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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
working with temporary asylum seekers.

Submitted: January 09, 2008

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Submitted: January 09, 2008




Intricate globalisation -
international crisis
by assembly line production,
refuges as interchangeable parts
in genocidal manufacture.

this enterprise of compassion,
cyclical provision of asylum,
one group after another,
in and out of
safe havens
like tourists on a coach tour.

Western nations have no spine
to early stand against oppressors,
yet pour out expenditure with
belated profusion –
salving consciences –
to stem the ethnic carnage
they have abetted through
their moral deficit.

‘Fearful, fearful, we adore you’ -
in escaping truckloads
the kissing tears flow
in homage
to the gentle nuns
who line the road.
Standing graciously defenceless,
their charges to safer havens flown,
this human corridor of faith
awaits its rendezvous with butchery
come the tropic dark of sundown;
as retreating foreign army –
vengeful –
extracts its extravagant payment
and curses the Christian God.
Trained these very soldiers
did we –
to our everlasting shame.
No hint of democratic values
or humane tolerance
did they absorb
when they our ‘military training’ –
for this read ‘diplomatic bribe’ –
so recently utilized.

And this reality puts the lie
to so much foreign policy -
sustaining dictatorships
to maintain favourable trade.

And here at home -
Condition Black! – Condition Black!
Guards at gates, and all passes scrutinized,
inoculations updated,
security checks, warnings, threats:
‘no news releases, faxes, text-messages,
or interviews allowed
by unauthorised personnel’.
Arrogance of military officers
and untrained bureaucrats
fosters government incompetence –
culturally insensitive heavy handedness;
and diplomatic pussyfooting
with the authors of the ‘ethnic cleansing’ –
our politically correct,
but putrid,
euphemism for
the massacre of innocents.

Their embassies and consulates
ringed with righteous indignation,
common everyday civilians,
placards waving,
cry out for justice,
and a harder line from our
self-emasculating politicians.
This cowering!
This cringe!
Our snivelling national leadership,
sycophantic to
the neighbourhood bully
for nearly half a century.

In this climate of tribal confrontation,
crisis follows crisis,
overwhelming good intentions
and political incompetence.
Flattened, drained, unnerved by previous
intakes of thedispossessed

with their ingratitude, abuse, violence
and crime in safe haven,
all symptoms of demoralising fears –
aid cadres falter and resign,
aid agencies withdraw.

Short notice?
No notice!
‘One day until the busses come’,
we are told,
and absent staff too far away
for rapid recall;
no volunteers vetted yet, no supplies;
but cellphone network working, and
faith at hand.
And as the busses approach the gate
nae American exchange students
arrive in rostered shifts -
and are transformed into adults
by the refugees’ overwhelming pain.

On refugee faces carved:
Fear – paralysing fear,
mind-numbing fear.
Yesterday in burning villages,
today a continent away
in metropolitan high-rise complexity.
Fear - abiding fear,
Fear of death,
of life,
of change
of loss.
Children without parents.
Parents without children.
Spouses split asunder.

Our military in fatigues,
meant to bring order out of chaos;
bring instead macabre
reinforcement that no one
in a uniform can be trusted by refugees.
False names,
false locations,
false identities to hide
their true selves from these
friendly men in uniforms,
leaves the chaosunreleaved.

No razor wire here,
no weapons –
and yet – in their minds eye
all they see is threat.
Strange land -
Strange smells -
Strange weather -
Stranger food.
Housed in barracks,
community life breaks down.
Who here in this mad mange
are village Headmen?
Murders? - or -
And who speaks our dialect?
Or ours?
Or ours?
Or mine?

Spousal abuse, rape,
child abuse, anger,
all break out like sociopathic smallpox
among this non-cohesive population
forced together by violence -
against which they had no defence.
Apathy, depression,
nightmares, disorientation;
all these and more –
symptoms of
their traumatic stress.
not unlike defeated soldiers on a battlefield,
with psychic wounds untreatable
in this
their temporary golden prison.

One image stands out for us
above all the rest –
and there are many in the months
we lived with them –
One little boy,
rescued from the compounds’ razor wire,
- his father dead outside the wall -
was placed within a fleeing truck.
When he arrives in this new land,
sees our Sergeants’ Mess
with its patio and BBQ,
high brick wall enclosing,
believes he has come full circle, and
is back within the razor wire again.
Screaming, clinging to a column
he will not yield his pillared sanctuary.
When its time for meals,
one must pry his fingers
from the brickwork painfully,
and carry him whimpering
and limp with fear,
to the mess hall,
lest he died of hunger
in this good and plentious land.

Andwe go home and weep severely.

In the numbing months
of their pleasant captivity
in our place of refuge;
all the while their hearts
cry out collectively
for their bleeding land –
Impotent, infinite rage.
The enemy,
has withdrawn;
taking with them anything portable
as payment for their services
as ‘protectors’ of this fledgling nation.
rival gangs,
murder in the streets.
All a nation’s material possessions
become fuel for the fires,
infrastructure all destroyed.

There –
Peacekeepers move in and push out
belligerent remnant forces,
uncover massacres, mass graves
and rotting corpses filling wells -
bulldozers work at burials,
and begin the cleansing of the land.

But healing miracles do occur.
Here –
Outpourings of concern and compassion,
food and toys, and clothes
and gifts.
And twenty-five years of oppression
ends in celebrations in the barracks -
a group wedding,
brides and bridegrooms from different villages,
pushed together by caprice of refuge destination,
make plans for homeland futures.
Music at night returns,
religious processional with candles,
and feasting;
and a priest at last says Mass
in a language they understand.

But then some fear returns.
New fear.
Fear of life without
Different rules -
Different leaders -
Different hopes.
Fear of the unpredictable –
before, all was violence,
and thus predictable –
but now?
Now comes freedom,
and responsibility.
A people must mature
and become a nation.

And then they’re gone.
Back on busses to an airport,
fly them home,
but disconnected
from their own people –
objects of jealousy
for those who could
not flee to safety
from that razor-wire compound.

And at their leaving
we go home and weep severely,
and ponder why
the whole world is an asylum
fleeing a loving God.

James Gagiikwe 2008

Author’s note: While I have worked with several groups of refugees in the past, this was the largest and most demanding assignment.

© Copyright 2019 James Gagiikwe. All rights reserved.

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