Trapped

I never really thought about how refugees are trapped in the camps and towns set up for them until recently. My mind began to open and understand (as much as I could) how refugees are living in these camps or constructed towns through reading the chapters.  I never realized that these refugees are trapped. Trapped from living the way they want to live. Trapped from experiencing the joys of having a worthy income and education opportunities. You would think after having to flee from your home country because of the dangers of the perpetrators’ hatred and persecution towards you, life, as a refugee would be a breeze. These people are living in a circulating wheel with no stopping point and almost no way to jump off and get out. I do agree that these several million people suffering from persecution are living in an open housed museum for the entire world to see.

It is hard to realize how much stress and pain mentally it must be to be a refugee.  These people have to leave their home in fear of being murdered because of their race, religion, etc. And while they are thankful for the camps that are set up for them, it comes to their realization that they have soon lost all identity. I feel that these camps and communities of refugees have saved these people from certain death yet stripped them from living the life they want for themselves and for their family.

I found that refugee organizations and agencies such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have done exceptional jobs in keeping the refugees safe and protected from the turmoil and war in their homelands. But it is hard to factor out that these refugees are given very precise and small portion of food to survive (with an average of 1700 calories per day). Under the mandate, refugees are unable to leave their camps to find jobs to support their families and potentially enabling themselves to move out of these communities to start a new life outside of being a refugee, due to being unable to receive work permits. They also are unable to seek further education after secondary school (if they were even lucky to go to secondary school). I feel that these organizations are seriously dehumanizing these people with their efforts of “helping” them. They do not have the ability to find jobs that truly will help them succeed in life nor do they have enough freedom to receive the education that they so desire. It seems living in a refugee camp gives you nothing to strife for except hope of the end of civil disputes in their home country. Refugees are stripped of everything that they once knew, to these agencies it feels that all they are are a number; a number that needs food and water, healthcare, and a place to lay their head.

This all relates to a life under transfusion. The term transfusion comes from the medical procedure of transferring blood from one person to another. Refugees are being kept alive by their weekly rations of food and water that are being “transfused” from refugee agencies and donators. They are being carefully watched making sure all their health is fine, their shelter is safe, etc. These people aren’t experiencing life to their fullest due to, as the chapter states being “kept artificiallly alive by the international transfusion.” They are thankful, no doubt, for the caring of their bodies, but any bump in the road could easily misrupt the transfusion causing a “spill” resulting in an accident. These people are dependent on these transfusions, which can be very alarming, as accidents can always happen.

I can understand how people say that refugees live in a bare town with a bare life. No longer do they have things like a home, village, jobs, relatives, and other social ideals. All they have is the body that they were born with and the ration card tied around the neck or wrist. Living in a refugee camp seems to destroy their identity though it doesn’t mean they do not try to make the best out of the situation.

In the Kenyan refugee camps, large fences and barbed wires wrap around the vicinity of the camps. These refugees live in certain groups depending on their ethnicity, arrival time, etc. and soon attempt to use what they have to attempt to recreate their own homes. I feel this is where the idea that these people are a living ethnographic museum as these people seem to not be going anywhere for a long time. They live in these shelters day in and day out, showing the world what the daily life of a refugee could possibly consist of. I honestly would say that these camps could be considered as even “human zoos” for these people are seen to have no identities, nothing in their future.  They are basically being held in captivity. From the descriptions through the chapters, the camps sort of remind me of the ghettos where the Jews were segretated in Nazi-occupied Europe during World War II.

People are living in these camps for many years, some even being born there, never stepping foot in their home country. The younger generation is beginning to forget about their own heritage, their true home outside of the fenced in communities. They are losing all sense of culture and history of their home country, leading to a bare life. These people have already lost everything, they shouldn’t have to lose the pride they have for what is inside of them.

It seems that as Westerners we think of refugees and think “Aw, I’m glad that they got out from the perils in their home country,” and then go on with our daily lives. We see these commercials on tv asking for donations to help those in need in places such as Kenya and Ethiopa but we don’t fully understand what these people are experiencing inside of the camps when the cameras are off. Thankfully after reading several accounts of life in these camps from those living in them, I have been able to understand just how difficult it is to be someone in the camps, to live your life. We need to open our eyes to what is happening outside of our own comfortable safety bubble in America.

Overall, I understand now that refugee camps are not a “home away from home” and can really dehumanize an entire population. We need to become more aware about the corruptness that is found in these camps with them not allowing these refugees (who are human beings) to live their lives just as if they were in their home country. I do agree that refugees are living in ethnographic museums, showing people what its like to live as a refugee. These are real-life people who deserve to have a life just as you and I do so they should not be trapped in a fenced in community resulting them becoming a spectacle for the world to see.

-Joshua

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