Tuesday, May 06, 2014
Now all they think about are walls
A young Berber nomad is tending his family's camels as they graze on scrubland in Tamraght, Morocco in the photo above. It was taken by me in 2011 and two years later I described how that very spot was being torn up by mechanical diggers to create the Hyatt Place Golf Hotel, part of the ‘new generation' Taghazout Bay 'destination resort' which combines high-end residential accommodation, boutiques and sports activities for 7000 tourists. Now the One Year One World website has posted an update on the Taghazout Bay development. It describes how the nomadic Berbers (Amazigh) have been forced out of the area. One of the Berbers laments: 'Before all this was nature. Now all they think about are walls'. This statement is vividly reinforced by the photo of the new development, which accompanies the One Year One World report.
The walls between cultures and countries are being built higher and higher. My wife and I have just received our tourist visas for India which cost almost £300. Obtaining a tourist visa for India as a UK citizen is not just expensive. It can only be obtained by negotiating the most torturous and inept online system I have ever encountered. One of the more amusing obstacles is that the drop down 'employment' box offers 'retired' as an option, but it is impossible to proceed unless an employer is entered in the next box. The Indian online visa application process is managed by VFS Global, a 'global outsourcing and technology services specialist for diplomatic missions and governments worldwide'. VFS Global is in turn is owned by Kuoni Travel. This Swiss corporation is the world’s leading luxury tour operator with a turnover in 2012 of 5.8 billion Swiss francs (£4.1 billion).
Visa applications may be deeply irritating for relatively affluent retired British tourists. But they can mean the difference between life and death for impoverished residents of Morocco and other countries in the Maghrib who have seen the sybaritic European lifestyle from the other side of the wall, and who want in. Since 1998 more than 17,000 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean without visas to flee the poverty and oppression in North Africa. This death toll makes the Mediterranean one of the biggest mass burial sites in history. Yet, with the honorable exception of those great humanitarians Montserrat Figueras and Jordi Savall, few outside the human rights movement have taken up the cause of the migrants who are, literally, being left to die off the shore of western Europe. To highlight the plight of these tragic migrants Catalan author Rossend Domènech contributes an essay titled The Sea of Death: The Challenge of Immigration to Montserrat Figueras and Jordi Savall's 2011 portrait in music and words of the Mediterranean Mare Nostrum. Among the music on Mare Nostrum is the Berber lullaby The Moon. The boy in that header photo taken in 2011 may well have heard the lullaby when he was younger. I wonder where he is today?
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