The art of digestion
By Solt-Murad Epindiyev, special to Prague Watchdog
We – refugees from the North Caucasus, Chechnya, and Ingushetia – arrived in Europe as ambassadors of our peoples and representatives of our motherland. At home, thousands of kilometres from Vienna, Oslo or Berlin, there were mop-ups, abductions, murders, the daily horror of the continuing war. We found ourselves in a world that was totally different, one that offered us hospitality, opened its doors to us and gave us peace and prosperity.
What this world saw, however, was rather different from the proud and freedom-loving rebels Europe’s journalists had portrayed us as. Europe was confronted by a horde of aggressive, ambitious, and largely uncivilized newcomers from the remote Russian provinces who did not want to accept the laws of European life.
Increasingly now we figure in the media’s crime reports. We are a subject of debate, and are often condemned by the local population. We attack refugee camps and take videos of the horrible carnage with the cameras of our mobile phones, and are proud of it. Our young men resemble packs of wolves and get involved in brawls with everyone around them – with Algerians, Turks, French, Belgians. That is the form our self-affirmation takes.
The older generation earn money and build houses in Chechnya for their teenage sons, perhaps in the realization that they are not going to be in Europe long. Only one or two make any attempt to set their children on the right path, forcing them to educate themselves and engage in sports.
Gradually, the authorities in the various countries of Europe have changed their attitude towards us. The day is not far off when Europe will grow tired of us and finally turn away from the freedom-loving Vainakhs who tiptoe to their interview with an immigration officer and, once granted asylum, spit on all the rules. It is already happening – our lovers of liberty-taking are being subjected to ever stricter control.
It’s not hard to see why. Having experienced all the "horrors" of our stay in refugee camps, we receive a “positive” assessment of our refugee status – we enter the integration programme. In the countries of Western Europe the integration programme gives everyone an equal opportunity to become full members of society.
Mockingly we reject the Europeans’ naive attempts to teach us their language, give us a profession. We don’t see the integration programme as a chance to organize our lives, to enter a new society and start a career. We do everything we can to wriggle out of taking legal employment, trying to preserve our status as dependents – or rather, spongers. The state benefit payments are such that it is possible, especially with our large families, to live a comfortable life at the expense of Europe’s taxpayers. We deliberately make a mess of the exams on our language courses and go back to learn all over again. Anything to make sure that the first day of “hard work” will never come.
You often hear: "Why should I work? I have a lot of kids, the state benefits are good. If I take a job, I’ll only get 300 euros more." No one wants to exert himself for so little money, and so parasitism becomes the migrant’s goal. For those who don’t know, let me outline the picture: after he becomes employed, a man has to start paying for everything himself. In Austria, social assistance for refugees who are still dependent on the state is around 500 euros per month, plus 500 euros in housing benefit . The average wage is 1300 euros, and so the “profit” gained by becoming independent is simply "humiliating."
With these social benefit payments, and the proceeds of work in the black economy, we are "investing" hundreds of thousands of euros in Russia. No one is able to determine the exact sum, because the number of Vainakh refugees in Europe is a secret, but during their years of exile many of the “victims” have sent back enough cash to build anywhere from two to four houses back home in Chechnya. Not to mention the hundreds of thousands of parcels and the cars which bypass all the customs regulations and arrive in Chechnya without payment of import duty, to be given official registration plates, and no questions asked.
The subject of the "refugee" investment in the Chechen economy has yet to awaken the interest of the European regulatory authorities. But I assure you that it will not be long in coming, for people in the West are able to do their sums and keep track of their money, which is meant to be used only for integration and settlement in Europe, and not invested in real estate back in the homeland we have formally renounced.
On obtaining a Ukrainian visa in his so-called "Geneva" passport, and crossing the Ukrainian-Russian border in exchange for a small bribe, within twenty-four hours the refugee is back in the arms of family and friends. The desire to visit the homeland is understandable, but the problem is this – it is in no way compatible with refugee status, which is granted for one reason alone: that a man has been able to prove that because of his political convictions he cannot live back home, where his life and human dignity are threatened by serious danger.
Initially, the European authorities turned a blind eye to these tours, but now their patience appears to be running out. A few weeks ago a Chechen family who had returned from Russia to a European capital city were arrested at the train station. Not suspecting anything, the family had wanted to plunge back into the working life of Europe after a luxury vacation in Chechnya. The “refugees" were taken to a police station, and their Russian money was seized along with the home video and camera equipment which had recorded their unendurable "sufferings" in the totalitarian nightmare.
All good things must come to an end. One day we will wake up and discover that our passports have been cancelled, and that some of our fellow citizens, who ignored all the residence regulations, have already been deported. And we will all be asked to come to the assembly points and sign a document enabling voluntary repatriation to our historical homeland, and will each be given 400 euros for the journey.
(Translation by DM)