Friday, August 28, 2015

We are all very scared...

Photograph: Dimitar Dilkoff taken off The Guardian

... of this monstrous, alien thing they are calling a 'migrant crisis', a 'swarm of migrants', an 'influx', 'flood', etc, etc. The first question I have to ask is: how is it okay for the media to dehumanise people like this? Yes, people, just like us, our brothers, sisters, parents and children. How would we feel if our loved ones (and indeed we ourselves) were discarded as some kind of epidemic?

I feel like a little disclaimer is necessary, so here it is: I am not an expert in international affairs; I am aware that this is an age-old, multi-faceted problem; and I'm not trying to paint myself as some kind of Mother Teresa. I just think it's important, amid all of the negative discourse surrounding this issue, that we re-humanise these individuals; that we strip back the words and phrases that we too easily resort to, take a good long look at ourselves, and face the situation for what it is.

We are all aware of the circumstances these people are fleeing (and if you're not, a quick google search will suffice). We know that these people are desperate - desperate enough to repeatedly risk their lives and endure merciless journeys just to get away. Even a rickety tent in a refugee camp, on the border between two countries, is preferable to civil war on their doorstep. And yet we fail to acknowledge their struggle. 

News channels and indeed nation leaders themselves have constructed a narrative using plenty of neat labels which help us to forget this struggle, like an inconvenient truth that lies beneath. They call it 'the migrant crisis', they call them 'illegal immigrants' or worse, dreaded 'economic migrants'. These labels, coupled with images of people climbing fences and clashing with the police, scare us. We are scared to the point where we adopt a numb, one-dimensional response to the situation: them or us. We are scared to the point where we feel like these people, this problem, this CRISIS, are all impinging on our lives unnecessarily. Go away! we think (or even say).

Our fear is not unfounded when the narrative is depicted in this way. The reality, however, totally distorted by this toxic discourse, is less extreme: Migrants do not want to steal our jobs or our benefits. They do not want to impose their religion onto us, or crush our local culture. They are simply seeking the most fundamental human need, the foundation for a dignified life: freedom. It is our duty as human beings and nations to grant them this freedom, even in its most basic form.

Everyone needs to wake up to the fact that it is more convenient for world leaders (particularly those who lean right) to depict the situation as unsolvable. In reality, the EU has enough money and power to mobilise resources and put a proper scheme in place, in which migrants could be processed much more efficiently, without the mass hysteria and fear-mongering. But why would they, if their voters want the migrants out? If you are one of the people who wants the migrants out, I can assure you that metal fences, policemen and dogs will not stop anyone who is only leaving behind suffering and oppression. 

The only sustainable solution is to demand that our governments do more to put effective schemes in place. But this can only be made possible when we, on an individual level, let go of the fears that the mass hysteria has instilled in us. We must lose our fear of otherness; lose our attachment to the medieval principles of nationalism that claim migration is a 'threat' to our identity. Crisis or no crisis, migration is a fact of life in a rapidly changing world. People are more mobile than they have ever been before - America will be predominantly mixed-race in a few decades. If we want to move forward, we need to accept these realities, and come to terms with the idea of living in more diverse societies, without seeing this as detrimental to our local cultures.

Of course, I am proud to be Maltese. I am also proud to be a citizen of London, where I currently reside. But I am first and foremost a human being, and a citizen of the world. If I am not prepared to extend my morality beyond my own borders, then I am living in fear and denial and shirking my human responsibility.

It is time to stop questioning their nationality, and start questioning our humanity. Only when we do this can we begin to see beyond the political rhetoric that has been set up for us, beyond the fear and prejudice, to see an image of a thousand faces, a thousand real people, who possess the same capacity for love, for fear, for joy, and for life, as each and every one of us.


  1. Nina you are a brilliant writer! Get this article published! Xx

  2. your utopia doesn't work, your dreams and those of the influx only coincide if you count your altruism and their idea of geographic convenience as the same thing; if you count your wish to share and their refusal to assimilate as the same thing; if you count your looking to the future and their acceptance at being stuck in the past as the same thing; your innocent pacifism and their able-bodied refusing to defend their ideals as the same thing ...