Elijah Solomon Halfway to Somewhere
Every year thousands of men and women risk their lives trying to illegally enter “Fortress Europe”, where increasingly strict border policies keep pace with increasingly anti-immigration minded constituencies. Since 1993, over 16,000 people have died trying to emigrate. They come from Sudan, Tunisia, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Somalia, to name a few.
Some are refugees from war torn countries while others seek political asylum. Many have given up on economic wastelands in search of honest labor in foreign lands, and while on their uncertain journeys will find themselves stuck in rundown parts of Istanbul or Tel Aviv, scraping by on expired visas, waiting to catch a break or sock away enough currency to pay traffickers to sneak them into Europe.
In the ramshackle neighborhood of Kumkapi in Istanbul, refugees pay up to $2000 to be stuffed into the back of a van and driven to Edirne before hiking in the dark for three hours to the river Evros where inflatable rafts then ferry them across to Greece. Many drown attempting the crossing or suffer other unfortunate fates. Others choose to stick it out in Kumkapi and end up living years or decades in Istanbul illegally, with few options for re-settlement or legal labor.
In Tel Aviv, most refugees and ‘economic migrants’ end up in Shapira, where the neighborhood park is filled nightly with homeless Sudanese and Eritrean men. Right wing sentiment in Israel has recently turned more aggressive, with a molotov cocktail attack and stabbing in broad daylight terrorizing the African communities in Shapira, and public opinion has edged towards mass deportations.