amw (amw) wrote,

absurd reasons for being a refugee

This wonderful piece of news made the front page this morning:

It is about an asthmatic person whose lawyer successfully argued in French court that deporting him back to Bangladesh would constitute a threat to his health because of air pollution, therefore he should be allowed to remain in France.

You might find this reminiscent of the other story from last month where air pollution was listed as the cause of death for a kid in London.

Friends, air pollution is no fucking joke. It is a massive killer. It's been known for decades - probably centuries or even millenia - that breathing in fumes is not good for your health. Our noses are designed to filter some of the toxic substances in the air, but even the kind of facemask we're all wearing today to slow the spread of coronavirus doesn't block these particulates. Obviously we can't do much to stop volcanoes or forest fires or dust storms, but we can stop driving internal combustion vehicles and burning coal.

Anyway, this post isn't about environmentalism, it's about immigration, and absurd refugee claims.

There is one case that gets thrown around a lot in arguments over trans rights, and it drives me up the wall. It's about a person who successfully applied for asylum in New Zealand because the country she came from was so violently transphobic she could not possibly return. The country she was from? England.

Now, i don't deny that some people face extreme transphobia in their lives, and without a doubt there is some very ugly shit that goes on in England, and America, and all of the "great" western nations. I myself have been on the receiving end of aggressive verbal insults. I've been sexually abused, and it fucking sucks. It sucks, but also it's par for the course as a trans person and as a woman in society. It's not acceptable behavior, and anyone condoning it is a fucking asshole, but it happens, even in the most liberal and secular nations of the world.

So. To claim that the threat of violence (note: not actual violence) is so debilitating that you cannot possibly ever go back to the UK... it's frivolous. When there are places in the world that still sentence homosexuals to death, when there are countries where political leaders encourage extrajudicial killings of LGBT people, we're really going to use a single successful asylum case of a 50-something trans tech worker as an argument that the UK is uniquely transphobic? Come on.

Most people reading know i am ideologically opposed to borders and immigration controls in general. That's a fairly radical position, usually only held by the nuttiest of anarchists and libertarians. Folks, i am a proud veganarchist nut, and i won't apologize for it. You are what you eat.

But also i am a pragmatist, and i understand that we live in a world that still has states and governments and laws and borders. And, in that world, there are very few ways for people to legitimately migrate internationally. Some countries have a very strong support for family-based immigration - if a blood relation lives there, you can probably find a way in too. Other countries have a solid skills-based immigration policy - if you are educated and experienced enough, you can can probably make it through. Most countries also have a tiny fraction of slots reserved for asylum seekers, which is to say migrants who are able to prove that the country they left would persecute them if they returned.

Everyone knows the asylum seeker mechanism is gamed. I lived with a Pakistani guy about 20 years ago who did not want to return, so he created a homosexual identity out of thin air to try make a case for asylum in Australia. I'm not sure if he was ever granted asylum in the end. These cases tend to take a long time to resolve, at which point the person has hopefully established enough of a life in the new country that booting them out would be especially cruel.

One of the charities i used to donate to was Immigration Equality, which tries to help LGBT and HIV+ migrants into the US. I stopped donating when it occurred to me that giving $1000 to them would barely pay for a few hours of legal help, whereas giving $1000 to rescue ships in the Mediterranean could help save hundreds of migrants who might otherwise drown. But, in both cases, the idea was to try to help people less privileged than i am to have the same opportunities for migration that i do.

So, when i read stories about these kind of activist reasons for being granted asylum, one part of my brain is like "fuck yeah, you hacked the system!" But another part of my brain is like, seriously? There are human rights lawyers out there doing this kind of shit for clout when hundreds of thousands of people who are legitimately trying to escape violence and persecution are still stuck in camps in Kenya and Jordan, or sitting on an island in Greece or Italy awaiting processing?

I suppose you have to be fairly well-connected to start with to end up in New Zealand, or France, or some other developed country that's a thousand miles away from any real flashpoint of political conflict. Maybe i shouldn't be surprised that a handful of well-publicized asylum claims in these rich countries tend to be a little bourgeois.

Anyway, i don't really have a point with all this rambling. I certainly don't hate on anyone who managed to find a path through the minefield of immigration law, even if it did lean on some questionable reasoning. It's not easy to move internationally, and getting the stamp in your passport that legitimizes your stay is always a huge relief. I wish more people had the opportunity. I wish i could read about more of these stories in the paper, instead of the insular, nationalist bullshit that has been trending for the past half decade, at least.

I've been sharing some Substacks i like recently, so here's one for immigration fans: BORDER/LINES publishes weekly and rounds up developments in US immigration policy.

No borders, kein Mensch ist illegal, fuck Brexit, etc etc.
Tags: immigration, news

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