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Showing posts from June, 2016

On the walls of Zollamtsstrasse refugee camp

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Our journey along the storm-swollen Danube threads through castle-and-schnapps country into Austria. The further we cycle on this ride across the continent, the more we see how urgently Europe needs a plan, not only to cope with the influx of refugees from the Middle East and Africa, but to deal with widening social divisions that have little to do with migration.

#46: Arriving in Vienna!

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A ride of approximately 2,200km comes to a somewhat farcical end with a bottle of prosecco in a park, next to a naked man statue. Inside the temple behind us squats a frighteningly realistic sculpture of another naked man sitting in a rowing boat, floating across an invisible sea.

Australian hyper-realist sculptor Ron Mueck's Man in a Boat was created way back in 2002, while he was associate artist at the National Gallery in London. But in 2016 it has become a raw reminder of the vulnerability of those who attempt a crossing of the Mediterranean in hope of a life in Europe.

For now, this first part of our journey is over. Our deepest thanks to everyone who has helped us - and particularly to Ash, Ralph and Ezra who are looking after us while we're in Vienna. Thank you and see you next year when we will resume cycling to Syria.

From containers to computers: the challenges of refugee integration in Germany

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Since leaving London at the beginning of May, we've cycled about a thousand kilometres through England, France and Belgium, talking to residents and refugees about how their lives have been changed by migration. It felt like France and Belgium (the less said about the UK the better) are socially and politically unable or unwilling to accept refugees wholeheartedly, but are trapped by international conventions into providing shelter and survival. The result is an embarrassment for everyone: refugees packed away into buildings, containers or tents on the outskirts of towns and villages, with some eking out an uncertain existence in the asylum system for a decade or longer.

But now that we’re in Germany, there’s a different problem. Refugees have been welcomed, at least politically, and at least in theory. Comparing the refugee situation in Germany with the refugee situation in the UK is like comparing a dinosaur with a gecko: yes, they are both reptiles, but that’s missing the point…

#34: Grandhotel Cosmopolis

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Boutiques serve coffee and fine art, grafitti scratches the medieval walls and students sit cross-legged on the cobbled squares, drinking Radler and slurping ice creams. After another thunderstorm, we see a young man in a wet suit surfing the engorged canals.

Augsburg is exactly the sort of place you'd expect to find the Grandhotel Cosmopolis, where guests arrive with or without asylum.