A makeshift lighthouse – constructed out of the remnants of refugees’ dinghies – was erected on the Brussels skyline on Sunday night (19 June), to mark World Refugee Day and pose an ongoing question to EU policymakers through the summer.
The work – by German artist Thomas Kilpper – was installed on the roof of the Bozar (Museum of Fine Arts) art complex in the heart of the Belgian capital, in the shadow of the Royal Palace and across from the Palace of Justice.
It will now stand there until September, when it moves on to Dresden – the east German city which is the base of the Pegida anti-immigrant movement.
Kilpper hopes, ultimately, to build a real lighthouse on the Italian island, which nestles between Sicily and Tunisia in the Mediterranean. Just 80 miles off the African coast, it is the first European ‘soil’ on which many migrants set foot.
Kilpper told euractiv.com the work was a “symbol, a sketch, a model.
“It is not big enough, not large enough, not light enough…[but] the plan is to put the real thing up in Italy [on the island.]”
Kilpper, who’s own father was a German soldier in World War II, said his art installation was “an invitation to European citizens to put pressure on their governments to bring an end to the massacre of refugees in the Mediterranean.”
The artefacts which comprised the makeshift lighthouse, collected by Kilpper and his assistants from the actual shoreline of Lampedusa, are the rubber fragments and handles of dinghies which have transported refugees and migrants.
It is also intended to remind audiences of two other lighthouses – the lost lighthouse of Alexandria, considered one of the wonders of the ancient world, and the Cape Grecale lighthouse currently on Lampedusa, which, the artist says, “is no help to the refugees, turned as it is towards Europe.”
The rubber and plastic installation lighthouse, is a way of “touching the catastrophe”, according to Micaela Casalboni, director of the documentary Lampedusa Mirrors, who appeared with Kilpper at the press conference, and whose film will be screened at Bozar.
“This first thing we have to do is stop handling this [the refugee crisis] as an ‘emergency’”, Casalboni added, pointing to the 10,000 she said were known to have drowned in the Mediterranean.
The EU has come under heavy criticism for its slow, and fragmented, response to the migration crisis last year, and then moral and legal reservations about the EU-Turkey deal struck this week to return migrants to Turkey in return for resettling refugees currently encamped in the country.
German Green MEP Barbara Lochbilher, a member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and vice-chairwoman of the Human Rights Committee, said Monday (20 June) that the EU’s current policies were “inhumane, wrong and in urgent need of reform.”
Lochbilher said, “65 million people are on the run … and more than half of the asylum seekers are children. But we do not respond with safe access routes, joint sea rescue or a solidarity distribution within Europe. Instead we rely on sealed borders, sticking to an unlawful Turkey deal and reveal a blatant indifference to the fate of individuals and international law.”
Christiane Mennicke-Schwarz, from the Kunsthaus Dresden, where the lighthouse will next appear, said, “There three ways Europe could go [with this crisis]. A ‘more’ Europe of integration, a fragmented Europe, and a ‘coalition of the willing’, splitting north from south, and east from west. I hope for the first.”