Emmanuel Raju, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
I left my home, my people and my land,
Searching for a ray of hope, a light through the tunnel,
I fled poverty and marginalisation,
I fled, looking for hope! I made a bed in a ‘slum’ as they call,
I shared the shower with a million others, I shared my space with ten others,
Space? Yes, just a fifteen square metres and a loft with another few men,
Under the sheets of tin, we cooked, we ate and we worked,
Fires and floods? Who cared?
The virus came, they care! Not about me but that the virus might come into their home,
Told me to stay home, they called it social distancing, they get paid for that, I don’t!
And if we all stayed home in the slum, how do we distance?
Clean water, I never saw that before! How do I wash my hands for 20 seconds without water?
I don’t get to eat because I have to stay home,
What do I do? Walk home no matter the distance.
It was a few hundred kilometres I succeeded, no matter the heat,
I collapsed once, some water came, then some food,
Thank you Good Samaritan!
Then came the barricades, to stop me, the migrant!
Then came the sanitisers for the buses but they sprayed on me,
Then came the canes, the police’s parade of power asking why am I walking,
Because I cannot work from home, and if I don’t work, I don’t eat!
They closed the borders and the sight of my real ‘home’ gone,
Even if I had the virus, nobody cares because I have left the city,
No water, no soap, no distancing,
Unemployed, unpaid and starved,
The poverty, my darkest fear that I fled, I see it come again,
But I walk home, the long walk home!
This poem is inspired by the article:
Raju E. & Ayeb-Karlsson S. 2020. COVID-19: How do you self-isolate in a refugee camp? International Journal of Public Health.
Emmanuel Raju is an Associate Professor of Disaster Risk Management at the Global Health Section at the University of Copenhagen and currently co-chairs the Copenhagen Centre for Disaster Research. His experience spans across working in South Asia, Southern Africa, Europe - particularly the Nordics. Emmanuel is also a Co-Editor of Disaster Prevention and Management journal.
Identities COVID-19 Blog Series
Explore expert commentaries curated by Identities surrounding COVID-19 and displaced migration, nationhood and citizenship, and more.