DAY 237: Where am I from?

January 18th, 2018 § 0 comments

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This was beginning to be a thoughtful summing up of my ideas about borders, gleaned  from my experience (not much), and musings. I share the same ideas as many of you, I expect, about the pointlessness of borders and border controls, and I was trying to set it all down , pointing out that the question of what you’re from is constantly shifting in its meaning. According to who’s asking, for example, I had some pretty good examples.

Gauguin

Gauguin: Where are we from? What are we? Where are we heading?

And then I found that François Crépeau, formerly of the OHCHR, has done what I wanted to do, much better, and at much greater length. I refer you to his CBC broadcast http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thesundayedition/the-sunday-edition-december-24-2017-1.4451296/why-nothing-will-stop-people-from-migrating-1.4451437, which I’ve been promoting here and there. He makes all the points which I and other right-thinking people have been making all along; admittedly over ten pages which various self-imposed rules stop me from copying and pasting. But – OK, the scale of migration at present is something quite new. But essentially, the migrants are the future. They are the hope of their families; they can achieve something for them, they keep the family’s hopes alive.

I urge you to read the whole of his piece. The arguments may simply agree with what you believe already. But it’s so worth while to read an honest, humane and realistic setting out of what we can expect, and what we, and others, can do.

I quote on the sheer scale of legal and illegal migration:

‘Two separate examples. In the 50s, 60s, and early 70s, millions of Africans and Turks entered Europe. No one died. There was very little smuggling, because everyone could buy a ferry ticket, and you could enter Europe with either a visa that you could obtain at the consulate or without visa. People came, looked for a job, got a job, and then went to the préfecture in France, asked for a work permit, obtained it within 24 hours and started working. It was a very simple system which was governed by the Department of Labour.

Second example — In 2012, I was in Djibouti. The 30 nautical miles between Djibouti and Yemen is called Bab-el-Mandeb and

images-1it’s a passageway from eastern Africa to the Middle East. It was estimated at the time that approximately 100,000 people were crossing every year irregularly into Yemen, and then going essentially to Saudi Arabia to become undocumented gardeners, maids, waitresses, etc. 100,000 people crossed every year, and it was estimated that about 10 percent died. We don’t have proper statistics – the Mediterranean, everyone knows, because since it’s European it’s considered global. I was on that beach next to someone who was working for the International Organization for Migration (IOM). I suggested that maybe they could buy ferries from Norway and operate a ferry service with two or three ferries per day going back and forth. The response by the IOM person was, “I don’t think the member countries of IOM would approve of such a plan.” I’m not blaming her at all. I’m just saying that states — and I’ll say bluntly: states are ready to accept that their policies will kill a number of people in order to prevent others from attempting to come. The problem I see with that is, first of all, the human cost — but also the fact that it doesn’t prevent or deter anyone. You still have thousands and thousands of people trying their luck. In 2014, Britain stopped taking part in rescue missions in the Mediterranean, and the argument was saving refugees from drowning just encourages people.

At the time you characterized Britain’s position as a ‘let them die’ policy.

Yes. [laughs] I got a lot of flak for that. A quarter of all migrants worldwide are children.’

It must have been around the middle of 2016, I suppose,  (perhaps a bit late) that it dawned on me as I suppose it dawned earlier on Crépeau that it simply didn’t matter what measures the authorities in Calais (or elsewhere) took to stop refugees from coming – they’d come anyway. As they have, and they will. There are still refugees in the woods around Calais, freezing, gassed, they keep coming. And they’ll go on, for the many good reasons that Crépeau sets out. How mush better to make a world in which we and they can live together. Indeed, (and this too is one of Crépeau’s strong points): it isn’t even a question of ethics, though it is that – it’s a question of realism. What’s the point of spending vast resources trying, at vast human cost, to prevent something which is going to happen anyway? King Canute’s refutation of his courtiers comes to mind.

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The more I think about the history of the 20th century (don’t start that now), the stranger it is. The powers of Western Europe were involved in two horrendous wars, creating vast numbers of refugees. They saw that this was unwise, and that they should be outsourcing conflict by creating (e.g.) unviable entities like Yugoslavia and the Sykes-Picot agreement; and (oddly) the 1951 refugee convention which stated that if the conflicts born of their unviable boundary definitions created refugees, they would  be decently treated. But the said refugees would, and did, inevitably come flooding to the countries which were responsible for their existence in the first place. Who are now trying pointlessly to keep them out. Is not this a mad world? As the Sufi poet Rumi says

This drunkenness began in some other tavern.
When I get back around to that place,
I’ll be completely sober. Meanwhile,
I’m like a bird from another continent, sitting in this aviary.
The day is coming when I fly off,
but who is it now who hears my voice?
Who says words with my mouth?

Who looks out with my eyes? What is the soul?

I cannot stop asking.

If I could taste one sip of an answer,
I could break out of this prison for drunks.
I didn’t come here of my own accord, and I can’t leave that way.
Whoever brought me here will have to take me home

And here are some Kurdish musicians playing near the Macedonian border. (I don’t know when – but it’s the kind of thing which is going to go on happening.)

 

 

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