For thousands of years, emigration has been a part of the human race. From 2011 to date it is said that 20 people are displaced every minute due to wars, political, social and cultural intolerance or poverty. The recent refugee crisis in Europe and some parts of the Middle East saw the rise of tension and anti-refugee sentiments in the host countries of refugees. Warsan Shire, a Somali-British poet, came up with the poem called ‘Home’ when visiting a refugee camp in Rome at the deserted Somali embassy where just earlier a young Somali refugee had plunged off a building to his death.
What could make the water safer than the land? It could be a lot of factors that act in concert with each other but the most common factor is war. There are other factors that force people to leave the land for the water such as famine, economic strife and persecution because of their identities. When the land becomes inhabitable, it is human nature to move away from it seeking other land whether it be by water or any means possible. ‘You have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land’ Warsan Shire says. This is the plea of a person who has a lived experience of the horror of having to leave their home behind in search of safety. Most people seeking refuge end up in neighbouring countries in refugee camps. However, the overcrowding and undernourishment that refugee camps are known for due to underfunding makes these camps unsafe for most refugees, especially the women and children. The fact that these neighbouring countries are also developing countries grappling with poverty leaves no choice for most refugees but to brave perilous journeys to countries better equipped to handle an influx of refugees.
Coming from a country that has a number of refugee camps and with a Father who has worked with the World Vision in one of those camps in Kawambwa, Zambia, it was known that some of the refugees fleeing the Democratic Republic of Congo Civil war in the early 2000s preferred to stay in the Zambian villages than to stay in the refugee camp. The reason for this was because they were not too eager to stay in a place that had so many restrictions and surveillance. Most of the camps in Zambia have not been getting adequate funding and thus some had threats of closure and some have since closed down. The refugees in these camps are taken back to their countries when a camp closes down; this is done in most cases when peace has been achieved in their home countries. These people have to go back to a place that holds so much of their trauma. In most cases they have no home to go back to, their communities are non-existent and there are no schools or hospitals running efficiently. When people have to face such a harsh reality, braving the sea or ocean to create a better future for their children is all they can do.
The wave of anti-government protests in the Middle East known as the Arab Spring that started in 2011 saw the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi and opened up Libya as a way to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea for a larger number of African migrants. With the opening up of Libyan shores, a good number of smugglers and human traffickers have taken
advantage of the unmonitored Libyan shores. For thousands of people to take the risk of using Libya or other equally dangerous routes, the land must be a much worse fate for them than the water. You just have to be human in order to understand what kind of terror can push a fellow human being to spend their life savings, selling everything they own in their home of origin, risking death in order to survive.
The Somali Civil War is an ongoing civil war taking place in Somalia. It started as a result of resistance by the country’s clan armed groups against President Siad Barre’s military dictatorship. President Barre was overthrown in 1991 through efforts by armed opposition groups. The country did not have stability after this as they were now competing for power that existed in the vacuum. Present day Somali is regarded as a fragile state that has some sort of stability. This is an example of what most refugees are fleeing from. When the war or authoritarian rule ends what follows after is now a fight amongst different groups to be in power. It’s a cycle that most of these refugees want to do away with. If we could only see this as a failing of humanity instead of a burden, we could do more as fellow humans to end the refugee crisis.
The water in most cases is much safer than the land these people are running away from, when you have no choice but to put yourself and your children in an overcrowded boat to escape the horrors on land, it is understandable that you are trying to survive. The need to survive is part of human nature and is something that has kept the human race going. The water is safer than the land when there is nothing worth staying for on the land anymore, when the land is full of a person’s nightmares, when the only thing left is you and your loved ones, you move towards a safer alternative.