On International Migrants Day…

Posted by admin on Dec 19th, 2013

By Shireen Soofi on December 18, 2013

On International Migrants Day, my heart feels heavy but beats strongly for the immense resilience of countless individuals crossing borders that rip apart families, and deny the building and rebuilding of home.

I am reminded by the “local” sign on the fruit stand of the migrant workers who feed us and the strong women who care for elders and children but are denied minimum wage, limited work hours and the benefits of “citizenship” after years of work, life and even government taxes.

I think of the conversations and stories by inspirational survivors, deemed refugees, who are turned away from hospitals or are waiting in limbo for years or decades without access to basic services or peace of mind. But I also stand with the sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers who, before even touching the soil, are sent back to violence or unlivable conditions that are often caused by the same countries that denied them refuge.

I think of those forced to live without status within these “borders”, who are denied housing, education or acceptable work conditions, but who build the condos and run the restaurants of our cities behind hot stoves. I resist with those in sanctuary behind church doors, who feel the eyes of the CBSA through the window and stand firm with dignity.

I am inspired by the courage of those locked behind iron gates at Lindsay Detention Centre for the “crime” of migration, who continue to resist the intolerable conditions by exercising self-determination of their bodies through hunger strike (though acknowledging the reality of suffering).

I am also thinking of those who are denied migration, who are trapped behind intrusive cement walls that cut through homes, fields and communities. The right to remain, the right to move, the right to return; we cannot have one without the other.

I have learnt so much from these stories of struggle, sometimes more than I think my heart can hold. And though the injustices, lies and violence can be disheartening and enraging, the tremendous strength, resilience and resistance that arises in the face of calamity is unimaginable and breathes life into every day. Like the regularization of 499 undocumented Algerians in Canada in 2002, 1500+ community members at YVR airport protesting the deportation of Laibar Singh in 2007, the blocking of a deportation bus in San Fran last October (and many other times) and the reversal of multiple deportation orders after numerous press-conferences, campaigns, rallies and tireless fighting.

These “borders” are made to create division, the “other” and a false sense of ourselves. These dehumanizing statuses segregate us, create hierarchy and an illusion that certain people are more or less entitled to the basic needs of life. Connection to land and recognizing its history is undoubtedly important, in harmony with our nature to pass through land with respect and dignity in every step. I look to the day when we can cut the barbed wires and shatter the cement barriers, be reunited with family and choose our own homes without the approval from oppressive states and border guards.

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