FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 5, 2017
Hundreds of spectators witnessed a bizarre spectacle Saturday, when a slick new tech startup called RefuGreenErgy held a three-hour launch event in central Brussels. The event featured four "RefuGreens" (actual refugees) happily pedaling battery-filling bikes while "company representatives" (actually activists) described to tourists and others how the refugees were producing "green" electricity they could buy; the refugees, in exchange, would get 24-hour periods of amnesty and 1.60 euros per day. "It's a guilt-free way to help others," explained one representative.
Reactions ranged from quiet approval to horror. The hoax was finally exposed when, after two "company officials" explained the concept to an assembled crowd, a member of the public, a man who works with refugees, spoke up emotionally against the concept, and the "officials" admitted it was a hoax. (See footage here.) At that point, Saïd Elouizi, a member of Brussels collective Voix des Sans-Papiers (Voice of the Undocumented), spoke of the importance of taking action as citizens: "We need to react to every speech and act, and not remain passive consumers.... Solidarity is our power."
The hoax, by WAAR (We Are All Refugees, a group of "artivists" from Belgium and abroad, working in cahoots with refugee groups and the Yes Men) was carried out in the capital city of Europe in part because refugees are constantly threatened, deported, and locked up by many European states, including Belgium. One Belgian politician, Theo Francken, has even brought agents from Sudan—whose president is under an international arrest warrant—to identify Sudanese refugees so that they can be deported back to the danger they fled.
The hoax was designed to call attention to the moral responsibility of countries like Belgium for the so-called "refugee crisis."
“There are increasing numbers of climate refugees—perhaps 250 million by 2050," said WAAR member Zelda, referring to a United Nations report. "Climate change is caused by the industrial countries, and they bear responsibility for it."
"If we want to look at deeper causes of the wars and violence that force refugees to flee, it's not a big stretch to see our colonial history as a root cause," said WAAR member Hélène.
Another WAAR member noted that European colonial history continues as companies cause large-scale conflicts that force citizens to flee, as in the case of Areva in Mali.
"Our objective was to highlight the logic by which capitalism deals with and takes advantage of crises—even those that it's caused," the activist explained. "Faced with the ecological crisis of climate change, many companies respond with solutions that serve the objective of profit, without having any concrete effect on the problem itself. A horrible idea like RefuGreenErgy is sadly plausible, thanks to the 'Uberization' of society, ‘greenwashing,’ and the utopian view that the unregulated market can fix the world."
The hoax has so far received coverage in several Belgian media outlets. WAAR also launched a website, a promotional video, and Facebook and Twitter accounts. The hoax was developed during a week-long workshop with The Yes Lab at La Fabrique de Théâtre as part of the Brussels SIGNAL festival, and was carried out with the participation of refugee-activists from several organizations.
WAAR requests that you:
- Support collectives and organizations that help the undocumented in their quest for work and legal status.
- Support airplane passengers who oppose the deportation of refugees by air, who are now being prosecuted by the Belgian justice system.
- If you are in Belgium, welcome a refugee from Maximilian Park (Brussels) into your home to allow him/her to rest, and to protect him/her from police raids.
- Visit asylum seekers in Belgian refugee centers.
Media contacts: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hélène Collin, +32 474 99 31 33
Alexandre Dewez, +32 498 33 88 62