5 Selfish Reasons I quit working with Refugees Abroad

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Hi Guys; it’s been a while that I’ve written a musing but here we go. I have taken a break for the time being of working with refugees. My beloved volunteering and paid projects working with predominantly African and Arab Migrants in Greece, Poland, Romania, Spain, Belgium, Italy and beyond has come to an end – but temporarily I believe. I have a sneaky feeling I am going to return. It’s a subjective, sharp and even controversial (to some extent) read but I am back in London for the time being. I have quit working with refugees abroad to work with those within the M25 whilst working towards other pursuits at the same time.

Businessman using mobile phone at work

Whilst working on the field and meeting people and professionals who have worked within various refugee volunteers, tropical nurses, healthcare and research  professionals; a ceiling was reached for me – and I decided that I needed to head back to London and ponder. In Hausa we say: Hana wani hana kai (One that refuses another, refuses oneself) and this is true. Please don’t think I am refusing my refugee brothers abroad; but after having and still in a bit of a mid-life ponder and constant self-reflection upon how i’d like to continue working with refugees. I’m in London now reflecting on what I saw and how it will affect my refugee career moving forward.

Feel free to share your thoughts:

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ONE) ‘I am a result of my decision’ is what I believe

Nigerians take note
I felt that many of the grown men and women I met on refugee camps were a ‘result of their own decision’. You are where you are because of the choices you have made. I sound rather blue and consertive I know… And goodness me that narrative isn’t shared or liked by many. After spending many years working with several African and Arab refugees across Europe; conversations deepen and with time you can get to the crux of the issue. I became more soft-hearted towards the kids – and hardened towards producing sympathy to the adults. But colleagues eventually realise that many of these adult migrants made the decision to cross North Africa and the Mediterranean in spite of being warned of the risks. My heart hardened. I understood and i’m still understanding that the biggest problem many of these migrants face all human beings face – the human heart.

The problem is not solely the terrible trade of Arab Libyans and Militia of African migrants; the problem when push comes to shove – is with our hearts. Many of these migrants made the decision – a gun wasn’t put to their head with the majority fully hearing and knowing from others what atrocities they are likely to face – and still went ahead. This doesn’t mean that I am condoning what many afflictions they have passed through – neither do I applaud the way many of these Refugees are treated especially African Male Migrants in Italy, Spain and Greece. But the human heart and terrible decision making should not be limited solely to African migrants neither should they be excluded from it. The grown adults and even rationaled adolescents needed to take responsibility. Many of them didn’t and my heart now only concerned itself with the children and youth as many did not put themselves into this situation.

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TWO) Being a humanitarian doesn’t pay the bills

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Goodness me I’m selfish ay? How dare I say such a thing! Once upon a time I finished uni as a lefty inclusivist and penniless. Graduating with a BA in Politics and International Relations then doing an MA in Social Anthropology from the University of Kent doesn’t make you anything – but goodness me when I started travelling and graduating from volunteering roles to expenses paid flights and hotels whilst conducting interviews, research and engaging within various social integration programmes with migrants and refugees – I thought I was somebody. I loved the role and the job until a ceiling was reached. When weeks become months and when the smiles and delights of migrants meeting ‘one of their own’ gradually change towards requests for financial assistance and constant rebuttals of self-acknowledgement of responsibility. I came back to London pondering whilst broke – I would love to return working with refugees (the minors and children in particular) – maybe one day – who knows this blog may take me somewhere. Being a humanitarian doesn’t pay the bills; and charity begins at home.

