Refugees are a fact of everyday life today. They come from all over the globe and mainly live in developing countries. Their story is one of hardship, misery and courage in the face of adversity. One cannot help, but be humbled by the stories of courage and immense patience as refugees flee their homes and spaces they love to start anew elsewhere far from their heart, culture and those they love. Many would have us believe that these people are only after exploiting the developed nations’ benefit systems and hide under the banner of refugee while seeking economic advantages. This is a misguided and false accusation that is intolerable. Refugees deserve better treatment and welcome especially in those nations that claim to champion Human Rights.
Refugee week in the UK which is between 17th– 23rd June this year and UNHCR World Refugee Day which falls on 20th June are key dates to acknowledge and reflect on the dangerous and life altering journeys many refugees take to secure the basic freedoms many take for granted in the developed world. Their courage, campaigning and advocacy once in the UK, often lead to better political settlements for those they left behind.
Today in the UK refugees are vilified as benefit spongers, crowding an already overcrowded nation. The skeletal support structures that were once in place are now almost all abandoned apart from sketchy free legal advice which is only restricted to the Refugee and not their family members who have a right to join them under the 1951 Geneva Convention.
The following poem, The Journey, is meant to illustrate that refugees do not suddenly appear from somewhere out of choice to be a burden on the British tax payer. They have stories and history. Proud histories even if difficult. It also conveys the real betrayal which is the lack of support available to them upon arrival in a safe country which is a wealthy signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention.
The poem is written by Liban Obsiye who is a Director of Ashley Community Housing and Support (ACH) in Bristol who has extensive experience of assisting refugees in London and Bristol; a community activist with valuable experience of supporting and empowering refugees from different backgrounds. He is also a lead writer and assistant editor at BSMG.
Poem: The journey
Ready, Aim, Fire
The gun releases death on to the innocent
Withdraw, turn, March
The murderers kick aside the still corpse
In the sea of blood lay all I loved.
The pain of loss refused to be evicted
The image of death forever stamped in my mind
A place of beauty and light
Suddenly turned dark
The home in my heart
Savagely repossessed by evil.
From the old porch the land lay naked
Late at night the wind teased the grass
Stroking it gently from idleness
After much slaughter
The winds only carried the stench of death
Neighbours turned to vultures
Friends to foes
Innocence banished itself from these lands.
I was carried into darkness by deaths agents
Treacherous seas and sandstorms
Bury the dreams of many
Fear strengthens the will
Anticipation and hope sail the boat.
The heart of a man softened by naked collective misery
The mind sharpened by predatory instincts.
A land of security
The land of hope
Home to my rebirth
- Sigmund Freud tops refugee poll (standard.co.uk)
- Bristol City Council: Destitution Motion passed! (bristolrefugeerights.org)
- From contribution to collaboration: Refugee Week and the value of seeing like a city (cathannabel.wordpress.com)
- Increasing number of asylum detainees freed after near-fatal hunger strikes (guardian.co.uk)
- 100 Images of Migration – in pictures (guardian.co.uk)
- Children seeking asylum should ‘be better cared for’ by the state (guardian.co.uk)
Migration and legal aid changes threaten the rights of families (guardian.co.uk)
- Bristol Refugee Rights (bristolrefugeerights.org)
- Refugee Week Timeline (www.refugeeweektimeline.org.uk)
Liban Obsiye and BSMG welcome and encourage comments and feedback from readers.
Liban can be reached through: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @LibanObsiye