In summer 2014 I trekked from Ljubljana to Nice, the length of the Alps from East to West, through 8 countries…
( → Info Deutsch)
To explore the entire Alps has long been a dream of mine. Travelling three months with a tent and crossing numerous political borders as well as whole mountain ranges was both a challenge and a pleasure. This project was close to my heart.
But there is also a political background. I wanted to raise awareness of the discrimination and threats faced by refugees and transnational migrants living in Europe or trying to get to Europe, thanks to nationalistic and narrow-minded politics in Europe. In this connection I donated half of my prize money from the German Thesis Award 2013 to organisations dedicated to improving the situation of refugees and (im)migrant people in Europe. →
No long essay or pamphlet here, just a brief explanation. Consider two simple figures: the gross domestic product per capita in the European Union is about $33,000; this is the wealth every person would have at their disposal, each year, if it were evenly shared. The equivalent figure for Africa is $2,320. Separating the one continent from the other is only the Mediterranean Sea. Every year, with various measures to keep them out of “Fortress Europe”, European governments effectively sentence hundreds if not thousands of people to death at sea or in various other attempts to reach Europe. Perhaps even worse, those who reach Europe often must die from preventable causes because they are denied medical care. Sure, Europe is no paradise. But anyone who takes the huge effort, risks, time (and often debt) to come here deserves better than to die? Who can be blamed for migrating to support their family, escape tyranny, discrimination or hunger, or simply to seek a better life? Europe’s assorted nationalisms stand in the way of the fulfilment of these fundamentally human needs.
No matter how high Europe builds its fences, the “others” are still trying. Europe’s only success so far has been to increase the death toll. Of course this isn’t just about Africa; many Eastern Europeans, Asians and Americans have any number of good reasons to want to live, work, perhaps settle, in Europe – or leave again, if and whenever they feel like it. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art. 13&14) clearly says: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country. Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” But Europe and its member states actively deny these rights and freedoms: few people are welcomed, some are temporarily tolerated and detained, many are declared illegal. If they succeed in reaching Europe, they are often placed in in prison camps, have to go through years of uncertainty and waiting, face huge hardships, and are expelled again. The illegalisation of people forces them to do abusively low-paid work, and be excluded from social protection. Clearly, these are not the professed “Christian values” or “European values” at their finest.
The continent of the Enlightenment needs a radically changed migration regime. But this does not seem to be coming in the near future. Due to ever-tightening criteria and higher bureaucratic hurdles, applications for political asylum have massively declined over the past decades – even despite the Syrian civil war. Fascist attacks on immigrants are on the rise in many places. I don’t want to live in such a Europe whose private wealth is protected with body bags, barbed wire, brutality and prison camps. To try to help, out of compassion and solidarity, I am donating:
- €5,000 to the Medinetz/Mediburo movement to support access to healthcare (for example, for safe childbirth) for illegalised people in Germany;
- €5,000 to the Pro Asyl foundation to support its fight for refugee rights and reasonable asylum laws;
- €5,000 to Medico International (an emancipatory German NGO) to support projects aiding those who have been expelled from Europe.
I hope to raise awareness and catalyse support for the activities of these organisations, despite the problems of charity. Moreover, I want to demonstrate solidarity with the various protests and initiatives of the refugees themselves which have sprung up in many places recently. Not least due to my academic research on problems of “development”, I don’t believe in charity as a good way to address social problems (inalienable rights secured by emancipative democratic means would be far better), but if trying to help, one may as well clean up at one’s own doorstep first. I would like to be able to check the results. Instead of meddling somewhere else in the world, I would rather try to help address the problems directly caused by the institutions and politicians which claim to represent me. →
(For more and better-put arguments for open borders, go here.)
The route (click for interactive map)
I hiked from the capital of Slovenia (Ljubljana) at the South-Eastern end of the Alps to Nice (in France) at the South-Western end; north-west to Germany, and then south, visiting all 8 countries which share the Alps: Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia and Switzerland. There was no regular, planned trail to follow for this route; I found my own way over and around mountains and snowfields, through valleys and forests, across plateaus and rivers, using many different paths. On the way, I crossed many European borders (because, due to the luck of birth, I can) and met very many interesting people. The trek ultimately came to almost 1,600 km and 67,000m of altitude gain.
(See the summary figures here) →
I travelled on foot (alone) with a rucksack and a tent, from mid-June to September. I posted my progress on the blog and recorded the route by GPS. Travelling so far with very few things was an interesting, challenging and fun experience. However, unlike the illegalised migrants I had the privilege of being able to quit any time, or not succeed, but still go on with my life. →
I (Philip Mader) am a 30 year old university teacher and sociology PhD, hailing from New York (USA), living in Frankfurt (D) and working in Basel (CH)… a transnational migrant (1st class) and passionate mountain enthusiast. (more information here) →
Please, support this cause by sharing this! Just send an e-mail to a few friends. Or post it in your social network.
More importantly, please support (if you can) the organisations who are working to help change the system, one small piece at at time. If you are planning on making a donation, feel free to share your intention (in the comments) below! THANK YOU.
You can contact or donate to the three organisations in these ways:
♥ Pro Asyl
Postfach 16 06 24
Tel.: +49 (0)69 – 24 23 14 20
IBAN: DE62 3702 0500 0008 0473 00
♥ Medico International
D-60389 Frankfurt am Main
Tel.: +49 (0)69 – 94438-0
IBAN: DE21 5005 0201 0000 0018 00