No one chooses refugee camps

On World Refugee Day, this poem ‘Home,' by Warsan Shire. 

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
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
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
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
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.

For those who've come across the seas

It took Australia roughly twenty-four hours to end the live export of cattle on boats to Indonesia. The public were horrified by images of brutal treatment in Indonesian abattoirs. They cried out in rage. Within a day, live exports were banned. 

I can’t help but draw a comparison with the live export of people in boats from Indonesia (usually) and the treatment of asylum seekers at our hands. There is public clamour, but no unified voice of outrage; the louder cries seem to come from those who object to sharing our boundless plains with ‘illegal’ arrivals, and those who endorse the mandatory incarceration of men, women and children in places like Maribyrnong, Woomera, and Christmas Island, for indefinite stretches of time.

Mandatory detention has been in place since 1992. For nearly twenty years Australia has wavered in and out of breach of the UN Convention (to which we are a signatory), tacitly approving hasty legislative changes enabling the breach. We have allowed successive governments to farm out to foreign regimes and private companies (specialising in prison management) the protection of refugees’ rights. We have broken several resolutions to at least get children out of detention, even if we can’t summon the moral gumption to release adults detained without charge for years at a time. We have tolerated and supported the deceptions, exaggerations, ignorance and bombast of those who use the plight of asylum seekers to float their own political boats.

Today is World Refugee Day. It is now not unthinkable that one day might be enough to release those seaborne travellers treated brutally by the moral lassitude of our leaders, by our indifference.