Friday, February 26, 2021
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The Pain of Being Refugee

By Mohamed Abdi

Being a refugee is a painful experience. It is bitter to be a refugee, it is bad to live in a fenced camp, and it is brutal to be banished from one’s own motherland. Refugees are deprived of serenity and are exposed to deplorable conditions. Due to wars and natural disasters, people get displaced, distanced from their homes, friends and familiar settings, and become refugees. As a result, they taste all sorts of hardships and humiliations, and endure unbearable circumstances and sufferings.

photo credit-activestills.org

Basic necessitates of life, such as edible food, safe and livable shelters, usable toilets, become unattainable for the refugees. So life gets upside down for them, but it goes on; and they move on with their daily routines, albeit with extreme difficulties. They line up for almost everything: getting food rations, using toilets, fetching water, accessing dispensaries, and other necessary things in life.

Nobody is immune to become a refugee, and nobody ought to wish refugee status for someone else, as it is an awful experience. Throughout human beings history, though, destruction and displacement have been an integral reality, caused by varied conditions, whether temporary or indelible. Hence, dislocation is a persistent certainty associated with mankind.

Civil wars are blamed for producing the biggest numbers of the world’s refugee population. Basically, civil wars are initiated by bitter conflicts premised on various issues, one of which is how to share resources. Then the wars occur between opponent, organized groups within the same country, each fighting for getting the largest “piece of the pie”.

And such wars are constant in societies with tribal structures. These are societies where allegiance is given to lineage and tribal matters, not to a national interest or the “common good”. Therefore, citizens of tribal societies are imbued with self-ego and align themselves with that of their own folks and clansmen, right or wrong. And when the warring functions take up arms against each other, they cause incalculable death and destruction and force ordinary residents to flee their homes. Instead of mending their complex differences through discourse, primitive communities shoulder machineguns, resort to violence, and kill each other, leaving thousands of civilians dead and other thousands displaced. “War is what happens when language fails,”said Margaret Atwood.

Nothing is worse than abandoning one’s home, not knowing where to run to. In such a situation only few items are valuable to be had. Everything else is worthless. People do not think about their well furnished, warm bedrooms, or familiar neighborhoods, for they cannot carry any of that with them.  All they think of are their lives and some small, useful items including a firm pair of shoes, a portable container of water, a mat to sleep on, toothbrush and paste, a cherished book to read, be it religious or otherwise. The human cost of war is huge. “No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark,” said Warsan Shire.

Dadab refugee camp, Kenya

Uprooted residents flee their homes using any affordable, available method of transportation. Some travel by cars, some take boats; some flee on horses’ backs, while others flee on foot. But all the displaced people have one thing in common: distancing their lives and those of their loved ones from flaming warzones, if possible.   

When the displaced people arrive in host countries, they get registration cards and attain refugee status; then they are put in camps and get some basic goods in order to survive. They are given modest tents, intermittent rations, some utensils, plastic jerricans for fetching water, and the like. But their mobility is limited as they are confined to camps, stripping them of their dignity, rights and freedoms. However, in spite of all their miseries, their isolation in the camps, scant supplies, they feel fortunate to be far away from roaring bullets that could kill or maim them. 

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) definition, “A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence.” There are millions of people uprooted by wars of different dimensions. And this twenty-first century produced the biggest number of refugees the world has ever seen. A statement by the agency reads “At least 79.5 millionpeople around the worldhave been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly26 million refugees, around half of whomareunder the age of 18.”  

Like the refugees, the wars and natural disasters dislodge hundreds of thousands of people within the borders of their respective countries. These people, unlike the refugees, do not live outside their countries, but are crippled inside their homelands and live in destitution. They huddle together in safe areas near towns and cities. Both the refugees and the internally displaced people are at the mercy of helping hands that can provide them with basic necessities of life.

Being a refugee is a painful experience, but nobody knows what destiny holds for him or her. And wars can flare up all of a sudden, and situations can change unexpectedly. But one good thing is the fact that human beings help each other, and come to the rescue of one another. Many donor countries and charitable organizations team up and pool resources to help alleviate the suffering of the world’s refugee population. “Refugees are a global problem, the search for solutions must also be global, “said Gil loescher. There are many refugee camps worldwide, where refugees are languishing as of this writing.

Mohamed Abdi
Email: [email protected]
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Mohamed Abdi is a Somali-Canadian Writer


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