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.



Legion d’honneur

Last month my father was the recipient of the highest decoration in France, the legion d’honneur. This medals were awarded at Yorkshire Air Museum as a way of honouring and thanking those who fought and risked their lives to secure France’s liberation during the Second World War.

I had always known he landed on a Normandy beach in 1944 and had heard some of the ‘funny’ stories of the war, perhaps because the horror of war was not a story anyone would want to tell. Even when I had watched Saving Private Ryan many years ago and Dad had said that he had been on the next beach, I had hardly wondered at how he might have felt, perhaps because the imagery in this film was linked to an American flag and an American story.

Only when our family sat listening and watching as five, frail British nonagenarians were awarded their medals and I saw the emotion in my father’s face, did the enormity of what they had experienced sink in.



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.




Ban on the Burqa – or is there?

A ban on burqas was the final straw in what seems to me, and many others, as yet another divisive move on top of mounting tension in the Islamic communities in Australia. The anti Islamic rhetoric started in early August, at a time when the government’s unpopularity was at a high point having delivered a severe budget that only seemed to be beneficial to the oil companies, big business and miners. Throughout August and September there has been moves to send ‘humanitarian’, not military missions, to the Middle East – however, troops have now been deployed and fighter jets. Then there were raids on suburban Islamic households which have raised tension, and amidst this new National security legislation has been rushed through parliament, unopposed by the opposition.

“We had a ‘budget emergency’. Now we have a ‘terror emergency’.”

So given that parts of Australia are only just beginning to feel the global economic ‘downturn’, or even ‘crisis’, and as our public increasingly lose faith in our leadership and big institutions, it is at the very least convenient to use ‘terrorism hysteria’ to try to distract or simply scare the population back into subordination. As usual the mainstream media, salivating for a good story, report with gusto, ignorance and amnesia.

Was the Klu Klux Klan a mainstream party? No.

‘Though most members of the KKK saw themselves in holding to American values and Christian morality, virtually every Christian Denomination officially denounced the Ku Klux Klan.‘      Wikipedia.

Therefore should we assume that all Muslims support Isis and Al Qaida? Our brain tells us of course not, yet we allow the Islamaphobia of  some of our media and our government to scare us into this demonisation. After all,  a majority of the people being killed by Isis are Muslims?

But is there another agenda here?

In the Climate Summit 2014  President Obama said: 

“For all the immediate challenges that we gather to address this week – terrorism, instability, inequality, disease – there’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.”

Given the tragic backward steps our country has taken on climate action, perhaps our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has his head in the hot, dry, and becoming hotter and drier, sand.

Or could it be behind a burqa?

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/bigger-threat-than-terrorism-barack-obama-signals-australia-india-and-china-must-improve-on-climate-change-20140924-10l51d.html#ixzz3F0SHxkJT