Ukraine, Asylum Seekers and the End of the World
And not just ‘as we know it’
I live in Britain. Russia and Ukraine seem very close. The news is full of the horrific war, perpetrated against the Ukrainian people just to feed the needs of the Putin’s ego. We all know what he is after. He wants to be the ‘Big Man’ who reunited a fractured empire. He’s decorating his invasion of a sovereign country in the most ridiculous excuses. Even Russians don’t believe him unless they are part of the Putin cult.
Invading Ukraine is like the USA invading Canada saying that the French Canadians want to take over and eliminate all the English speakers. There might be a few wild-eyed fanatics that nod their heads and say ‘Oui! C’est juste! Tuez les Anglophones!’ But having to go to war to save English speakers from them is just plain ridiculous. Saving Ukrainians from so called Neo-Nazis looks an awful lot like the same sort wild-eyed statements that could be used to advocate invading Canada.
Yet, this is the kind of excuse that Putin came up with in his televised call to war. It isn’t surprising that people didn’t believe him. What is surprising is that many, many more did. And the one about the ‘West’! They are so used to blaming the West for any of Russia’s actions that their ‘news’ programs have unashamedly trotted out that stale excuse for their wholesale invasion. ‘The West made me do it.’ Or, the West is lying and there is no bombing except of military targets (and nuclear power stations, apartment blocks and hospitals).
Countries surrounding Ukraine have stepped up to collect the fleeing, mostly women and children and offer them shelter, food, clothing, water and safety. It has been a heart-warming outpouring of support, compassion and open arms. Poland, Slovakia, Moldava, Hungary, Romania, Germany among others, have participated in the humanitarian efforts but not Belarus. In Belarus the Russian Army staged itself for invasion with the gleeful aid of its Russian puppet, Lukashenko. The world won’t forget.
No one here is going to minimize the horror of this war or dismiss the humanitarian response of those countries noted and many more to the plight of the people of Ukraine. It’s humanity at its best. But I can’t help remembering other such crises and the (lack of) response evidenced there. The contrast makes me cringe and it should make you cringe too.
Remember Syria? Remember Sudan? Remember the thousands of African refugees struggling across open water only to drown on Italy’s shore? Or floundering in small boats just off Florida for that matter. Remember the arguments in Hungary that there is a difference between migrants fleeing areas of conflict in hope of a better life and refugees fleeing areas of conflict in the hope of a better life. Migrants get turned away. Refugees will have ‘all help’. (President Orban, reported by Amanda Coakley 3 Mar 2022)
It isn’t just Hungary that makes this distinction. Where else have you heard this sort of argument? I’ve heard it here in televised Parliament proceedings. I hear it on the street from people who consider themselves reasonable and open-hearted. You saw it in Farage’s horrifically racist poster of the ‘hoards’ immigrating to Britain. Sadly, I think this poster and similar garbage is what got Brexit passed.
I don’t hear it so much about Ukraine though. Is it because it is so clear that they were the victims? And the people of Aleppo, bombed out of existence by their own government are not victims? The people of Sudan fleeing civil war were not victims? Or is it because Ukrainians are largely blond, blue-eyed and clearly white? Except for the Romani minority. Don’t forget the Romani.
I don’t know how to end this article. I am looking out my window at a clear spring day in a quiet, leafy, small-town neighbourhood and my thoughts are far away. I appreciate where I am. I am grateful that my life is safe, warm and filled with food. I wonder how long that privilege will last. We all live on one planet and now the bulge of war is twisting and warping one side of it. We will all pay the price if Putin isn’t stopped. Our world will end. Meanwhile, there are people, not refugees, not migrants, not asylum seekers, not immigrants, people of all shapes and sizes, all beliefs, all colours and ethnicities that need our attention, care and concern. I don’t care what their faces look like. I look into the mirror of their eyes and I see my children. We don’t have a hope in hell if we all can’t do the same.