A Refugee…

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This response was posted on The AIMN blog as part of a heated discussion on the board about the status of refugees…: Were they “real” refugees or were they “economic” refugees?…

What is termed;  a refugee?

I come into this conversation late as last night I was doing my best to avoid the study as that is also where the tele is and my better half likes to watch Q&A…and I can’t stand it!….So I came in about where someone was querying evidence of refugee status of the young man involved.

This seems to be the hat-rack that many Australians hang their hat of doubt upon..: Q: “Are they “real” refuges or are they taking advantage of us?”

What is a refugee?…A woman escaping domestic violence is a refugee…A gender challenged individual escaping torment of their family is a refugee…both are sometimes escaping from a life-threatening situation..but they do not have to flee across borders to do it. So why is a refugee from , say ; Pakistan not staying in India or Thailand or Indonesia, where surely their religion can offer them sympathy instead of fleeing to Australia?..

Yes..let us ask why many refugees do not seek “safe harbour” in sympathetic religious nations..

For the sake of brevity, I will use a “demographic’ we are quite familiar with in this country ..the “German” pioneers who came and settled here from the 1850’s…These pioneers were refugees themselves after the Kaiser Wilhelm structured the “German Federation” to include many areas of Eastern Europe into the greater German Borders. There were many eastern peoples who had neither cultural, spiritual or name connections with the German State..and they paid for it and their situation was betrayed by little more than their surname.

Many names we here in Aust’ now are familiar with were refugees from oppression back then..Names like Lehman, Modra, Koch(ie), and many others were Wends or Sorbs of Slavanic extraction, not German…some of these names were changed to disguise their original location identification…umlauts were dropped off, vowels or consonants changed or moved..and one never carried papers that could positively identify oneself if you travelled to the west for work as many pogroms were happening where you could be murdered if you had the wrong name…one case was a relative  who travelled to Gdansk for work in the shipyards and was murdered because his name identified him as eastern German..and a possible Bolshevik..yes, even that was enough to get you killed in those unsettled times… Another migrant from after the war I grew up with had a letter removed from their surname as it could be mistaken for a Jewish surname by the Nazis..In Italy, there are those names that will identify you as coming from a certain region of the country..North, Central or South …the same as in England..and on it goes..

So in reality, in those above mentioned countries that we, as cocooned Aussies consider one and the same are in reality NOT safe harbours, but just more danger…as we identify Kiwis by their dialect, so do other nations identify quite swiftly those dialects as coming from another place..I have a mate, an Italian who grew up here in Oz who travelled to Italy to his home town of his parents near Naples, he went to Rome for a bit of sight-seeing and while there, bought some cherries from a market stall, asking for them in his local dialect..the stall-holder, a Roman, gave him the bag of cherries with the remark : “Here you go sir…cherries…fresh from Naples this morning!”…you see, he had picked his dialect….Even myself on a trip to the Eternal city back in the seventies was shocked at so many beggars and I remarked (in Italian) to an Italian person back at my hotel…: “Where do all these beggars come from!!?”…He grunted and mumbled back ; ”Mostly Australia.”

And as for proof of refugee status..just the act of fleeing from all that is familiar ; family, friends, geography and culture..ease of movement, of slipping on familiar clothing, old shoes for a stroll down the street…Look about your desk there next to your computer…that stub of pencil or pad or paper to casually scribble a note down to remind you of something for later..gone, all the memories ..gone, no past to reflect upon save what you can conjure up in a troubled mind…uncertainty, bad food and health and strangers..all is gone all is enemy…all is a future lost unless one gains that elusive safe harbour and here we are in Australia, a land where we have made even the original occupiers refugees themselves in their own land ..refusing to recognise another in need of a home…

Shame on us….shame on us.



2 thoughts on “A Refugee…

  1. And yet we are all related to one another by 6th or 7th degree. I vaguely remember watching a movie by that name. One has to be careful when leaving home and country. I remember the Italian and Greek migrants on the boat to Australia, almost hurling themselves back in the water. It was heart rending sad. All those families torn from each other, and what for? The aim for own home and a Holden in a lonely suburban street with the nodding petunias held within a rockery as only friends.
    I often wonder whether the move by my parents to migrate to Australia was a good and wise move. When I look at Holland, they are a very progressive country willing to take on change and not afraid to move forward. It seems that they are not just only obsessed with giving tax-cuts and economic prosperity. The negative is that it often rains there.


    1. Yes..and that thing about living in a country that is in many places below sea level..is that you can’t get over that uncomfortable feeling that the rest of Europe is “looking down on you”…


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