An Asian Christian woman living in London blogging about the everyday issues of religion

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Are Refugees Not Humans?

'When the alien lives with you in your land, do not ill-treat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God' -  Leviticus 19:33-34

Refugees and asylum seekers are often used as cheap political weapons by political parties to point score with each other over who can keep 'as many of them' out. Battle lines are drawn arbitrarily based on numbers, boundaries are reiterated like lines drawn in the sand about what is our land which also translates into what is not 'their' land and the ones who make it through the immigration system like limbo dancers struggling to squeeze under an ever-decreasing gap will be made to feel like villains, scoundrels and an enemy when they arrive.

Will anything change after the disaster this week at Lampedusa? Over 300 people from Eritrea and Somalia set off on a journey that they hoped would take them away from the wretched wars and political instability of their own countries to a land of hope. In a twist of cruel irony their 66 foot boat sank near the 'Spiaggia dei Conigli', a beach named by Tripadvisor as being one of the most beautiful in the world. Lampedusa is an Italian island located 70 miles off the Tunisian coast. As a result Lampedusa is a favoured arrival location for refugees fleeing African countries.

We in the west can only imagine the sort of atrocities that these people must be fleeing from to risk crossing open seas in undersized boats with little or no safety mechanism after having paid extortionate sums of money to traffickers and human smugglers.

Italy's interior minister, Angelino Alfano, called the disaster a "European tragedy" because Lampedusa is the first point of entry into the whole of Europe for fleeing migrants. He is only partly right. The 'European tragedy' is part of a bigger global tragedy because of the amount of humans who live in poverty. There is an imbalance in the distribution of wealth, opportunity and those who live under crushing disappointment will, naturally, seek to access the advantages that others have. It is human nature to want to flee or to actually flee misery if joy, imagined or otherwise, is available elsewhere. It is this human circumstance, I think, that puts a human face to the on-going battles that refugees face.

No comments:

Post a Comment