UNHCR: Dangerous Crossings – Yemen

Video by UNHCR
21 March, 2017

The song “Dangerous Crossings” is “part of a major UNHCR campaign to spread awareness about the dangers of crossing to war-stricken Yemen through the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea from Africa, highlighting the horrendous conditions and rising risks in Yemen” (UNHCR).

Please listen to this song and watch the clip. Great craftsmanship from the musical and video points of view.

But an extremely confusing message. Is UNHCR really telling refugees and migrants to stay home? “Here at home with family and friends there are hands when hard times come to hold you”. “At home, the fields are green”. Tell that to the Somali and Eritrean youths!

It is a good idea to warn refugees about “dangerous crossings”, and certainly Bab-el-Mandeb has seen a high proportion of casualties (estimated a few years ago at an enormous 10%!). The tragedies are real. But helping refugees to find less dangerous routes would be more productive than telling them to stay home.

“Haven’t you received the tragic news?”. Yes, they have. But they have also received the news of all those who made it to a place of safety. The risks are high, but refugees are on a dignity-seeking journey for themselves and their loved ones, a dignity they can’t find or provide at home, and a journey undertaken often out of a feeling of family responsibility, filial duty or simply love. Telling them to stay put is not acceptable: for many of them, it’s not an option.

It is my experience that many refugees who came undocumented to Europe or the USA on a dangerous journey believe that this move was the best thing they ever did for themselves and their families. Many descendants of refugees still celebrate the courage, determination and grit that their parents or grand-parents have shown. In the family lore, these forebears are heroes, because they faced adversity to provide a future for their children.

Telling refugees to stay home seems to further the agenda of many Global North countries trying to “stem” the “flows” of refugees “streaming” towards more prosperous and stable regions.

This song presents a very conservative view and offers a counterproductive message, which seems to come directly from the toxic political song book of the EU or Australia!

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