In 2015 the European Council agreed to grant asylum to a total of 120,759 refugees before the 26th of September 2017. This deadline is fast approaching, and so far only 26% of these asylum seekers- most of them refugees fleeing the conflicts in Syria and Iraq- have reached their final destination in Europe. 75,000 people are still waiting in Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary and the Balkans for a solution that never seems to come. Almost 25,000 of them are children.
That is why #SickOfWaiting, was born. This Spanish NGOs aim is to urge Brussels and the European governments to fulfill their promise, as well as to give voice to the thousands of refugees that are sick of waiting. Through their platform www.sickofwaiting.org, they call for refugees and citizens from all over Europe to protest against the EU’s inaction in the refugee crisis. Registering on this platform is free, and the only requirement to become part of the movement is to be sick of waiting.
“Our aim is very simple: we want politicians to know that either they fulfill their promise or we will hold them accountable”, says Alejandro Plans, the movement’s spokesperson. “The uncertainty facing thousands of refugees at the moment is absolutely intolerable. The European governments made a commitment, and we’re just asking them to keep it. After all we’re talking about people, not numbers”.
Thousands of citizens seem to have heard the organization’s plea. Each time someone registers in the SickOfWaiting website, the platform displays a world map where all registered names are shown in the shape of a heart. At the moment of writing this article, more than 14.000 tiny hearts appear in 120 different countries all over the map. This platform provides a forum where refugees can share their experiences. So far this is one of the few available platforms for refugees to tell their stories. Many of these tales will break the heart of anybody who reads them. The platform also provides space for anybody else to offer their opinions and comments.
Maria Peñalosa and Berta de la Dehesa are two volunteers who recently spent a year working at a refugee camp in Katsikas, Greece. Now they travel through refugee camps in Italy and Greece to talk about this platform to the many asylum seekers that are still waiting to make their home in Europe. For some of them, this website is an opportunity to explain what it really means to live on the other side of the fence. But many of them have lost hope.
Berta explains that although SickOfWaiting has been welcomed by most of the refugees they’ve encountered, many of them don’t believe it will actually translate into action. “That’s why we have to reach as many people as possible, so we can spread the message and break the barrier of indifference”, she says.
The movement has been gaining momentum in the last few months, in part thanks to ideas such as the #WaitingChallenge, which seeks to imitate the popular #IceBucketChallenge. Those challenged have to take a picture of themselves waiting for the refugees to arrive. Asylum seekers are also encouraged to participate by taking a picture of themselves waiting for the EU governments to keep their word.
José Serrano, the person responsible for coming up with the challenge, explains that It doesn’t matter where you take the picture or what you’re doing as long as it is clear that you are sick of waiting. And of course you have to challenge three friends. “We are thrilled to see how many people are embracing it”, says José, who takes a picture of himself waiting for the refugees everyday, So far this idea has been very successful: prominent Spanish politicians and artists have already posted their #SickOfWaiting pictures on social media.
All of this will pave the way for two major events. The first one will take place on June 28th, when the SickOfWaiting movement travels to the European parliament to show the euro deputies “the many hearts attached to the refugees’ cause”.
“We will ask them to speed up the relocation and resettlement process”, says María Peñalosa. “We want to reflect the wishes of the European people, which should be the wish of Europe”.
The other key date will be September 30th. On this day, citizens and refugees from all over Europe will meet in Brussels to remember the deadline established by the European council to take in 120,759 asylum seekers. SickOfWaiting is inviting everybody who is registered on their website to travel to the Greek capital on that day. “There will be thousands and thousands of us”, says Alejandro Plans. “We’re not going away. We are going to keep on fighting for fair asylum and integration policies. As long as the European governments don’t comply, we will always be sick of waiting”.
By Julia Tena