by Maniza Naqvi

Biennale22One out of every one hundred and nine persons worldwide is a displaced person. Inside or outside their home countries, for a whole host of reasons, displaced. But the idea that the hosts are charitable by allowing refuge is misplaced. Refugees are loot–they are treasure. They are labor. They are the spoils of war.

In Macedonia, it shoud be considered a homecoming of sorts—though the refugees are only passing through on their way further north hoping to reach Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom. This flush of people into Macedonia are coming from exactly the lands invaded and occupied by Alexander and his armies from 336 BC to 325 BC. The great conquering invader that Generals and occupiers are fond of quoting. Today some of the refugees entering Alexander's home land must surely bear his armies DNA.

Europe is receiving a life prolonging gift, a transfusion of life. Youth. Refugees. It is a historic life saving moment. Able bodied young people. Educated young families made up of skilled workers, including doctors, engineers and teachers of childbearing years—with many young children. Almost every single country in Europe has negligible population growth rates, many have negative rates, including the economic and human rights engine (and major weapons manufacturer and exporter), Germany.

A little structural adjustment in demography? Yes. Going from being in the red and grey to black. What a gift.

But this treasure too is being reaped as a result of wars, these are the loot of war, these able bodied refugees with the promise of bearing more children. Refugees are fleeing to countries which have made war on theirs, which manufacture the weapons used in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Eretria and so on. Refugees are fleeing to countries which are headquarters of corporations mining for oil and other minerals in their homeland.

Whether they come from Asia or from Africa—–there is no looking back. Whether into Macedonia or washing onto the shores of Italy in boats perilously laden with human beings—they are all making their way to wealthier countries in Europe—where there is peace. Making their way exactly to those countries where economies are thriving—where there is stability and peace and the rule of law. Exactly to those countries where the weapons are manufactured, where the corporations are headquartered which mine the mineral resources.

Mealy mouthed mumblings for more Aid to ‘conflict zones' won't do anything except obfuscate and pivot away from the real matter at hand it will only keep war and plunder in place. How can countries in Africa which are so resource rich–abundant in oil, gas other minerals have such desperate people that they would risk their lives to get away? What is going on? Who benefits? Who dies, who is rich and who is poor? Which countries have corporations mining the natural resources and supporting dictatorships yet providing 'aid' for poverty reduction? Aid that is meager and meaningless compared to the profits on natural resource wealth being taken out of these countries. Are those countries where there are natural resources also where there are wars going on which are funded and armed to the hilt by exactly those countries to which these migrants and refugees from those wars are fleeing to? What's going on? European citizens, are not doing enough when they offer asylum. They need to do more, they need to stop war.

Sweden, a major manufacturer of weapons and beautiful people, announced in September 2013, as the war in Syria was getting fired up well and good, that it would welcome up to 2 million Syrian refugees. Sweden was the third largest weapons exporter per capita after Israel and Russia at that time. Recently it tried to cancel an arms deal with Saudi Arabia. No dice. It was put on ice. Sweden is also big on human rights. (here and here). I asked a Swede that September in Stockholm, how he felt about this invitation to Syrian refugees. ‘Sweden is a good place, we have enough, we are rich—it is peaceful here and they can have a good life here. But don't believe what the politicians say because they are cynical they know the Syrians can't really come here—in those numbers. We're too far away.'

And now here they come.