Day by day, week by week, more and more people arrive on European soil.
They’ve come from war ravaged regions such as North Africa, Syria and other parts in the Middle East, often paying thousands of dollars to risk their lives for a chance at something more.
But their arrival on European soil has not always come with a warm reception.
It’s something that European-based singer-songwriter Wendy McNeill has seen first hand.
“Since being in Europe it has become an issue that I see every day,” McNeill said. “Whether it is Romani people having their camps set on fire or whether it is people trying to get over from North Africa and getting turned away from ports not far from where I live in Spain.”
The ongoing European migrant crisis is the inspiration behind the folk-noir singer’s latest record, One Colour More.
“It is all stories about immigration and emigration,” McNeill said.
On Friday (Sept. 4), McNeill will be performing at the Vault Café.
“I am looking forward it,” she said. “I haven’t been on the Island for years now.”
McNeill’s stop in Nanaimo is part of a Canadian tour that has given her a small break from the ongoing migrant crisis back home, which has been dominating the headlines in Europe for months but has received less attention in North America.
“It is very relaxing in that sense to be here because it is like ‘oh my God it doesn’t exist,’” McNeill said.I know because I am going back [to Spain] and I will see it first hand.”
McNeill, originally from Alberta, moved to Europe roughly a decade ago, where she has lived in Sweden, France and now Spain.
Her music career began in the early 2000s after making the transition from being a dancer.
“I was always kind of a word writer and then gradually shifted into music,” she said.
One Colour More is McNeill’s sixth record and contains songs such Papusza And The Crows and Civilized Sadness, which tell individual stories of some of the migrants that the she has encountered while living in Europe.
“I don’t really take a side or make a bold statement in the record,” McNeill said. “I just tell the stories of the people and try to give one single voice and a face to something.”
Papusza and the Crows is a song Romani people – also known as Roma or gypsies – and their struggles, while Civilized Sadness is about the 1988 Halabja gas attack in Iraq.
McNeill wrote Civilized Sadness after meeting a number of Kurdish people who told stories about the event at a language class she was taking in Sweden.
“Everybody in my class was from all over the place,” she said. “I learned more about Ramadan in Sweden than I ever did in Canada.”
Germany and Sweden are among the top destinations for migrants and refugees with the latter accepting roughly 80,000 asylum seekers last year.
“I think the Swedish government is doing the right thing,” McNeill said. “But at the same time they are getting so much stress that they are losing the average citizen.”
In the last few years of living in Europe, McNeill says she’s seen it all from Roma people being beaten in the streets to old Swedish women becoming intimated by the amount of immigrants.
“It is just a lot of people getting squished together really quickly and people act like animals,” she said.
McNeill performs at the Vault Cafe at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 at the door.