When home is the mouth of a shark

For those of us who cannot understand how ones homeland can be so dangerous that you’d leave all your worldly possessions and run elsewhere, I give you the poem ‘Home’ by Warsan Shire

“HOME,” by Somali poet Warsan Shire:

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 neighbours 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 toilets
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
pitied

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

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
they smell strange
savage
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
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

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

Refugee Quota Conversation

Let me state from the outset that I think New Zealand should be taking more refugees. New Zealand’s refugee quota has been set at 750 since 1997 and in that time our population has grown about 20% so at the least we should have kept track with that. I think today we can do more than that but both the Labour Party of last decade and the current National Government have stalled this and have not yet increased numbers. This problem is not about Mr. Key and ‘the right‘ it’s about politics in NZ from the political spectrum ignoring the issue for nearly two decades even though there is a review every three years.

Now in saying that I firmly believe that the quota of refugees to NZ should be increased, I also want to bring some accuracy to this conversation. If any of you have ever heard me on talk-back before you’ll know that I have an almost militant desire to be factual and fair and I think a fair point to make right now is that we seem to do more for refugees in NZ that other countries.

We were challenged on Q&A on Sunday morning that if we to step up to the refugee plate even as well as Australia did, then we’d be taking 3,000 refugees. I thought I’d look into that.

Currently Australia takes 13,750 refugees pa with the Federal Government budgeting nearly $143 million for settlement. New Zealand takes 750 refugees with the Government budgeting $20,190,000 in the 2015 budget. NZ takes one refugee for every 5,900 citizens whereas Australia takes one refugee for ever 1,700 citizens so they appear to be much more open and welcoming, however NZ spends $27,000 per refugee whereas Australia spends just $10,400, on average, on each refugee.

John Key claimed that one of the reasons we accept fewer refugees is that we provide full wrap around services and it would appear drawing the unspoken conclusion that other countries don’t do that. I think that there is validity in that claim if, like Australia, other countries are spending far less per refugee than we do in New Zealand.

So whilst I want to state again that we should definitely be taking more refugees I don’t think we’re having the correct conversation. Assuming that the budget remains the same for settlement of refugees in NZ, what we should be asking is “should we take more refugees and give them fewer services and help, or should we continue to provide the full wrap around services we have for the refugees we are currently receiving?”

Or, of course, we could all open our wallets, Government included, and give more to help those in need.