Who is a refugee?

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By Ali Ali • 2016

Don’t panic. This text is not a legal document stating who is eligible for asylum.

A refugee without paperwork

When they ask me if I am a refugee, I say no. But I do not mean it. When it comes to documents, I have a Syrian passport and a permanent European residence permit. Instead of applying for asylum directly at the government offices, I opted for a more emotional bureaucracy, when I entered into a civil partnership with my lover, and he took care of all the paperwork. I applied for asylum in him, and I had to live in his “camp” and be subject to rules and codes of behavior in order not to violate my status as a refugee. I think he was extremely much more accommodating than any government, and he always turned the blind eye to my violations of the rules. And no matter what I did, he did not deport me back to danger. However, it did not take me long to realize that asylum and refugee can be two aspects of the same person. I am a refugee as well as a refuge for those, who need me. My boyfriend also applied for asylum in me. I could say he ideally qualified for a refugee status, when he fled from a life of alcohol and emptiness. He was also afraid of me deporting him back to that danger.

A refugee from refuge

While I was deeply involved in an emotional bureaucracy, my sister was dealing with a conventional bureaucracy, when she applied for asylum in Denmark. She obtained asylum, but was still looking for a refuge from her feelings of homesickness and alienation. I think she found it in me sometimes. And the question remains: Who gives asylum to those, who need consolation and protection from places that are supposed to give them protection? These places turn out to be new spaces of alienation, homesickness, and dehumanization. The asylum turns into a new threat to humanity.

A refugee on the go

When I take a bus, ride a bike, or just walk down the street I am also in an asylum seeking process. Applying for asylum in potential friends and lovers and people who happen to pass by. Maybe one of them could offer me asylum or maybe she or he is looking for asylum in me.

A refugee in refugees

Oh, and the right-wing movements all applied for asylum in us refugees and immigrants by instrumentalizing fear and xenophobia in order to protect themselves from extinction, how else would they survive? We are all in a state of fragility, and we all desperately attempt to survive.

Asylum in strange places

Sometimes we find refuge in danger. The other day I was stalked by a homophobic man. I was restless until I went up to him, looked him in the face, talked to him, and got punched in the face. I felt safer than if I had escaped. It was asylum from rotting in the shell of fear, asylum in the knowledge that I had the courage to face the danger, asylum in the support from all those, who stood up for me that night.

Refugees welcome

I am open and ready. To all of those asking for asylum in me, I say “refugees welcome”, and I wish others would do the same for refugees from all places and situations of danger, be it sadness, marginalization, torture, or death. And one more thing, a system that denies us one form of refuge is on its way to denying us other forms. Look how governments at the same time are becoming more callous towards the needs of migrants, refugees, students and homeless people. It is not a coincidence.