Manos Moschopoulos is program officer for the Migration and Inclusion team of the Open Society Initiative for Europe. Manos’ areas of focus include the migration route through Turkey, Greece and the Western Balkans, promoting alternatives to the administrative detention of migrants and asylum seekers, empowering migrant- and refugee-led organisations’ voices in the ongoing debates on migration and ensuring access to citizenship for second generation people.
A native of Athens, he is now based in London and has lived in Belgrade, Budapest, and Skopje. Manos tweets about migration, politics and football at @maledictus.
This week we asked Manos three questions about Transeuropa and what it means to go beyond fragments:
What will you share at TRANSEUROPA?
The photograph of Aylan Kurdi has increased pressure on European leadership to respond to a crisis that has been unfolding for months, as people flee war and persecution to find a place they can live with safety and dignity. Over the past year I have had the honour to work with some inspiring people on the ground that provide emergency relief to the thousands of refugees in Greece, Italy, and Macedonia, whose voices should be amplified and shared as Europe is debating its response to the ever-increasing number of people risking their lives to reach our countries. Thousands of locals across the routes have organised through social media and other platforms to step up to a challenge that many politicians have shied away from and their energy and compassion can have a lasting impact on the way we discuss, think and act about asylum and migration. I will be sharing what I have seen at the border crossings in the Balkans, the experiences that refugees have shared with me on their way to the north of Europe and my ideas on how civil society and grassroots movements can help transform policies and hold governments, law enforcement and other authorities to account.
What European fragmentation are you most concerned about today?
The most visible manifestation of the European project is the freedom of movement of people across the EU. This concept has been brought into question both on a political level, where in Britain I watch – as a migrant myself – migrants from other EU states get demonised on a daily basis by politicians and tabloids, but also on a practical level, with numerous reports of border controls targeted at asylum seekers in between Schengen area states. Moreover, the European project was driven by the promise of uniting the continent after the fall of the Berlin Wall, however today European governments are building new walls on European soil between the EU and other countries. Beyond this, Europe’s inability to help the ever-increasing number of people that are entitled to our protection has led to abuses, crackdowns and calls to abandon our obligations under international law, either by placing newspaper ads in Lebanon to tell refugees they’re not welcome here, or by refusing to accept a small number of refugees as part of a European resettlement deal. We need to make our case and reach out to those that are swayed by the xenophobic arguments to protect these crucial aspects of the European project: our ability to move around, Europe’s role as a beacon of human rights and making sure that our continent is free of barriers, physical or otherwise, in between our political space and the countries that aspire to join it.
I have met people involved with Transeuropa at other events across Europe and I have been impressed by their energy and commitment to transform the European political and social space. The width of topics discussed and the panels that have been put together surely promise engaging and deep discussion and I think that many spaces for action and cooperation will open as a result of the event. Also, Belgrade is the perfect setting for a discussion about Europe’s integration project and the migration route, as it lies in a country that is still waiting for the promise of EU accession and the city is a transit point for many refugees on a daily basis.