There are many reasons why refugees and asylum seekers travel through safe countries to get to places like Australia and the UK.
One of them is to do with Empire and in many ways I feel that we are now living through the final chapter of the colonise and rule period.
An argument that is often raged against that is ‘but us (Brits/ Australians) have given back far more than we ever took from ‘them’. We have re-paid our debts, that’s all in the past’
But that’s the point.
The oppressor doesn’t get the right to call time and declare themselves ‘over it’, only the oppressed can do that.
The film clip above was part of an article published by the UK Telegraph yesterday and I picked it up from Facebook. Stupidly I clicked on through to the comments section under the Facebook post, optimistically hoping to see some compassion but I found none. One after another after another bile filled sentence spewed out in front of me, some disbelieving this twelve-year old’s story or motive, others angry at the prospect of having their standard of living (some of whom will no doubt be struggling and suffering in their own ways and I don’t wish to deny or minimise that in any way) further compromised or their towns further pressurised by extra un-working bodies. It is a sorry state of affairs.
Like most people I don’t have the answer and doubt there is a simple one. I appreciate that there are limits to what a society can provide – I live in Australia and while we have a sparsely populated country we are keeping our borders tightly controlled. Sometimes for political reasons but it is worth mentioning that practically we do not have the housing built, the social infrastructure, the income or the services ready YET. But maybe we could, if we wanted to? Maybe we actually should (once provisions for water, food and energy have been factored in)…..
I spent just under thirty years growing up in the UK and while there remains no immediate threat from insurgents and its citizens are relatively free, things are not exactly a bed of roses. I’ve seen riots, civil unrest, anger, racial hatred, ghetto-type situations and sieges happen because of the inequalities of the system. In many ways the system is broken. It can’t stand the pressures because it can’t even cope with the status-quo and hasn’t coped forever. The gap between the have’s and have-nots’ is not getting any smaller and that gap doesn’t just mean that some people can’t afford the holidays and clothes they want, it cuts to the core of personhood, human rights. The right to an education (you try getting educated in a school where 40 languages are spoke, kids have suffered trauma and there is no money for extra help), the right to work hard and be justly rewarded (post code prejudice means that in a competitive marketplace for jobs where you live can be enough to put you out of the running) and much more. Generational deprivation and stigmatization.
And then there are people like me all bleeding hearts and roses saying take these retched people and care for them as if they are your own?
It isn’t going to happen.
But we have to do something and my point is this, we need to acknowledge that this is the Empire striking back, not with weapons and brute force (let’s not let the terrorising acts of a few prejudice the masses) but with outstretched hands, desperate eyes and a yearning soul.
We HAVE to let them in.
Not necessarily into ‘our’ countries or ‘our’ homes.
But into ‘our’ consciousness.
Unless we can see ourselves reflected in their reality we will not move forward and solve this. We will continue to lock ourselves up, defend and patrol, punish and segregate and boil the world down to ‘them’ and ‘us’ and we will do this under the promise of ‘keeping ourselves safe’. But we will not be safe and neither will we be or feel free.
Has anyone here read George Orwell’s 1984?
Or played chess?
PS: If you are wondering about Afghanistan and why its people do walk across the world to seek refuge in the UK you might like to read this. ‘The Opium War’. Julia Lovell. Cup of tea anyone?