Thoughts on The Ongoing Refugee Crisis, à la Warsan Shire


It has come to my attention that very many people don’t understand the plights of the Syrians landing on Europe’s shores seeking for asylum. It bothers me that very many people scorn these desperate human beings braving death and pneumonia to arrive at a safe haven. It bothers me that their scorn is borne out of religious intolerance – my God vs. your God; a scorn and unwillingness to understand and empathize that is borne out of the usual rhetoric of “Muslim=Terrorist”. It bothers me that all of those very many people responding vociferously, negatively to my Facebook posts on the Syrian refugees are Nigerians and not the Europeans on whose soil the Syrians are landing; surprising yeah? Sad, considering that Syrians are not even landing on Nigerian soil; which is not surprising, since Nigeria does not have laws and resources set aside for refugees.

While the Nigerians (on my Facebook wall) are scorning refugees, and the Americans don’t want any more “immigrants” (lame argument; refugees are not migrating, they’re fleeing a war) and the Australians have raised, albeit minimally, the cap on the number of asylum seekers they are willing to host, Europeans are throwing wide open their doors and windows and shouting their welcome to these refugees; Europeans are packaging gifts and survival kits for these refugees; Europe is doling out a lot of money to accommodate our brothers and sisters in need. How I love Europe! 

  
So, before you get on your high horse and tell me how these refugees are “beggars with choice”, please read this poem titled “Home”, written by Kenya born, London raised, Somalian poet, Warsan Shire; maybe you’ll understand better, be less insensitive and more humane:

“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.

no one leaves home unless home chases you

fire under feet

hot blood in your belly

it’s not something you ever thought of doing

until the blade burnt threats into

your neck

and even then you carried the anthem under

your breath

only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets

sobbing as each mouthful of paper

made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,

that no one puts their children in a boat

unless the water is safer than the land

no one burns their palms

under trains

beneath carriages

no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck

feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled

means something more than journey.

no one crawls under fences

no one wants to be beaten

pitied

no one chooses refugee camps

or strip searches where your

body is left aching

or prison,

because prison is safer

than a city of fire

and one prison guard

in the night

is better than a truckload

of men who look like your father

no one could take it

no one could stomach it

no one skin would be tough enough

the go home blacks 

refugees

dirty immigrants

asylum seekers

sucking our country dry

niggers with their hands out

they smell strange 

savage 

messed up their country and now they want to mess ours up

how do the words the dirty looks roll off your backs

maybe because the blow is softer

than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender

than fourteen men between

your legs

or the insults are easier

to swallow

than rubble

than bone

than your child body

in pieces.

i want to go home,

but home is the mouth of a shark

home is the barrel of the gun

and no one would leave home

unless home chased you to the shore

unless home told you

to quicken your legs

leave your clothes behind

crawl through the desert

wade through the oceans

drown

save

be hunger

beg

forget pride

your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear

saying-

leave,

run away from me now

i dont know what i’ve become

but i know that anywhere

is safer than here”. 

Main photograph by Daniet Etter/New York Times/Redux /eyevine. Laith Majid cries tears of joy and relief that he and his children have made it to Europe.

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About Egoyibo Okoro

Beautiful. Friendly. Opinionated. Feminist. Scholarly. Apolitical. Christian. Sometimes, I write in Engli-Igbo and/or pidgin English. Just so you know, I am naturally disgruntled about a lot of things, most especially gender inequality, human rights abuses, racism and corruption. #EndChildMarriage. #EndTerrorism. #EndPoverty. #EndRacism. #EndImperialism. The Igbo say, "egbe bere, ugo bere, nke si ibe ya ebena nku kwa ya" - Live and let live!
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