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.

 

 

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Platitudes and Silence

Staring through the window I sit
nursing a mug of tea.
The swish of tyres after recent rain
and the squawks of  parakeets
foraging in the flame tree
are background noise to my thoughts.
Thoughts of disbelief.
Thoughts of anger.
Colours mute as the sun descends.
Long shadows fall across the yard.
My phone beeps, more news.
I don’t look.
Enough bad news for one day.
‘Atrocities believed to have happened on Nauru.’
Believed to?
How can a government be so callous,
so cold,
so lacking in compassion?
I don’t want news.
I want answers.
But I don’t get answers.
All we get are platitudes
and silence.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/silence/

 

Spare this beautiful place

In this fragile place,

where greed talks loud.

In this beautiful place,

of moors and farmland.

In this tranquil place,

where streams run clear.

In this proud place,

where villages have stood

for centuries.

In this threatened place,

where decisions, made

in council chambers

and behind lobbyist doors,

will change it

for ever.

In Ryedale, North Yorkshire.

 

Why would you frack here?

Further Information:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/14/fracking-ryedale-north-yorkshire-moors

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/24/riding-roughshod-over-democracy-residents-on-fracking-in-north-yorkshire

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/spare/

 

 

Who’s been stealing my grapes?

Last year it was the fruit rats. And the year before. And the year before that …

We had initially thought that it was birds though and I spent hours going through old CDs for the ones I didn’t want or need, and then hanging them with shiny Christmas ribbon in the hope that as they danced in the breeze the reflection and movement would scare the birds away.

It didn’t happen. However brilliant the idea, it was never going to save the grapes.

As we waited for the grapes to grow large and succulent and turn deep red in the hot summer sun, so too the rats waited. I remember last summer the tomatoes had survived, so maybe the rats weren’t around? Each day I’d go and check on my crops and put off harvesting for just one more day of ripening and developing flavour.

But that one day was crucial. How could so many bunches disappear in one night? Exactly how many rats were there? It seemed impossible that they could feast on so many grapes and not be lying in a overindulgent heap on the ground the next day. Instead the ground was littered with the remains.

 

So this year the grapes were still green and the vine was prolific. We’d never had so many bunches before. I was optimistic that we would finally get to taste them or, dare I say, eat some. The grapes were still at least a couple of weeks from ripening when I saw the debris, a few discarded grape skins and stems scattered on the ground at my feet.

Was it the unusually hot weather causing the rats to change their eating behaviour? Did they now like the unripened grapes or were they simply trying to make sure they were one step ahead of me?  The following day the mess below the vines was worse and the day after that more grapes had been plundered.

Should I get a cat? My dog would not like that. I scoured the internet for fruit rat deterrents, to no avail. The next morning as I sat on my deck pondering and drinking my first cup of tea for the day, a noisy chatter and fluttering of wings announced their arrival. Right there in front of me, not two meters away, the thieves flaunted themselves, hanging upsidedown and sideways, defying gravity and eating my bloody grapes. Their screeching and whirring was incessant and even when I stood directly underneath them they were so confident they were reluctant to leave their morning fruit platter.

I’ve resigned myself to sharing my food with the ‘neighbours’. Even though they are a pest, they bring  colour, vibrancy and life. Again I pondered at how with their beauty I allow them to feast, whereas had it been the not so beautiful rat what would I have done?

I wonder is this a parable to how we treat people differently according to their outward appearance?

 

The rainbow lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) is a declared pest in Western Australia (WA). It is a small, brightly coloured parrot that was introduced to WA during the 1960s.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/weightless/