By Lysanne Vrooman Almost half a year ago, on the 25th of March 2017, it was the sixtieth anniversary of the treaty of Rome. In 1957 the treaty of Rome was signed by the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Luxemburg, Germany and Italy. The treaty was envisioned to open borders, prevent war and create endless economic and trade opportunities. The countries would not restrict each other anymore. Now sixty years later the treaty that was supposed to unite the countries, is looked at with scepticism and frustrations by some citizens of Rome. The current migration-influx has led to tightened border controls and policies that divide instead of unite.
For my master’s thesis in Social and Cultural Anthropology I studied a group of citizens in Rome who started an association to support migrants in the city. Whereas the citizens started their association to provide the migrants with food, a place to stay and support, I found in my research that they also strive for a better situation for migrants in Europe in general. They question the current developments and policies of the European Union when it comes to migration, and aim to present a counter-message.
Protesting is one of the ways they try to send such a counter-message. And on this Saturday, March 25th, a big protest was organised to show their disagreement with the current situation and to question the (changed) implications of the treaty of Rome. Through pictures of this protest I will show what this day looked like.
At ten in the morning we gathered on a square to prepare for the protest. They made several signs that showed their message and handed them out.
Marching through the streets of Rome.
The march of the protest was two hours. In the city, streets were closed down to let everyone pass. Here we are near the Colosseum, the end point of the protest.
After the march, the volunteers joined a protest organized by Doctors without Borders. Doctors without Borders placed empty body bags on the banks of the Tiber-river to symbolise the bodies that drift ashore in the Mediterranean. They placed a fence to show the closing borders and the migrants who are stuck in countries of first reception.
In front of the fence and body bags they had set up a stage where people told different stories. One migrant, for example, tells about his journey to reach Europe. On this particular picture, the association explain what they do to support migrants and how they hope Europe will change its policies toward migrants.
After the protest, we head back to the square where the volunteers have placed their tents for a dinner together.
Aside from a protest like this one, the volunteers also visit schools to talk about the difficult circumstances for migrants and build a network with other organisations with similar ideas on how to address this. Most important, these activities aim to voice the stories of migrants and their vision on migration in Europe. To me, it shows their drive for change in current policies and developments.
Lysanne Vrooman is a master student Humanistic studies and Social and Cultural Anthropology aan de VU. She is writing her thesis on the role of the volunteers in the migration industry.