I am a 24 year old European. Born and raised in Germany, I’ve lived in Denmark for a lot of years, travelled to Central America, Southeast Asia, parts of Europe, and am currently working in the Middle East, more specifically Jordan. So it’s safe to say that I have used my right to free movement and my privilege of having a European passport. Because that is exactly what it is, a privilege, and this is becoming more and more clear to me during my time here in Jordan.
The other day I listened to a young Egyptian activist talking about what he perceived as the biggest challenge of the region of the Middle East and North Africa, and his words left a huge impression on me. He said that most of his friends would rather die in the attempt of crossing the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe than stay in Egypt and risk getting shot by a random police officer because of some inexplainable reason. They would rather die trying to reach a place where they hope to find more possibilities, than stay in their home country, where they don’t see any future for themselves. And yes, they are risking their lives to do so. Because right now it is the only way.
So what is the difference between me and young people from the Middle East or Africa? That some of them are running away from war and persecution and I’m just going somewhere because I want to? That some are running from poverty and starvation and I’m still just leaving because I can? Or that they are running toward better possibilities and education and more job opportunities while I’m traveling to get more experience and to learn?
Looking at this, it seems strange to me that they have to risk their lives if they want to go to our part of the world due to these, in my eyes, fairly legit reasons, while I can go anywhere I want without even half of the acute and important reasons they have?
Let me just say now that many people will define the above as some romantic, humanitarian and unrealistic bullshit. And let me also say that this may be true. I am aware of that. I’m also aware that the questions I state in the above are big questions and that a world where everyone can go wherever they want is probably not realistic and may not even be the best solution. But this does not make these questions any less relevant in my opinion. It is not my intention to make anyone feel bad about their privilege or to indicate that it’s a given that everybody wants to come to Europe (I am very aware that this is not at all the case even though European media tries to convince us otherwise). However, it is my intention to make us all think a little more about how differently people are treated in this world of ours and how the way you are treated is simply based on luck – luck to be born into a certain society, a certain culture and a certain passport.
by Meta Bodenhagen