I receive many questions from the people I meet here in Iraqi Kurdistan. In earlier years the questioners were mainly Kurds. Now they come from many more diverse people: Syrians, Arabs, Yezidids, and Syrian Kurds. They want to know where I come from and why I am here. But many are like the Syrian man with the tea cart at the entrance to Baxi Gishti/Main Park near the bazaar in Sulaimani.. "Can you tell me how I can get to Canada? Life is so bad here. Europe would be good too. Please tell me."
I wonder how many of them would have the resources to take the desperate step of finding a people smuggler- a man who would extract large sums of money to stuff the people into a truck to go overland to Turkey and then onto an overloaded boat to try for the coast of Greece. Most refugees who attempt this last ditch effort for a better life do not succeed and many do not survive.. Last year the EU discontinued Mare Nostrum, the search and rescue operation. that provided rescue boats that plucked victims from the waters of the Mediterranean. Since January 2015, 1,800 desperate people have died- drowning in their attempt for a new life-one that has jobs and enough food and freedom from the threat of guns and bombs.
On Friday May 1 I watched several of my friends "drown". The members of the CPT Europe Convergence joined with international visitors of Catholic Worker in front UK's Home Office to dramatically bring attention to this situation. The tableau held a boat with some rescued victims wrapped in heat retaining silver blankets. Others, at a signal, poured water over themselves, making both their bodies and the pavement wet. Several struggled as if to fight the enveloping water and then lay still. In this way they identified with the thousands who have been pulled lifeless from the sea.
The next day we heard a local poet read her work. She had heard the news reports of the 1,800 dead migrants and refugees and wrote this emotional indictment.
Unended Refuge 2015-
Jude Smit- a poet with a global conscience
Leave them to drown, they’re not one of us
Too much to do, so what’s all the fuss?
Replacement values, replacement TV
How should we know, why should we see?
Push of a button, the screen will go blank
They’re not one of us, who cares if it sank?
No need to shout, no need to cry
Why do we care when we see them die?
Bodies are floating, so few have survived
Came in their hundreds, how many arrived?
Those who are left haven’t a clue
Their hope of a future will never come true.
At the mercy of others, their fate in our hands
But who cares if they drown, they’re not of these lands.
Switch off the news, switch off the phone,
Block it all out, look after our own.