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Re: Afghan refugees
Posted By: Howard, on host
Date: Wednesday, September 26, 2001, at 07:55:26
In Reply To: Afghan refugees posted by Brunnen-G on Wednesday, September 26, 2001, at 00:23:47:

> Fifty of the Afghan refugees from the "Tampa" arrived at Auckland Airport tonight. More of them are arriving later. They're going to the refugee centre in South Auckland, where they'll be given some orientation with basic English lessons, general info about New Zealand and help with living here.
> It's strange to think that these people are arriving in a country which most of them didn't even know *existed* until they were told that's where they would be dumped. They have no idea what to expect. They didn't know what sort of government we have, what colour we are, what religion we are, what the countryside looks like, what sports we play, what we produce -- I doubt many of them even knew whether it's an island, a continent or a landlocked state.
> At first, I imagined what I'd feel like if I was suddenly dumped into a random country where I didn't speak the language, and told to find a job and get on with life. But it isn't comparable to that. I'm a well educated adult from a Western democracy: if somebody told me they were taking me to France or Peru, I'd still know where those places *were*. I'd have pictures of them in my mind, whether those pictures turned out to be right or wrong. I'd have *some* idea to start from, and I could adjust it later. I could cope.
> One of the refugees was profiled in the news today. He is 17 years old. His father made carpets. His older brother was killed by the Taleban, as were other members of his family. His parents made incredible sacrifices to pay somebody a lot of money to get him out of the country. They didn't know where they were sending him. They knew they would never see him again, never even know if he did make it to safety. They were prepared to do that to their son, and for their son. That's love and courage so strong it's scary -- scarier still to think of a country in which that kind of love and courage becomes necessary.
> Assuming this kid manages to adjust to New Zealand life, what on earth is he going to do here? He's 17! All the other kids his age here are still in school -- and what on earth does he have in common with them, with his past experiences? He's here all by himself, he doesn't even know whether his family is still alive, and the first thing he's going to see on the news here is what looks like the whole world lining up to nuke his country back to the Stone Age. None of the Tampa refugees knew about any of the recent stuff that's been going on. They've been busy just surviving, and after that they were busy being strangled by red tape from at least three separate governments and shoved around the world at random waiting to see what would happen to them.
> I couldn't help thinking about the people I know at Rinkworks who are the same age as this guy or younger. I hope he, and the other refugees, find some kindness here.

But don't you think that when they see New Zealand and the lifestyle there, they will think they have died and gone to heaven? It will look green and beautiful with fine houses and paved roads. There will be clean water and no one to fear. They will see their first indoor bathroom and ride in automobiles. People will be happy, healthy and smiling. The simple things that we take for granted will be unbelieveable luxury to them. They'll be moving up from a mud hut to heaven.

I see almost the same thing happening to the Mexicans who move to Tennessee. Their homeland is a lot better than Afghanstan, but most of them are glad to live in a heated house with running water and an indoor bathroom, with a paved street out front. They make more money than they ever dreamed they could and almost all of them send some of it home to family members they left behind.