A few questions (and answers) from a tent in a northern refugee camp in Lebanon and from the Poland-Belarus border

We are volunteers of Operazione Colomba, the Nonviolent Peace Corps of the “Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII” Association.
We are writing from the beginning and the end of people’s track to freedom, from a tent of a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon and from the forests of Poland.
We are people like you and we are trying to build an alternative to war, exile and walls.

Why are Syrian refugees (along with Iraqis, Kurds and Yemenis) in Belarus, at the border with Poland?

Thousands of Syrian refugees (and with them many Lebanese citizens) have left Lebanon and Syria for Belarus in recent months, as they want to get to Poland and finally move to Germany. They are fleeing from an endless war and the total lack of a future.
The Belarusian government does not care about the terrible fate of those fleeing the war. On the contrary, it knows that Europe needs to make its borders hermetic, and this is why it has already lavishly financed Turkey and Libya. In addition, the Russian government hiding behind Belarus' choices has understood pretty well how to cause a crisis.

How is this journey of despair organized?
You “just” need to enter a travel agency in Lebanon, pay 3,500 euros for a visa to Minsk and 7,000 euros for the rest of the trip to Berlin.
How do migrants find money? They get into debt, or they sell their land and house in Syria at very low prices.

But isn't the war in Syria over yet?

Not yet, as the roots of the war have not been eradicated. In fact, Syria has not faced the main causes of the war, i.e. the request to end a dictatorship; the execrable choice to leave room for terrorist groups; the choice of the international community not to intervene with strong political proposals; the choice to let more than 10 million people become refugees around a world which does not want them. This has generated a huge pool of desperate people who will do anything in their power in order not to die.
The war factory producing widows and refugees is working at full capacity.

What about Lebanon, have the Lebanese citizens achieved the political changes they were asking for?

Not really. Even if it seemed unthinkable two years ago, Lebanon has fallen into a deep crisis connected also to the war in Syria. Therefore, a large number of Lebanese are looking for a way to leave the country too.  In fact, Lebanon now is in the hands of party mafias, extremist groups and paramilitaries, Hezbollah among the latter, who have gained power by damaging security, wealth and the future of the whole country.
Moreover, Hezbollah’s occupation of large areas of Syria has contributed to make it impossible for Syrians to return from Lebanon, which is why Lebanon now has more refugees than the whole of Europe. At the same time, the Lebanese army makes the government untouchable, so that politicians do not have to justify their responsibilities in huge open matters, such as the port explosion in August 2020.
"A free state cannot coexist with mafia and terrorist movements", the young Lebanese were shouting on the streets a year and a half ago, but since no political change has taken place, their only solution now is to take the boats from the port of Tripoli, joining the other victims of those who choose violence as a weapon.

What happens to refugees once they reach the Polish border?

At the moment, there are only two options available: reject these refugees and build up a fence, leading to what Father Dall'Oglio called "a European fascist drift”, or let these people in, thus indirectly rewarding the intermediaries and the States who speculate on these desperate people’s lives, but saving at least appearances on European values, which have never been as weak as now.
Poland has chosen the first path, so it is now defending its borders with the army and pushing back the refugees.
This is happening mainly because the Polish government needs to gain support from its citizens, and so it is promoting its image as defender of Poland from invasion (an imaginary one, as refugees in Poland are only a few thousand people who don't even want to remain in the country).
Of course, the Polish government has ignored and is ignoring its violation of the European laws on the right of asylum and humanitarian assistance. The refugees thus are stuck for the most part in Belarus, pushed to the border or hidden in Minsk. Only a few thousand have managed to cross the border, and are trying to survive in the forest at zero degrees, under snow and rain. However, a few dozen deaths have been reported so far.
In the forest, people need to wait, sometimes weeks, for a transport. Meanwhile, they need to survive inside a "red zone" where the aid of Associations and NGOs, now considered criminals, is not allowed.
Only a few reach Germany, many are found out and sent back.
However, the situation is even worse for those who get stuck in no man's land, between the barbed wire lines of the two borders: condemned to death, they cannot advance or go back... they have become butchery meat to be sacrificed on the altars of political convenience.

Why is Europe giving money to its neighboring states, like Turkey and Libya, to block the flow of refugees?

It’s because practical alternatives to war require a lot of courage, strength and the ability to change, but European states are looking for easy consensus, so they play on their citizens’ fears.
Or maybe it’s because Europe believes that its identity is based on wealth and trade.
Or maybe it’s because in order to address the immigration problem with humanity Europe needs, for example, to reform the UN by removing the right of veto, it needs to stop selling weapons, to stop supporting violent and dictatorial regimes, to stop doing business with those who kill, torture and create refugees.
It means becoming a shelter which welcomes, supports and promotes nonviolent civil proposals, concrete alternatives to war and closure. Europe, however, should keep in mind that even great empires, without adapting to migrants’ arrival, have fallen.

Are there any alternatives for refugees?

Justice will be achieved only when these people are allowed to live in their country. That's what they want more than anything else.
While living with the Syrians in the refugee camps, we have collected their proposal: they would like to return to their home, they would like not to be under the control of armed groups, they are asking that those who killed, made widows and orphans and made ten million people refugees pay for the harm they caused. They are asking to be protected by the international community.
It is up to us, European citizens, to give voice to these proposals that come from the future.
Let's make a prediction that smacks of prophecy: either our countries and the EU can become defenders of these hopes, or we will have no future.
Starting from today, right now, we ask you to collaborate with these dreamers and with us!