Stranded migrants camp at the border between Greece and Macedonia near the Greek village of Idomeni November 23, 2015. Moroccans, Iranians and Pakistanis on Greece’s northern border with Macedonia blocked rail traffic and demanded passage to western Europe on Monday, stranded by a policy of filtering migrants in the Balkans that has raised human rights concerns. One Iranian man, declaring a hunger strike, stripped to the waist, sewed his lips together with nylon and sat down in front of lines of Macedonian riot police.  REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis
Migrants camping between the borders



Migrants Sew Lips Shut In Protest At Greek Border

At the border between Greece and Macedonia, six Iranian men have been waiting idly for four days. They sit on the railway tracks that run along the border, reticent to move and hopeful to continue their journey deeper into the heart of Europe. Their lips are sealed shut with thick stitches, and etched on their foreheads are the words ‘Just Freedom’ and ‘Iran.’

Greece Migrants
The protest combines silence and a food strike

In the vague space between two countries, these men are caught in an even vaguer terrain between instability and security. Like many of the other immigrants, the men are fleeing their home countries seeking safety and refuge. But following the attacks in Paris and Beirut earlier this month, the violence shed in Mali last Friday , and the evolving links between the attackers and Syria, Europe is growing hesitant about the influx of immigrants.

Wading through the aftershock of the past week, European countries are crafting a plan to secure their traditionally porous borders. On the 19th, a number of countries came together in an agreement to enact new steps to bolster security at the borders. Tighter passport checks are the bare minimum. Many Balkan countries, like Macedonia, have closed their borders, yielding only to those fleeing warring countries. Some immigrants traveling from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan are able to slip through the borders and onto the next step of the journey. But for many, like the six men fleeing Iran, the space between their home country and Western Europe is thick and impermeable.

A growing number of immigrants traveling through Greece are being met with the same dismal fate. Worse than a refusal to entry, the Save the Children charity group reports that over 70 children have drowned in the past two months in an attempt to reach the border the Iranian men now wait at.

The shift in border policy speaks to the continent-wide fear that pervades Europe; countries which have prided themselves on the fluidity and accessibility between nations now see stricter regulations as a practical choice. It is the logical step in the trade off between security and accessibility. Yet the decision to close borders is cast in the shadow of Islamophobia, which ripples through the underbelly of international fear.

A stranded Iranian migrant has his lips sewn as he sits on rail tracks at the border between Greece and Macedonia near the Greek village of Idomeni
The silence that speaks a million words

Samy Debah, president of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France, told the Washington Post that the border control goes too far, casting much too big a net and targeting a mass of innocent civilians in an effort to wring out a few threats. Yet, from the viewpoint of the United Nations council that crafted the resolution, the Islamic State “constitutes a global and unprecedented threat to international peace and security.”

When a religion itself is deemed a threat, and fear casts a shadow over a larger number of innocent people, phobias come to dominate legislative actions, as we see with the closing borders. In the wake of terrorist related violence, it’s difficult to step back and consider the innocent. Until it is dealt with, immigrants will continue to flood the borders, voicing – or more powerfully, not voicing – their indignation.

Images via Irish News

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