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Allgemein World

The People Who Left, Just To Be Left Behind

How Politics are represented in Illustrations

Moria – a refugee camp that has been on everyone’s lips in Europe. It was supposed to be a shelter to 3,000 refugees; instead, there were 13,000.1 After the camp burned down, the conditions for the refugees were, least to say, inhumane. They were left without food, water (which was already short before) OR shelter. A few hours before the fire, there were protests against the Covid-19 protective measures, which included a quarantine for everyone, since 35 migrants were tested positive. Thus, it is assumed that the fire was set on purpose.2 Of course, this again triggered discussions in Europe and the never-ending “Migrant-Dilemma” started again.

This current (and ubiquitous) topic stands in direct relation to the image above. A man who is wearing a suit, which represents his high status in society, is standing in the centre of attention. Both the people behind, but also the person in front of him are significantly smaller than the man. There is a comic-like speech bubble indicating him saying, “THOSE REFUGEES LOOK DANGEROUS” whilst he is pointing at the people behind him. He is turning his back to them, showing refusal to look or listen to them. The man is looking down to the person, which might be a citizen, this could be either a Greek or EU citizen. He is trying to convince of his statement. The green colour gives the viewer a feeling of filth. This can be interpreted as the “filthy” thoughts the wealthy man, who is maybe a politician, has about refugees. But could also represent the rejection the small person feels to the man’s opinion.

The picture is dark since most of it is covered by the man’s suit. This could mirror the power of the suit and what privileges come with it. In the background, there are refugees who are not facing him. It looks like they are still on their way to face their tragic human-made fate of abandonment.

Also, in the background, there is something that looks like a set of game cards. Written on them is “Climate Change”, “Vanishing Job Security” and “Unregulated Markets”. The assumed politician is ignoring these cards completely. For him, they’re literally just cards to play with. The migration debate seems to take up all fears and all real problems: worldwide issues are being ignored. The exaggeration of the man’s height is done purposefully by the illustrator, Karstein Volle, to show his excessive power about not only a country’s market, impact on the climate, but also on people’s lives, who already had to go through so much.3

Often in close relation to the migrant debate are borders. The political scientist Nevzat Soguk states:

“Borders have lives of their own. They move, shift, metamorphose, edge, retract, emerge tall and powerful or retreat into the shadows of the exhausted, or even grow irrelevant.”4

– Nezvat Soguk

By drawing the world with exaggeration and distortion, he helps us to understand what these borders do to families that are separated or family members that were lost on the way. Soguk creates an image in the reader’s heads, which underlines the multitudinousness of borders. The personification of borders shows the significance borders have for people, especially for refugees.

Another question I asked myself is: When has it become acceptable to draw and write comics or comic-like illustrations. Formats that are seen as rather informal, and combine them with such a serious topic such as politics? I’ve concluded that it is probably because of the strong symbolism, exaggeration, analogy and irony that can be conveyed through them. It has become normal to see a satirical little image at the end of many (formal) newspapers. Not only comics but whole novels, such as “Bedtime Stories For Worried Liberals” by Stuart Heritage, are being written, where he makes David Cameron talk to a fairy, which gives him the chance to take back the Brexit vote. It makes politicians and their past choices look absurd. The illustrations are a direct connection to real happenings in politics. A way to escape the harsh reality by making it look as truly banal as it sometimes is. 

In relation to Moria, this picture shows the devastating reality for refugees, when they come seeking a new and better life. It shows how major topics are put on hold, just to continue the on-going discussion on where to “place” the refugees, as if it was a chess move. Just that in this party, there is no end in sight. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, another refugee camp in Lipa is causing major discussions again.5 The question is will the EU ever be able to agree on the Merkel-suggested “Willkommenskultur” or will overcrowded refugee camps be “normality” for the people wearing the suits?


1 Feroz, Elias. “Moria 2.0 oder auch Europas ‘menschliche Schande’” December 19, 2020. https://www.heise.de/tp/features/Moria-2-0-oder-auch-Europas-menschliche-Schande-4995799.html.

2 ibid.

3 Knowles, Melissa. “The Teacher’s Guide to Helping Students Analyze Political Cartoons.” blog. Accessed January 8, 2021. https://blog.socialstudies.com/the-teachers-guide-to-helping-elementary-students-analyze-political-cartoons.

4 Bleiker, Roland, and Shine Choi. “Borders.” Essay. In Visual Global Politics, 2018.

5 Bierbach, Mara. “Migrants in Bosnia: EU, UN Officials Condemn Situation in Lipa Camp.” InfoMigrants. Infomigrants, January 6, 2021. https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/29469/migrants-in-bosnia-eu-un-officials-condemn-situation-in-lipa-camp.


Written by Elisa Mustafov. Short intro:

What do you identify as? She/Her
– What is your guilty pleasure? Listening to podcasts about criminal cases and watch Disney movies subsequently
– Which book do you recommend? Anything from Ferdinand von Schirach to be honest

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  1. In all fairness and admitting that all above is correct, still AKK was the main person since she was inaugurated…

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