Fragments and the EU Migrant Crisis

As Europe rides the waves of economic volatility, 120,000 refugees are in motion, seeking for a better life or even perhaps just the possibility of one.

Wherever we look there is desperation.

The frustration of having gone through so much, just to get to Europe and find closed borders has understandably resulted in violence at times.

Language barriers, xenophobic attitudes and the potential dangers of welcoming terrorists into their countries have resulted in considerable unrest.

There is the refugee running for his life, and then there is the economic immigrant who seeks an easier life for his family.

Can the European economy sustain such an influx of people?

With the best of intentions, country after country has been pushed to its limit; even Sweden has found their system stressed, as disappointed Syrians continue north to Finland.

This is a human crisis and while the solutions are being found, the Geneva Convention should be respected.

Still, there is fear, fear of economic repercussions for each country, fear of terrorism and fear of a basic lack of control over the situation.

After the Serbian-Hungary border crossing was closed the refugees decided to move north through Croatia in their zeal to reach western Europe.

However, moving through a ‘post-war’ Croatia comes with great risk.

With 50,000 landmines spread over a 500 kilometer area, the refugees face even more life threatening moments.

“According to the United Nations Mine Action Service, the mines and other unexploded ordnance (UXO) still contaminate areas in 77 towns and municipalities in 10 of the 21 counties in Croatia.

“During four years of armed conflict in Croatia, mines were laid by all the warring parties, mainly to protect defensive positions, which changed frequently, but also in areas of strategic importance, such as railway lines, power stations and pipelines,” reads a portfolio on the UNMAS website.

“The majority of suspected mined areas are woods and forests followed by agricultural land, underbrush, meadows and pastures.””[1]

Social media is being used to guide them, posting warnings and maps of the contaminated areas and they have been advised to stay close to roads and train tracks.

While the Croatian Mine Action Centre has committed to clearing these areas, they have spent more than 500 million euros already to remove 90,000 landmines.

The head of Croatia’s de-mining office, Dijana Plestina, estimates that it would take a further 500 million to eliminate the landmines in the rest of the country. [2]

This is an old story, as countries the world over continue to see both local and foreign populations effected by landmines.

Although greatly reduced from the threat these abandoned weapons created in the last half of the 20th century, landmines are still a part of our world today in eastern Europe, Africa, Cambodia and in the many countries in the Middle and Far East.

During my time teaching sculpture in Hanoi in 2003 I was horrified to find that the Vietnam wars continued to maim and kill the rural population, and I was moved to try to do something about it.

I set out to create a collection of 19 sculptures; Fragments, in order to try to contribute something towards cleaning up this type of military waste.

I saw the resulting sculptures as ‘intentional art’; art with a purpose.

While artists cannot change much in the world, we can certainly try and work in the hopes that we might make this a better place.

In 2007, the Fragments campaign funded the destruction of 318 unexploded weapons in the Quang Hung Commune in Vietnam by Mines Advisory Group.

In 2008, the campaign provided funds to the Canadian Landmine Foundation for mine risk education in Afghanistan and funded a Landmine Survey that identified 522 suspected hazardous areas in the Moxico province in Angola.

In 2009, Fragments contributed to funding clearance of NATO-dropped cluster munitions in Kosovo through No More Land Mines.

In 2010 and 2011, Fragments contributions supported clearing landmines in Cambodia through The Cambodian Landmine Relief Fund.

In September 2016, we will be exhibiting the collection in Saint John, New Brunswick and are canvasing museums all over North America for the opportunity of exhibiting the works to bring awareness to this huge problem.

We need to get back to work in order to solve this problem, from where the world started before the initiative put in place by the Canadian government in 1997, we have come a long way to clearing our world of this hazard.

Let’s hope that the refugees stay safe and their desperate plight for a better life doesn’t become the next event that makes us aware that the landmine problem is still a very real one.

By Boky & Blake