Saturday, September 26, 2020

No, Mr. Trump, refugees are products of their governments not of their countries

Like the recent infamous hurricanes, Katrina, Irma, Maria and Harvey, that ravaged the United States from the south of continental North America through the Gulf of Mexico, another whirlwind, born at the US border with Mexico, is engulfing the United States and has pitted the American people against their president and his administration.

The issue of refugees from south of the US border flooding into the United States from all the countries in South America, amplified by Mexico’s 1,954 mile-border (3,145 km) with the United States, has been rattling Americans for a long time.

Previous administrations have been a lot more accommodating, saying that “America was built by immigrants” and turning away those in need is “not who we are”.

All the while, both legal and illegal emigration continued, oblivious to the simmering anger among some sections of the American population.

Yes, the US is being swamped by undocumented aliens, once called illegal aliens. In 2017, “there were 303,916 border apprehensions in the southwest U.S.”, meaning many more managed to get in without being apprehended in this particular area and elsewhere along the long border.

Although I was a recognized and legal refugee in Botswana for nearly ten years, I understand full well the desperation involved. Whether one has papers or not, every day is a reminder of what you are not and where you are.

You watch the raids, the rounding up of people, the deportations, crime being blamed on “illegals” and all sorts of accusations and humiliations.

It happens here in the US too.

In whatever country one is, there is just so much resentment of foreigners, legal or otherwise.

Yes, indeed, it takes courage to be a refugee.

I have always confessed to the fact that the election of an American president is a spectacle like no other on earth.

Without going too far back into history, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump spent a whopping $2.65 billion on both their campaigns for a job that pays less than $600, 000 a year (and this includes pecks).

The arrival of Donald Trump fired up what he called “the silent minority”, a strong base which appears to have given enough support to Mr. Trump’s ideas, chief among which is immigration and the now famed idea to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to strangle the flow of refugees into the United States.

This is something I understand, considering hearing similar suggestions in Botswana and South Africa to stop not only Zimbabweans from entering these countries illegally but to also stop people from other countries entering these two countries through Zimbabwe.

The abuse of undocumented immigrants is always there because we accept the beating of a burglar when we catch him red-handed.

We continue to read of such abuse in North Africa where black Africans are abused by Arabs in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe, ostensibly for job opportunities and a better life.

No country can enjoy its freedom when its neighbour is in bondage.

Both Botswana and South Africa could not enjoy their freedom and economic boom while Zimbabweans and their economy were sliding downwards.

Refugees are created, not born. The drive to survive is all it takes. It is natural that a penniless parent will not watch his child starve when the neighbour next door has plenty of bread. The drive to survive is more powerful than the fear of death.

Everything that moves is moved by another. The hundreds that are perishing in the Mediterranean Sea come not only from Africa, but the Middle East and they have one thing in common: repressive governments that preside over rotting economies.

This is usually accompanied by wars and kleptomaniac rulers.

As US president Donald Trump feels beleaguered due to his immigration policies, he has already threatened to cut foreign aid to countries that “send” their citizens to the United States as refugees.

Needless to say, this caught my attention. Foreign aid is usually given to countries that are of strategic importance to the donor country and this could be meant for development, military, economic assistance or humanitarian. But, in whatever form, foreign aid is meant to benefit the people of that country not the leaders of the receiving country.

There has been a lot of debate as to how beneficial foreign aid is to a country in the long term, but it cannot be denied that people in a country recovering from a war or famine would greatly benefit from this in the immediate term.

Thus, foreign aid is meant to assist governments to assist its people. But that is not the case most of the time.

People do not offer to become refugees then travel long, dangerous distances to face an uncertain future where their rights or productive capacities will never reach 100%.

People are forced to become refugees. They could be facing persecution because of their religion, political views, economic woes or to escape starvation or abuse by dictatorial governments.

When refugees start showing up, they are not the problem but the governments they left behind.

The problem is that for decades, countries like America, Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and others supported dictators in the hope of being given a foothold in particular areas around the globe. They looked the other way when dictators in south America, Africa, Asia and elsewhere abused people. This created refugees who showed up at America’s doorstep. As well as at the doorsteps of France, Britain, Italy, etc.

For Mr. Trump to cut financial aid to countries that produce thousands of refugees is just creating more refugees. There are deserving people out there who could really use the aid, despite their rotten governments.

Maybe what America should do is to deal with or punish governments that create situations that cause an exodus of people.

If what is found in America is found in one’s country, why would people journey to America in their thousands looking for, say, peace, freedom, human rights, jobs, etc.?

Why would one undertake a dangerous and unsure trip of thousand of miles for a cup of water to drink if that water can be found in his village?

Walls can be built along borders, that will not stop refugees. If there is a way out, there is a way in.                                                                                                     

While becoming a refugee is not by choice, it is backed up by a tremendous resolve to survive and give oneself and offspring the best opportunities one can find.                 

It is not easy; it is far from enjoyable. It takes courage to be a refugee.

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