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THREE) Could no longer agree with far right or far left British narratives on Refugees & Migrants

Nurse measuring patient blood pressure

 

God uses the foolish things to shame the wise indeed. I use to read of people’s views of what is best practice and solutions to the migrant crisis with a couple of nods in between the majority of ‘shaking my head’ glances especially from those who would sit behind the screen and observe the situation from the distance. There were and still are some strong views about what is best for these migrants and how the UK government should and could open it’s borders to help more. Whilst there is a sad but complicated problem between Syrian and African refugees; I couldn’t quite fit myself in between the extreme left and right wing stances I observed. The right would often say these people are religious extremists and need to be sent back and prevented from coming to the UK at all costs. The left would say continuously that more needs to be done and that the government should do more and that aid charities should do more to help in this crisis. Coupled with the growing trend of London based bloggers who want to assert a sort intersectional and patriarchal approach of the dilemma such as Ms. Afropolitans assertion that slavery in Libya is only possible because of the capitalist, patriarchal and imperialist system that rules the world … is well written but made me yawn and shake my head. These well-read and well-applauded posts are a snippet into the growing trends of London based bloggers and writers that believe they have the right and knowledge to narrate about ills and so troubls so far.

The chines proverb says: ‘It’s easy to love people far way that you don’t know’ – and I agree. But i’m slow to point fingers as I was one myself before meeting the realities on the ground and on the frontline. The more one says they know – they don’t. In nut shell, I could no longer agree with the stance of my organisation and the organisations that I worked with that were solely focused on helping refugees in the here and now; and lobbying western governments for more funds and more aid to keep them in this cycle. Something wasn’t quite right.

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FOUR) My version of a solution lies more on the continent than here in Europe

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African governments and the African Union need advise – big time – on helping migrants and listening to their views as to why they are leaving their homelands to venture across the mediterranean. On the flip side; onlookers (whether bloggers, humanitarians, policy makers, social justice activists and lobby groups) must accept that no matter how governments do; migrants have their own decisions to make in spite of whatever information is thrown at them. My solution is to either create or work alongside an existing platform where you only start to help migrants who acknowledge their own input into their own problems. Helping those who will admit at first ‘It was me’. This mentally destroys a notion that one is entitled something and frees them from a victimhood narrative which many observers far from them are quick to label them with and quick to coerce them to believe. Children and young people and young women should be placed as first priority to be helped and received into Britain. Furthermore; repatriation efforts I believe should continue where psychological and emotional bereavement counselling should be administered to these migrants who often face scorn from their home their countrymen.

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FIVE) No one wants to talk about the continuing Arab Slave Trade

JTF LIBERIA

 

The Arab Slave Trade; goodness me I was in tears when some of these told me of their experiences in Northern Niger, Libya and Egypt on their way to Calabria, Palermo, Athens and beyond. It’s a topic and an epidemic that is not new under the sun. It is a very systematic and well-run evil. In an era where ‘Why I’m no Longer talking to White People about Race’ is a well-read, the ‘Black Panther’ movie is a well regarded and ‘anti-colonialisms’ are associated with white western atrocities; I smile. Much of what goes on within the Black British, African-American and ‘Black Narrative’ discourses within the west that I am bombarded to enjoy and read – for some reason – Arab treatment of Black Africans seems to escape as a topic. Atrocities, Racism, Slavery and injustices (within my worldview) has gone on for thousands of years within all and between all – but the problem with us human beings is that we pick and choose what offends us to suit our own worldview – and I am included. And I recognised this the most in two ways:

1) Myself: when I came into contact with African migrants abroad and 2) In Others: when I was invited to speak at various Migrant-Refugee related panels and events with many within the audiences ‘disgusted’ with my views that slavery has existed since the garden of eden and history shows that all cultures across my continent and all continents pre-contact of other tribes had what modernists would call strange and somewhat abhorrent practices. This notion however is too difficult for some to grasp; it was for me too.

In all; we live within a day and age where people are encouraged to defend things that they write and that they say – I certainly will within this piece but i’m also not afraid to change my mind upon suggestive contributions especially from those that spent several years on the front line and on the field working with refugees – like myself. Is it easy to love people far way that you don’t know? Does charity begin at home? Are the aforementioned reasons reasoned or selfish? Thoughts?

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