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21 June 2006

World Refugee Day

Being down and out

Yesterday was World Refugee Day, of which I learned through DeviousDiva. I missed writing about it on time, but better late than never. Myself I'm living in a "foreign" country - which is, in a country whose passport I don't have and where I wasn't born or have a direct cultural background in. But I'm not here as a refugee (no, running away from the shitty weather in northern Europe doesn't count). I have papers (lots of them), an official job, a work permit for the next five years, I pay taxes. It's quite a difference and still it fuels my thoughts...

I see other foreigners here, whose status I sometimes doubt (at least the ones hanging outside the office for asylum seekers are pretty obvious). Frankly I wouldn't want to be in their shoes. Neither when they arrived here, nor back in the situations they had to go away from, nor on the road they had to take.

Leaving your surroundings (a familiar country, friends, family) is hard enough sometimes, even if it is due to your own wish. If ever you are forced to, it sure must be a mean experience. Most people I know don't like calling complete strangers on the phone, asking for something as simple as some information or to order something. Now imagine being thrown out and having to rely on strangers for your every step. (I'm leaving out the stuff about plain threats for your life here for brevity.) Being down and out isn't fun.

In our city's streets, looking at people who do shitty jobs on lowest pay to get by, who sell trinkets while watching out for the cops, because they don't really have papers... sometimes I meditate about what would happen to us well off "westerners" thrown into such a situation. We definitely are not used to that lifestyle. We are used to having lots of things we can rely on, services we take for granted. There are examples of "westerners" who by accident ended up in situations like these (hippies stranded in India, people who've lost their papers in a big city while on vacation). Some cope very well, but most of them are all too happy to get a ticket back to their normal life.

Looking a bit further back in time, just two generations ago, it was quite common for western europeans to be refugees. We've had our share of displacement and political refugees, of pain and suffering. Even if we did well since the second world war, we shouldn't forget that we too could be on the wrong side of the office where one has to prove identity and reason. A little awareness (as the World Refugee Day asks from us) goes a long way then.

Posted by betabug at 23:56 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
ch athens
Life in Athens (Greece) for a foreigner from the other side of the mountains. And with an interest in digital life and the feeling of change in a big city. Multilingual English - German - Greek.
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