on fire and a swastika and the words ‘first warning’ and ‘DNSB’ (acronym for a nazi movement) painted on the walls—a couple of thousand citizens showed up at a solidarity demo. Among them a number of vicars in clerical clothing, as they didn’t just want to attend as individuals, but also give the church a voice in the matter.

There’s a short video clip of the event here (Danish website). Around the 1:00 minute mark, my friend Bodil Hindsholm Hansen (herself a vicar) says: ‘It’s overwhelming. So many people. (…) To express solidarity with the refugees that a minority is against. And those people are cowards, they come in the middle of the night, while we come in broad daylight to show that we want to welcome refugees.’ Earlier in the video (0:29), 7-year old Eddy Buck explains that ‘we are here to celebrate that they’ve come’. More photos here.

Another way of handling xenophobic hate was this action by Signe Vedel Pedersen and my co-admin of the (now defunct) Facebook group for Pearls, Marianne Paçarada (oh, the fun we had). A mother and son in Marianne’s town had received nasty hate mail including two rotten bananas (???) saying ‘I f*cking hate muslims. F*ck the both of you. Go home.’ As a response, people came together to send the small family a card with the opposite message. Marianne then handwrote over 1,000 names in the card that read ‘…we are happy that you are here and we want to protect you’.

Marianne wrote that the mother had been extremely moved by the gesture and was going to save the card to always be able to take it out and take comfort in it should anything similar happen to her and her son again.

The same group (including some new people) also sent a similar card to the asylum centre that had been vandalised.

So, yeah. The future is to self-organise. Whether the dinosaurs in our parliaments catch up or not.

I hope that cheers up your weekend a bit. I will now be off to my local shops to ask for cardboard to make a sign for next week’s demo. And this is what I’ll be putting on it.

i was a refugee


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Some faith in humanity restored

A few quick notes to cheer up your Sunday:

6 tons of donations (food, medicine, hygiene and other supplies) collected in Sarajevo were yesterday taken to Belgrade to be handed out to the refugees currently sleeping in the city’s parks. Donations were collected by the organisation Komšiluk (Neighbourhood), which also had help from the organisation Pomozi.ba (Help).

The Facebook group “Calais – People to People Solidarity – Action from UK” currently has over 5,500 members. It’s a very active group and many of the members are collecting donations and driving to Calais. A member recently wrote that whenever she goes to buy groceries to take to Calais, the grocers throw in an extra kilo of whatever she’s bying for free. :)

Have you seen these ‘Refugees welcome’ banners at German football matches yet?

And that video of Germans waving a welcome to a bus full of refugees just arriving?

Two days ago, this article with the headline ‘Belgrade had breakfast with refugees in the park’ appeared on Vice, describing how volunteers and various bakeries and small businesses brought food and shared it with the refugees.

Telenor Serbia has provided free wifi in one of the parks where the refugees are and a tower for another one is underway.

I will keep an eye out for more, because I’m sure we’ve all had enough of the other news to bring anyone to their knees.

Peace, love and no borders,



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What country, by the nature of your error, should give you harbour?

I was recently reminded of this performance by Sir Ian McKellen which I was fortunate enough to watch in person back in 2012 at the book launch for The People Speak. As to why I was reminded of it—have a look at European news and take your pick…

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Let me tell you a war story

When I was 12 and war was raging in my country, I lived with my mother in a block of flats. One day, as we entered the front door, we were stopped by the old lady who lived with her husband on the ground floor. In her hands she had a bowl of flour which she held out to my mother. ‘Here, you have a little one. Bake her a bread.’

My mother, struck dumb by the gesture, accepted the bowl, shared a silent moment with the old lady who then slowly made her way back into her flat. It wasn’t even a time for smiles, because we all knew why we were in this situation in the first place.

You have to understand, this was food from their own table at a time when we hadn’t seen a full meal in months, flour was incredibly scarce, and you never knew what you would be eating next week. I’d stopped growing. And this was one of the ways you got by. Many people made it through the war because a neighbour hid them or helped them out. Your best chance of survival were often those closest to you.

‘Here, you have a little one.’

Most of my Facebook friends live in Europe, and their friends probably do too. Your countries are being taken over by people whose reaction to a humanitarian crisis is to hysterically scream ‘Swarms! Fences! Sic NATO on their boats!’ Especially the wealthy ones. It’s true of Denmark where I lived most of my life, and it’s true of the UK where I live now. Somehow, this has become an acceptable way of treating fellow human beings. Maybe because it is too often left unchallenged?

So let me ask you a question. Are these the kind of people you want to be in the same boat (!) with in a time of emergency—people without a shred of empathy? Yes, their vitriol is racist today, but it could be directed at you tomorrow, trust me. War and disaster can happen to anyone and anywhere; you only have to go back to your grandparents’ generation and there was war in your own countries. You’re not guaranteed eternal safety. I realise you don’t really understand this, even though you’ve read about it, so maybe just consider listening to those of us who know it in their bones.

Do you think the people screaming about refugees today would ever offer you food from their own table to feed your child?

Then how about the next time they open their mouths, you shut them the fuck up. Thank you.

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