Old and New

Singapore is a juxtaposition of old and new, concrete and gardens, hot humidity and freezing aircon…

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Who would be a refugee?

The kids I work with that come from refugee backgrounds have my full admiration. They are a delight to teach and show strength,  flexibility,  bravery, enthusiasm  and the ability to embrace the country and people that has offered them this chance of a new life.

It amazes me that there is so much negative imagery and messaging about people who have had to flee their homeland. For most of them, there is no going back to the places from where they have escaped in fear of their lives – at least not for many years. If we could really empathise and put ourselves in their shoes (if they have any) then perhaps we might show more compassion.

In 2017, 68.5 million people were forced to flee their homes. Of those, 40 million were internally displaced, 25.4 million were refugees and 3.1 million were asylum seekers. They were forced to flee because of war, persecution, natural disasters, environmental crises and poverty. We see so many people seeking asylum around the world and the so-called ‘first world’ countries are quick to complain that many are simply economic migrants and their status is nothing to do with fear. In a time when money speaks louder than compassion, countries like Australia spend more money on protecting their borders than welcoming refugees. People often believe that their country takes a fair share of refugees; those who arrive through the ‘proper’ channels and are proven to be refugees, a process that can take many years while living in a refugee camp where they can be susceptible to bribery and ‘favours’. Yet it is less affluent countries who are more likely to host refugees.

‘Turkey, Pakistan and Uganda host 31 percent of the world’s refugees. The highest concentration of refugees is in Lebanon, where one in six people is a refugee, primarily from Syria.’ UNHCR 2018.

Those quick to complain that refugees are simply economic migrants, fraudsters and ‘shouldn’t be travelling without documents to prove who they are’, seem indifferent to the circumstances that force someone to flee their home. If your house is burning, guns are firing, women and girls are being raped, or there has been extended drought and you and your family are starving, wouldn’t you flee? Would you pause to make sure you have your documents, even if you actually possessed any? Wouldn’t you use all your money and capacity to move yourself or your family somewhere safe?

It is a complex and political problem. Wars and persecution on the grounds of religion, ethnicity and race will always happen. Drought and internal displacement of people will increase with climate change, and there will always be refugees and migrants. Yet there is an inequality in who is allowed to travel to a country for a new beginning. Why is a doctor from Vietnam lower down the pecking order than one from France or Australia? Is it because their qualification is seen as lesser or are there other factors at play?

If we could support the countries where these so-called economic refugees come from, namely poor developing countries, rather than spending millions on ‘border-control’, surely that would make more economic sense. If their homeland offered prospects for them, micro financing for small businesses, a living wage and safety, wouldn’t they prefer to stay there? Would that be enough to prevent many of the fatalities we are witnessing in the Mediterranean and other seas?

My thoughts go back to the children, the lucky ones who made it to our shores, the lucky ones who escaped violence and war, the lucky ones who weren’t sent to languish on island prisons in the pacific ocean.

Who would be a refugee?

 

Refugee children in Australia – the ‘lucky’ ones.

 

 

Plastic Plastic Plastic

I was recently in Bali, one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Just before we were due go on my trip I read an article about how 20,000 people had come together across the island to clean it up, #oneislandonevoice, on 24th February 2018. It was a fantastic initiative, but as I went past one of the enormous mountains of landfill a month later, I wondered where all the ‘rubbish’ that had been collected that day ended up. With so much of the plastic having no commercial value I had fears that landfill was the only option. And then it becomes inevitable that plastics end up in our waterways and oceans.

Plastics have been in the news a lot lately. Every day on social media sites there are images of dead seabirds or other sea mammals with their digestive tracts full of plastic leaving them to a slow and painful death. We see photographs of massive plastic islands in all our main oceans, some of these are estimated to be the size of large countries. And then we have the microplastics, less visible, plastics less that 5mm in length, which have even been found in the more remote regions of our oceans.

The first fully synthetic plastic, Bakelite, was invented in the early 1900s. Mass production of plastics made from crude oil, began in the 1940s and 1950s. Only a hundred years later in 2050, we could have more plastic in the ocean than fish. Back in Bali, there was plastic bags, cups, straws and bottles scattered along the tide line as I walked along the beach close to our accommodation, while snorkeling, plastic bags danced in the water jellyfish-like, plastic rubbish was caught in foliage by the side of the roads and plastic floated in the waterways.

Bali is just an example of what is happening in so many places around the world. It is perhaps more shocking in such a beautiful place. But will an initiative to set up by volunteers be enough to begin the education of the Balinese, or will it take a government initiative? Where I live in Western Australia, our state government is about to introduce a ban on lightweight plastic bags on July 1st 2018. While shopping bags make up only a small proportion of plastic waste they can have a devastating impact on marine life and birds. Let’s hope this new law will be the first of many. There is already talk of a ban on plastic straws.

As I walk on the beach with my dog each day I know that our use of plastics and how we dispose of them has to change and that change can’t come soon enough. The amount of plastic I pick up depends on weather and tides, however there is some plastic there every single day.

 

July 1st is also the beginning of Plastic Free July, a movement started in 2011 by the Earth Carers in Perth, Australia.  Plastic Free July is now an independent not-for-profit Foundation. It aims to raise awareness of the problems with single-use disposable plastic and challenges people to do something about it. ​Millions of people from 159 countries world-wide take the challenge and raise awareness and try to make a difference.

 

http://www.plasticfreejuly.org/

Five Years of Favourites

I joined the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge in 2013. It helped me post regularly on my blog when I didn’t have time to write a piece, which had been the initial aim of my blog. Very soon the photography became as, or even more important than the writing.

I’ll miss the weekly prompts, but hope that I’ll be able to evolve into some new blogging habits.

So here are some of my all time favourites.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/all-time-favorites/