The entirety of Warsan Shire’s poem “Home” is a commentary, reflecting on the humanitarian horror that most immigrants have gone through in their native place, which leaves them with no option other than to flee for succour in foreign territories. The poem also offers justification for the deluge of Europe and America by Asian and African migrants. It paints in glowing letters, the reason why the grumblings of host countries about how human influx into their lands have dealt a monumental strain on their standard of living is at marginal estimation, a misplaced one.
The poet’s words in the fourth stanza, line 2 to 5 that “no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land” is one of the sundry images with which Warsan Shire depicts what she once described as her personal catharsis of the untenable existence in one of the war-torn and poverty-ravaged areas of the world.
Spare a thought for Gul Zahar, a 90-year old refugee in Bangladesh who had fled her home in Myanmar on three different occasions (1978, 1991 and in 2017 when deadly violent attacks rocked her home community; Rohingya). For the great-grandmother, her lengthy years have been spent in one kind of tumult to the other. Throughout her life she has endured scorching social exclusion and repression in Myanmar, her country of birth, where she and her fellow Rohingyans are not regarded as citizens. Gul and her tribesmen from Rohingya constitute the largest group of stateless people in the world.
In 2007, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that wars, violence and persecution have resulted in the increase in the displacement of persons around the world, as it reached a new high at 68.5 million people in that year, a record that shows an increase for the fifth consecutive year. The vast majority of displacements happen intra-state, and these classes of people are termed as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). About 1.8 million of IDPs can be found in North-Eastern Nigeria as consequence of the Boko Haram terrorism that has ravaged the area. The report further revealed that 120,000 migrants entered into Europe through the Central Mediterranean, the route that accounts for the highest rate of migrant deaths in the world (with 2900 deaths in 2017). Other groups of migrants may enter into Europe by travelling on smuggler’s boat from North Africa.
Most host communities receive immigrants with resistance, the common perception is that immigrants have destroyed where they have come from, and have now come to stifle their hosts of limited resources. This has often resulted in governments taking severe immigration policy measures. While the likes of Germany have shown laudable compassion even to the extent of nearly costing Angela Markel her chancellorship, President Donald Trump has not minced words about putting the welfare of the US above that of migrant rights from the days of his campaigns to his issuance of the executive order which banned immigration from eight Muslim countries. His ending of the designation of Temporary Protected Status for nationals of Haiti, Nicaragua and Sudan, and his signaling that Hondurans and possibly Salvadorans may also lose their work authorization and protection from removal as from 2018.
The Tweeting Trump (as he is known), while playing the role of the world’s anti-immigration hero, has been vocal via Twitter:
“The people of Germany are turning against their leadership as immigration is rocking the already tenuous coalition”
To the President of the United States, immigration is a big mistake and is capable of negatively altering the culture of individual countries. To this, he tweeted;
“Crime in Germany is way up. Big mistake made all over Europe in allowing millions of people in who have strongly and violently changed their culture”
On the contrary, findings reveal that the crime rate has dropped in Germany, which tells us that immigrants, rather than being agents of violence, are the ones who have been victims of violence, and are most desperate to avoid it and deserving of protection.
Attitudes like that of the US president translates into a double jeopardy met by dilemma. By having to migrate from threats of death to extreme conditions of living, throws them into the harsh dilemma of longing for home while being unable to go back.
However, a large number of strangers sharing in one’s resources howsoever abundant is a painstakingly difficult decision to make because it invariably leads to a greater burden on those resources. However, we must remember that, be you the host or the immigrant, blood runs through our veins. We are together members of one large family and that to turn your back on one who comes knocking at your door in a frantic bid to save his life, takes away from your own humanity.
Humanitarian crises like war, outbreaks of diseases, and state-authority persecution, demand humanitarian gestures like showing hospitality to the victims. If we would ever be our brother’s keeper it is in times like these more than ever that we should be.
In conclusion, Pliny’s age-old aphorism must be borne in mind: “home is where the heart is.” Therefore, host communities must understand that shutting out displaced persons when they come knocking for salvation is inhumane, the influx of displaced persons into their lands is a battle for survival. It contrasts steeply with the luxury expeditions that see Europeans and Americans grace colourful cultural festivals or go hunting wild-life in third world countries. Survival is paramount to he who has no electricity to see the scenes of genocide on TV, and yet watches it live across his street. It is all that matters to people who are victims of persecution from a government they have entrusted with the mandate of securing their welfare, people afflicted with cholera and myriads of other diseases which have engulfed their entire nation as ineluctable consequence of malnutrition. They surely would not have left their homes unless their homes had threatened to consume them like the mouth of a shark. Risking the Mediterranean would not be worth it, unless its’ waters promised more safety than their desolate homelands.