The Refugee Crisis Through the Eyes of Banksy

The source of the photo is by The author is Michal Bělka. From Wikimedia Commons.

The anonymous artist known as Banksy has once again put his artistic and poignant spin on current affairs. Amid reports of the use of tear gas at refugee camps in Calais, a new piece of graffiti has appeared opposite the French Embassy in London. The iconic ‘Les Miserables’ image of Cosette presents an important social question: what are we going to do about Syria? Consequently, it evokes a sense of the failings of Europe when faced with thousands of refugees.

Banksy has been a prominent critic of Europe’s handling of the refugee crisis. The powerful graffiti painting of a refugee child on a Calais beach and, more publicly, the recognition of Steve Jobs’ Syrian heritage has humanised this very real situation. In response to ineffective action, Banksy has taken his (or is it her?) paint brush in hand to condemn the treatment of refugees in Calais. The ever-growing Jungle in Calais is the purgatory between France and those attempting to seek refuge in the United Kingdom. Conditions are poor, Third World even, and have now been deemed “unsafe”.

Talking to the Guardian, police spokesman Steve Barbet has denied the use of tear gas, despite multiple videos displayed on YouTube and social media. Banksy’s art also came with an interactive QR code, a barcode that allows your phone to access a web link, with the links showing videos of such atrocities. Is this what we expect to see in one of the most modern and powerful countries in Europe?

Earlier this week, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, paid a visit to the eponymous site; an important contrast with the UK government’s current position. David Cameron most recently described refugees derogatorily as a “bunch of migrants” and previously as a “swarm” in July 2015. Whilst Britain has declared its intention to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, it is yet another statistic-focused statement that does not acknowledge an international issue. Besides, this only comprises six refugees per constituency per year. Thankfully, Corbyn, like Banksy, highlighted the very human aspect of this chaos.

Veèery tráví bìženci ze Súdánu spoleènì, skromnou veèeøi si vaøí v kotlíku mezi stany a chýšemi.;Calais, uprchlíci (18.06.2015)

The source of the photo is by The author is Michal Bělka. From Wikimedia Commons.

“We have got people here who have been here for months, if not longer than that, with no proper education, no access to doctors, no access to dentists, limited access to food – in very cold, very wet conditions.… These conditions are a disgrace anywhere. We as human beings have to reach out to fellow human beings.”

We cannot begin to imagine how many people are subjected to this unbearable climate, but current estimates are around 7,000. This situation is now much vaster than the Syrian civil war, with many from Eritrea, Afghanistan, Iraq and Sudan. What little sanctuary there was in Calais has ended as French authorities attempt to deforest the Jungle.

Furthermore, Calais is not even the largest refugee camp in Europe, for example in Turkey there are about 1,838,848 refugees. Yet, dehumanisation is not only in conditions but in attitude. Danish authorities have voted to take away valuable belongings of migrants in return for asylum. On the United Kingdom’s very shores, refugees have been welcomed with ignorance – in Middlesbrough, refugee’s doors were painted red and targeted with abuse as a result. Whilst not reflective of universal opinion, it is abhorrent in a modern society.

Banksy’s art cannot change a global problem, yet it certainly can (and has) given it the publicity it so desperately needs. The refugee crisis may slip in and out of the media’s consciousness, but we must remember and endeavour not to let fear invade our compassion, understanding and hope for a peaceful resolution in Syria, and furthermore, the entire Middle East.

Catherine McNaughton

Global Seven News

maintained by