This project demonstrates the criminalization, surveillance, and xenophobia which are shaping the 21st century migrant experience. The project starts with an image depicting the border crossing from Mexico. The journey to reach the border is often perilous and the crossing itself can result in death or injury and is completed under heavy surveillance. There is a general misconception that once people have “arrived” in the United States their journey is complete, when the reality is it has just begun. Robert Blanco’s words from his poem Mother Country describes the challenge of assimilating into a new culture while still trying to maintain your own sense of identity. “To Love a Country as if you have Lost a Country” (Blanco [n.p.]) describes the choice that many immigrants are faced with. It also highlights the ubiquitous claims for immigrants to demonstrate their patriotism or allegiance to their new country; the perilous journey, daily challenges of assimilation, the ever present pain of what and who you left behind not being a sufficient demonstration of the commitment to a new sense of place.
The US Mexico border is heavily surveilled with Border Patrol guards, many of whom wear ski masks, cameras and microphones. We are constantly watching 24/7 with many guards constantly patrolling the area. In stark contrast is the gross lack of surveillance in Europe for refugees making perilous journeys across the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. This area should be under constant supervision and surveillance, but instead relies predominantly on the presence of NGOs and Non Profits to provide watch and support for people, who through a general lack of effective multilateral policy, are forced into making extremely perilous journeys. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has reported that in 2018 the death rate for migrants attempting to reach Europe has risen even though the numbers trying to make the crossing has fallen. (Crisp [n.p.]) For every 18 people crossing to Europe over the central Mediterranean between January and July 2018, one person died. Over the same period in 2017, there was one death for each 42 refugees and migrants attempting the crossing. (Crisp [n.p.]) In the summer of 2018 there were approx. 17 volunteers responsible for monitoring the entire North Shore of Lesvos, Greece for refugee crossings from Turkey. This undoubtedly raises the question why are some humans subject to the most pervasive and restrictive surveillance while those who would benefit from watch and surveillance are left to perish? In the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, General Romeo Dallaire, head of the UNAMIR made a statement in relation to the lack of international intervention, he said “All humans are human. There are no humans more human than others”. (Dallaire [n.p]) This quote is demonstrative of the lack of attention we give to certain groups in contrast with the over surveillance of certain populations.
The journey for migrants and refugees is not concluded when a geographical destination is reached. It continues, often for a life time in terms of paperwork, status, assimilation and acclimation. This affects both young and old and many refugee children after reaching safety in Sweden have been affected by what is aptly named “Resignation Syndrome”. (Pressly [n.p.]) After reaching safety these children have stopped eating and speaking and exist in a semi-conscious vegetative state, such is the extent of the trauma of their young minds. We need governments internationally to recognize the toll these perilous journeys are having on people who because of inadequate legislation have limited options.
Blanco, Richard. For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey. Beacon Press 2003
Crisp, James One in 18 migrants die crossing the Mediterranean as death rate soars amid divisions over EU rescue policy The Telegraph https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/09/03/migrant-death-rate-mediterranean-rises-despite-fewer-crossings/
Dallaire, Romeo. “A Good Man in Hell” June 02 2012 https://www.ushmm.org/confront-genocide/speakers-and-events/all-speakers-and-events/a-good-man-in-hell-general-romeo-dallaire-and-the-rwanda-genocide
Pressly, Linda. Resignation syndrome: Sweden’s mystery illness. BBC News https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-41748485