How many times?
Home no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark you only run for the border when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbors running faster than you breath bloody in their throats the boy you went to school with who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory is holding a gun bigger than his body you only leave home when home won’t let you stay.
- Warsan Shire
I wonder how many times something can be said before people listen; how many times can we demand that refugees be treated with dignity, and how many times we can problematise people forced to flee dire situations. In the space of 24 hours, our screens have been filled with awful news surrounding refugees; 47 were found dead in a truck in Texas and over 23 were killed by Moroccan/Spanish border control. Prior to this, the UK under the command of Priti Patel concocted a plan that would see refugees shipped to Rwanda.
Refugees are treated like they’re rodents; countries that have most likely significantly contributed to the conflict they are fleeing are constantly fumigating, concocting one dehumanising plan after the other. The irony is that they claim that they are concerned about money and space, but their solutions end up costing more than simply welcoming refugees. Like clockwork, they come out every time a disaster is spotlighted, they tweet shallow concern and condolences and reemphasise that this is why they are increasing security around borders- as if that is not the very reason people are forced to take routes that will most likely lead to their painful and fruitless deaths.
They do all they can to inflate the problem, to distract us from what they are really afraid of; it is not that they don’t want refugees, they don’t want ‘those’ refugees. They don’t want refugees whose humanity they choose not to see; they look and see the labels they have created in their minds based on half-truths and racist stereotypes. They see leaches or people who don’t belong to ‘civilised’ society. They look at refugees and see their culture and way of life as a threat. They do not see people in trouble beyond their control, deserving safety. That is why they frame the conversation as ‘migrants fleeing’, words are powerful; migrants have a choice, refugees don’t. That is why they cross their hands and pretend like they do not understand why people would choose to undergo such life-threatening journeys. They try their best to distance themselves from the problem. The refugee crisis should be framed as a humanitarian crisis; not an economic one.
The conversations around refugees should prioritise their safety and dignity, not the borders we’ve made up. I don’t know how long we are going to pretend that it is not absolutely insane that there are people being killed and dehumanised for trying to find a better life. More so, I don’t know how long we are going to pretend that it’s not because we have already dehumanised them in our minds; they are the ‘other’; this is ‘normal’ for them and it is normal for us to observe and deeply sigh as though there is nothing we can do. I hope the world realises that it admitted this when it responded with empathy, grief and open arms to Ukrainian refugees. When it saw them fleeing and understood that they had no choice.
I wonder when the West will be able to extend that humanity to the rest of the world.