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How Banksy could ignite broader help for refugees

Flickr: LoopZilla

Banksy—the elusive UK artist—acts as a mischievous conscience for humanity. Nearly all of his work is morally driven. He rails against the injustices of our time in eloquent, funny, provocative ways.

He confronts the emptiness of consumerism, the mindless machinery and cruelty of war, sexism, racism and bigotry of all kinds.

Now he is confronting Europe’s indifferent response to refugees.

Earlier this year, Banksy opened his “Dismaland” theme park in the UK. The park was a nightmarish inversion of a theme park: drab colors, miserable employees, rides falling apart, sewage pipes, crashed helicopters, invasive security checks, subversive exhibits, tributes to war, “I’m an imbecile” balloons and much more.

The park opened as media coverage of the refugee crisis in Europe increased.

The UK, in particular, has been adamant about preventing refugees and migrants from entering the country. Amid this policy, a dirty, cramped, makeshift camp outside the southeastern border in Calais, France, has become a flashpoint of outrage.

The camp—called “The Jungle”—has swelled in the past year. There is no running water, sanitation system or adequate housing. Food is minimal. Education and other services are rare. Many people live in tents that are soaked by rain in fields of mud.

As France stalls on processing refugees and the UK polices its border, the people in this camp face an uncertain future.

Especially as the cold of winter bears down.

Banksy saw this and decided to do something. He had his park disassembled and shipped to Calais.

Workers built temporary housing with the materials. Although they’re not ideal, they do a much better job at keeping the wind out and they have dry floors.

Sweatshirts from the park were also handed out for an additional layer of warmth.

Banksy isn’t pretending to be a savior or claiming to be able to help all the inhabitants. He’s doing what he can with the supplies he had at his disposal.

The main intent of his project, it seems to me, is to highlight the moral injustice of the situation: people who mostly fled a barbaric war, who have almost nothing, are being denied basic respect by some of the wealthiest countries in the world.  

He has changed the theme park sign to say “Dismal Aid” instead of “Dismaland” to highlight how absurd it is that an artist is stepping up to help refugees while governments complacently look away, handing out meager aid.

Like all of Banksy’s work, “Dismal Aid” is gaining a lot of attention and stirring some controversy.

I hope that it also sparks the conscience of France and Britain and the rest of the world.

You can also help by going to TAKE ACTION NOW to call for an end to war in Syria.