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soon, but first grief

Everything

soon, but first grief

Courtney Bither

by Courtney Bither

"You go home and you sleep well at night in your bed and you sit here in suits and talk about these things, but what are we going to do? I’ve been a refugee for 5 years. No more. What if I was your daughter? What if I was your family? What then?  There is no mercy for people without legal status. There is no home for refugees.”


Today I attended the first day of my first conference for refugee week.

Check in for the conference began at 9am. I went to bed at midnight last night. I woke up at 6am. Jet lag. Oh well. It meant I had time to get coffee before the conference and made me more at ease knowing I had time to get lost.

But I didn’t get lost.


“We need to find our fucking outrage and we’ve lost that. We are numb to the stories. It’s us vs. them, Syrian vs. non-Syrian, and that’s what the government wants. We can’t allow for that language, for that response anymore. They are trying to create confusion for their own gains and we won’t deal with it. Refugee isn’t a concept. Refugees are individuals. We must find our outrage and ignite that in other people.”


Today I sat by a young woman who wants to be a doctor. She is from Nigeria. She came with her mom and two siblings in 2010.  She’s very smart and very witty.  She’s waiting to hear if she’s been granted proper status from the government. She can’t go to university now because she is still waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

She’s waiting and living in a single room with her mother and two siblings.

Waiting.

It’s not enough. These people are human beings. This is not enough.


“I fled my country, Iran, because I was an activist and people were making threats on my life. The countries I passed through treated asylum seekers very badly. The police beat us at the border of Macedonia and Greece. I watched two people commit suicide in front of my eyes. My friend also tried but I stopped him. I waited in line two hours for a piece of bread. I lost 15kg. Asylum seekers are physically and sexually abused by smugglers.

When I arrived in the UK I was kept in detention for 38 hours. I was kept with criminals. Now I am not allowed to leave my house after 10pm and I wear a GPS. I used to be an activist. I am an educated man.

If my country were safe, I would not have left. No one wants to leave their country.”


It isn’t enough. We aren’t doing enough. We aren’t caring enough.


“I decided to do something when I saw a photo of a Syrian boy frozen to death at a border crossing. He must have been no older than 6.”


“Asylum seekers who do not come from Syria are no less deserving. A bullet fired in Syria is no different than a bullet fired in Afghanistan.”


It’s all about papers. The absence of a fucking piece of paper. It’s impossible for most people to get. The absence of a thing is causing thousands and thousands of deaths. The absence of a piece of paper.

Tragic.

Absurd.

There will be action. I am learning so much. I am networking. I am full of ideas. There is hope.

But right now I’m drained. There are so many needs. There is so much hurt.

These people are not numbers. They are faces and stories and people in the same room as me who are burned by our acid-laced words of exclusion and xenophobia and racism.

There is a better way and we will take action. We will. We will. We will.

We will do it together and I will call on you – yes, you – and we will do things differently and we will make a difference because together is powerful.

But right now I am sad and I am angry and I am so tired.

Because people are dying. Children are dying. They are killing themselves. They are freezing to death. And we believe the false notion that there are “deserving” and “non-deserving” asylum seekers, immigrants, and refugees.

No.

No.

No.


“later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?
it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere.”

-Warsan Shire.


Used with permission. Original found here.