Deeper Read: Crossing Borders

15 June 2020

It’s Refugee Week. Triple R’s events producer Bez Zewdie explains how the path of a refugee is not one you choose – but one that’s chosen for you.

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I was born a political refugee, far from ancestral lands. To young parents surrounded by foreign tongues, running across borders into a world of unknowns.

Although very young when we began our life here, I have felt and witnessed the enormous impact the refugee experience can have on those who left, and those left behind. The path of a refugee is not one you choose, but rather one that’s chosen for you, by circumstances outside of your control. For many looking from the outside in, however, this is a difficult concept to grasp. Why? I’m not sure.

You see, no one willingly chooses to be torn from everything they’ve ever known, putting them back at square one in life. Where their fundamental tool for understanding others and expressing themselves – language – is robbed of nuance, becoming an everyday struggle. Where family milestones and tragedies are not experienced together but instead are reduced to distant, distorted phone calls. Or the ability to simply “plan”, a month, a year ahead of time, is a hard-fought luxury.

What child, when asked of their dreams for the future, answers “refugee” or “asylum seeker”?

Yet, there are many who are raised with a short-focus lens, unable to see beyond their own horizons. Those with a limited capacity for empathy, unable to flesh out the two-dimensional, foreign faces plastered across the news.

But how long must the marginalised proclaim their humanity? What more can be said, that hasn’t already, to convince those in power – and those with the power to vote – of one’s right to security?

If there is one thing that 2020 has demonstrated, it’s the cruel unpredictability that can be heaped upon us at any given moment. How one week, our life can look one way, and the next, completely unrecognisable. But to refugees and asylum seekers, both past and present, this is a familiar dark cloud.

This Refugee Week is perhaps an opportune time to reflect on how your life has been impacted over the last six months, by circumstances outside of your control. Was there really anything that you could’ve done to predict this “new normal”? Have you been faced with a desperate choice, in order to survive? Without a helping hand, a moment of saving grace, what would your life look like right now?

Bez Zewdie is an African-Australian content and events producer, whose experience includes work at 3RRR, PBS, SYN and ABC. She is also the creator of the SHADES podcast, an exploration of social issues through the lens of Australian hip hop music. Instagram: @bezography