I am not sure how to approach this post, partly because I can easily come across as very insensitive but please indulge me. My idea of refugees in a country stems from my experience growing up near refugee camps in Ghana. I don’t remember when Liberians started coming into Ghana but I have always known of areas that are occupied mainly by Liberians, who spoke a different kind of English from the Ghanaian English I was used to, and had expressions interlaced with their local dialect. I knew Liberians as people trying to escape a raging war in their country and was raised to be nice to them and also buy stuff I needed from Liberians to help them even if a Ghanaian sold a similar item at a cheaper price. I was raised to feel sorry for Liberians living in Ghana because they had had to go through the painful experience of being uprooted from their home country into a foreign land because of certain corrupt leaders. My own father, had been a refugee once in Nigeria when Ghana was going through a military coup d’etat and therefore taught me to be overly sensitive about the plight of refugees, and in this case, Liberians living in Ghana.
Although I was raised to feel sorry for them, I also envied them slightly. I don’t know how Liberians do it, but even a 2 year old Liberian in Ghana could stylishly braid hair effortlessly. They always seemed like a happy group, bustling with lots of energy and always ready to share make -up stories with me whenever I found myself, nestled in between their legs with them tugging at my very thick hair and trying hard to run a comb through the thick mass. Growing up, I would easily describe Liberians, or the refugees, simply as very happy talented and energetic people. I did not need to force myself to feel sorry for them because they weren’t sorry for themselves and actually felt privileged that they were alive and healthy. I love Liberians!
My confusion at asylum seeking in America stems from the fact that back home in Ghana, refugees did not find the need to remind you that they were refugees. Their kids attended the same schools as everyone did and they worked hard to survive, just like the average Ghanaian did. They did not go to government institutions trying to get more flexible deals or advocate for better living areas. They were people who had been flown in war crafts and military aeroplanes to Ghana, some of them walking miles to get there, and were full of hope for the future. They didn’t need to become Ghanaians or seek asylum residency in Ghana, they were just welcomed and went about their normal businesses. They did not have to apply to be refugees in Ghana, the Ghanaian military went to Liberia to help war victims and either brought them here or they walked through very long secret paths to get to Ghana where they knew they will be safer. They didn’t have to explain themselves, everyone knew of their plight and a single minute with them will highlight their need to escape from their home country.
This is where my confusion lies. I feel like America has created a route for people to become citizens of America and coined the term asylum seeking for this purpose, and therefore all kinds of people feel the need to use it or abuse it. I feel like the real people under threat, hardly make use of this route because they are too busy trying to survive or do not even know about this. Hence, people privileged to come to America and do not want to go back or people who have heard about this American citizenship route while in their own countries, apply for them. I think that real beneficiaries of the asylum pathway, will hardly actually exploit it. They are just too busy trying to survive!
What the American refugee immigration institution should be doing is working with people on the grounds in foreign countries who keep their ears on the ground, work with local people and fish out people who really need help. I really have my doubts about the credibility of someone who will self-seek American asylum. The government should scrub off the system that allows people to self-seek asylum and rather work closely with social workers on the ground. By so doing, they are not forced to rigorously scrutinize asylum applications and make it difficult for the people who genuinely need it.