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This report is taken from PN Review 233, Volume 43 Number 3, January - February 2017.

Letter from Chios Jamie Osborn
SOUDA CAMP LIES in a moat beneath what is known as ‘the castle’, Chios’s old town. On the other side of the moat is a bank of quiet residential properties and rooms-to-let. The camp’s location might be described as sadly ‘appropriate’, symbolic: welcome to a Europe where refugees are squeezed between defensive walls and backstreets catering for holidaymakers. But here only a kind of vulgarity, bordering violence, is ‘appropriate’.

Imad is a former professor of French at a Syrian university who has been in Souda for over six months. Walking towards the fig tree which is his favourite place to sit and read – currently, David Foenkinos’s Charlotte, the story of a pre-war Jewish family in Berlin – he gestures towards the beach beyond the camp: ‘If it were nine hundred dogs living on this beach, all the world’s media would be here, believe me,’ he says. Then he adds, with the assurance of disillusionment’s logic, ‘We are human, so Europe treats us worse than dogs’. Meanwhile, politicians make their rounds at distant summits, reiterating calls to distinguish ‘economic migrants’ from ‘genuine refugees’. Such distinctions are projected as both the beginning and end point of a cycle of interrogations to which refugees are subjected in the process of determining their appropriateness to Europe. The cross-examinations that follow call up echoes and shadows that seem intended to confuse. Immediate answers are demanded in interviews, yet the wait for results is allowed to pass into months. On the refugees’ part, specific questions of when and how give way to ...


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