Look! A distraction! A four year old boy dangles from a balcony! A man climbs up the building to save him! A real life Spiderman! And he’s Black, imagine that! A little boy saved by a migrant, no less! Oh, kind sir, thank you for putting your life on the line once again, but this time it was to save a French child, so now we’ve decided that your risk was worth it! Come with us, meet the president! Take your papers! Be a fireman! This is Europe! Look how kind and compassionate we are! Even the Daily Mail shared a positive story about you! SPIDERMAN! SPIDERMAAAAN!
Getting papers is a lottery. It’s usually less blatant than this, but nevertheless. Interviews and more interviews, paperwork and stories, scrutiny and ineptitude, overworked, inexperienced staff saying no to people who deserve protection, deportation flights and detention centres, appeals upon appeals upon appeals, 17 year olds being told they’ll be deported before their 18th birthday, women screaming out of the windows of Yarl’s Wood, a broken, labyrinthine “system” which “refuses to comment on individual cases” despite asylum claims being a completely individual process (supposedly). A man climbs a building and saves a child and all is expected to be forgotten. Look! We have a hero and he’s black! We’re so welcoming to refugees! You lefty idiots are off your rocker! We can’t possibly still be racist!
My heart goes out to displaced people across Europe who have saved lives. Who have rescued their own children from the dangling balconies of the oppressive states* they are fleeing and risked their own lives climbing freehand into trucks and leaking boats to Europe in search of a better life. Where are their papers?
The people who look out for unaccompanied minors in squats and camps across the world because nobody else will. Where are their papers?
Cedric Herrou, arrested for the “crime of solidarity” for saving lives at the French-Italian border. Where is his hero status?
The Sudanese community in Calais who looked after a French twelve year old who ran away from home and made sure he was safe. Where are their papers?
The 1600 people sleeping rough along the Seine in Paris who have just been evicted this morning, again. Where are their papers?
The young men who had their shoes stolen by the police in Calais yesterday. Not both shoes, just one per person. Victims of ongoing sadism. Where are their papers?
The mother and father of two year old Mawda, shot dead by the police in Belgium last week. Where’s their viral story? Where is the arrest and the public apology from the police department? Where’s their visit from the president? Where are their papers? Where is the justice? Where the fuck is the public outcry? If only Spiderman had been there, too…
Good luck, Mamoudou, and I hope you can enjoy a private, safe life as a French citizen. Don’t feel the pressure to be the “good immigrant” in all you do. Just be you.
Edited* – thanks to Kester Ratcliffe for calling out my laziness in this sentence – “Who have rescued their own children from the dangling balconies of the Taliban or ISIS”. As he says, “most of the refugees are fleeing from the terrorists who our governments / we still talk about as “States”, i.e. we continue attributing legitimacy to them. That’s also part of the dehumanization of their victims.” Non-state actors such as the Taliban or IS do not have a monopoly over terror – and I hear countless stories each day of people fleeing as a result of their governments or state actors.
(Ignore the 2-year out of date census statistics, but otherwise it’s a good article)