An Apology To My Refugee Friends

“The insults are easier 

to swallow

than rubble

than bone

than your child body

in pieces.” – Warsan Shire

That’s it.

It’s not the tear gas in Hungary or ships being forced to turn away in Italy.

My own country – Lithuania – seems to be turning in terms of its immigration policy.

As Reuters has reported,

“Lithuania began building a 550-km (320-mile) razor wire barrier on its frontier with Belarus on Friday.”⁣

“Nearly 1,700 migrants have entered Lithuania, an EU state, illegally from Belarus this year <…>.⁣ Half of them identified themselves as Iraqi citizens.”⁣

(Iraq, also known as the place where Lithuania sent troops to support the US’s illegal invasion)⁣

After 30 years of proud independence, a razor wire barrier.

After 17 years of claiming to be good enough for the EU, a new law limiting the rights of asylum seekers.

The sarcasm in me wants to add that, technically, that IS good enough for the EU, yes!

The human in me wants to add that I am very deeply ashamed.

That I am very sorry.

Our humanity seems to be a test that’s never finished, and Lithuania has just entered a stage of this test for which it will surely be judged.

As Jurgis Valiukevicius writes in his article (in Lithuanian),

“It’s funny to see the hypocrisy of our leaders when it comes to democracy. Our politicians are the first to fight for democracy in the international arena: we speak out against Russia, China, Belarus, and anywhere where we find it convenient for us. Yet as soon as someone points to us and our allies, all criticism is lost.

Today, the Right pretends that it’s possible to protect Human Rights and to jail people for running away in search of a better life simultaneously. We have to admit that Lukashenko did pull a trick on us: he managed to turn the mirror back to us. We’re forced to ask ourselves: how democratic are we, really?”

And how human?

Forced migration is what I’ve studied, written about, and talked about in my podcast episodes.

Obviously, for me, it’s all a choice and not a lived experience.

But it’s also a choice to speak out against de-humanising laws and practices, wherever we see them.

Sometimes, they’re far away from home.

Sometimes, they’re close to home.

Sometimes, they’re home.

“Home” is the title of a famous poem by Warsan Shire who I quote at the very beginning of this article.

Here’s her full poem.

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here 

An update, almost exactly a year later, on July 6, 2022:

Amnesty International has released a report accusing Lithuania of violating human rights of the asylum seekers, listing examples of inhumane and illegal behaviour.

It’s not news, but we have to make it news-worthy.

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