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IMMIGRATION

Spanish artist shocks Berlin with ‘bloody refugee’ mural

A Spanish artist has riled residents with his massive politically powerful mural daubed across an apartment building in Berlin.

Spanish artist shocks Berlin with 'bloody refugee' mural
Photo: Christian Peters /Twitter

The mural depicts a girl in a nightgown, bloodied from the head down and posed as if she were leaning against the building on which she is drawn, perhaps peering into the distance. Below her also appears to be a floor covered in blood.

Across from her in a forest is a naked, handcuffed body, pierced by arrows.

The work is that of Gonzalo Borondo, an artist born in the Spanish city of Valladolid who started getting serious about street art when he moved to Madrid at the age of 14 to attend the Academy of Fine Arts. He left his tags all around the city, using different materials like charcoal, oil and tempera.

His father was a restorer and he grew up around classical paintings, from which he draws his inspiration. He particularly loves Goya, whose dark influence is immediately apparent in his work. 

His latest piece is one of many larger-than-life painted political statements that add to Berlin’s charm as an avant-garde city, and which draw tourists each year to walking tours of its street art.

But the 42-metre-high mural on a wall in the Tegel neighbourhood of north Berlin has left residents feeling anything but charmed.

 

 

“It’s very, very frightening,” one mother of a five-year-old boy who attends a nearby Kindergarten told Berlin daily Tagesspiegel on Wednesday.

“The worst is the impaled man… There is so much suffering in the world, but you don’t have to also present it to us in such a big way.”

The mother isn’t alone: other residents in the neighbourhood have started to collect signatures to petition for the painting to be removed.

The mural is supposed to be related to the refugee crisis, according to a spokesman from the housing association Gewobag, which commissioned the art.

It is part of a series called Artpark Tegel which so far consists of five murals by the street art network Urban Nation.

There is also sensitivity to the graphic work because several people have killed themselves by jumping off the building next door, Felix Schönebeck, a spokesman for the neighbourhood initiative I Love Tegel told Tagesspiegel. 

Then there is the refugee home being planned for the area.

“There will be people living there who fled from wars and lived through horrible things. For this reason I also find the image inappropriate,” said 26-year-old law student.

But the spokesman from Gewobag said the picture depicts hope as well as pain.

“The child sees a person who despite being hit with arrows can stand upright and is strong.”

 

POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

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