In the health crisis caused by COVID-19, the political, media, healthcare, economic and social spotlight has been focused primarily on limiting infection, saving as many lives as possible, and working to prevent economic collapse. Yet at the same time the extreme dangers for millions of migrants and refugees trapped at borders across the world goes unnoticed.
The Virus in Fortress Europe sets out an open conversation between social agents that gather diverse experiences and foreground the lives, in these times of pandemic, of migrant people who are blocked, ill-treated and crowded together at Europe’s internal and external borders, the problems they face and their resistance. A situation not only related to the pandemic emergency, but one which is historical and intersected by aspects of violence, racism, xenophobia, human trafficking, kidnappings and rapes, factors which are serious human rights violations and daily occurrences at the borders the European Union and its different Member States have erected as the walls of their fortress.
This virtual encounter is moderated by Nines Cejudo, an activist in Red Solidaria de Acogida (the Refuge Solidarity Network). It also features the participation of Álvaro Luca, a volunteer for the NGO Action for Education; José Palazón, founder of the Pro-Rights in Childhood Association (PRODEIN) in Melilla (Frontera Sur); and Dani Rivas, head of communication at the organisation Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario.
With a view to offering a broader vision of the situation in other borders during the pandemic, specifically in Libya, Morocco, Mexico and Serbia, the session is accompanied by the broadcast of a video podcast and recordings: direct testimonies of migrant people compiled by journalist Michelangelo Severgnini in the project Exodus – Escape from Libya and by the association No Name Kitchen, from Serbia; the story of Aimée Lokake, secretary-general of the Council of Sub-Saharan Migrants in Morocco (CMSM) and president of the Congolese Community of Morocco, who fled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006, and, following a journey in which she and her son endured desperate situations in the middle of the Sahara desert, she settled in Morocco to try to reunite her family; and Encarni Pindado, an independent photographer for different press outlets who centres her work on human and social rights, migration and gender in Mexico, Central America and the south of the United States.
Nines Cejudo is an activist in Red Solidaria de Acogida (the Refuge Solidarity Network) and founder of the Cultural Association ANGATA, which creates solidarity networks in seven countries in West Africa. Her work pivots around refuge and the abuse of human rights suffered by people in forced displacement.
Álvaro Lucas is a volunteer at the NGO Action for Education. From March 2020, he has been teaching on the Greek island of Chios and also works on the international campaign by the collective Europe Must Act, which fights for European countries to welcome refugees living in inhumane conditions in camps on the Aegean Islands.
José Palazón is founder of the Pro-Rights in Childhood Association (PRODEIN) in Melilla (Southern Border). His work is focused on the defence of rights for non-nationalised children — often stateless and with no recognition of their right to schooling — immigrants of all origins, and women suffering abuse.
Dani Rivas is head of communication at Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario, an organisation which in 2017, faced with the tragic situation in the Central Mediterranean route, decided to set up the rescue project AITA MARI - Proyecto Maydayterraneo, with support from different instituions and volunteers on an individual basis.