And All They Will Call You Will Be ‘Refugees’

The following song lyrics are posted here with apologies to Woody Guthrie, though I doubt that he would have wanted any apology. The words are a re-working of his justly famous song Deportee (also known as Plane Wreck at Los Gatos).

I’ve tried to stick as closely as possible to the original lyrics.

The song was written about the exploitation and ill-treatment of Mexican migrant workers in the USA. That situation is far worse now than it was in Woody’s time. In addition, poverty stricken men, women and children from Guatemala, El Salvador and other Central American nations are joining the Mexicans in attempts to work for a better life.

We tend to focus, understandably enough, on what is happening with the refugee crisis in Europe, and my tweaking of Guthrie’s song reflects that. However, the official UN estimate of global refugee numbers is 65 million. The real number is likely to be much bigger. In Kenya, for example, there is a hellish tent city called Dadaab which currently holds over 500,000 refugees from Somalia, Sudan, Darfur, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia and the Congo. It has been there since 1992 but it appears on no map and is effectively an enormous city with no laws, ruled by criminal gangs, Islamic fundamentalists and corrupt officials (excellent new book City of Thorns by Ben Rawlence, Portobello 2016).

A world is in motion. Aid is becoming irrelevant, it is just another way of ignoring the root cause by masking it.

As the lifeguard said when she was criticised for leaving her post after rescuing several people in the same day…”I’m going up river to find out who’s pushing them in”.

 

Refugee (to the tune of Deportee)

The hope is all gone and the homes are all flattened,

the mortar shells piled in their bomb-crater dumps;

they’re shoving us back to the Syrian border

to pay all our money to walk back again.

 

Goodbye Afghanistan, goodbye Eritrea,

adios my friends in Sudan and Somalia;

we won’t have our names when we ride the old rust-boat,

all they will call us will be ‘refugees’.

 

Our fathers and mothers were conned by the traffickers,

they took all the money we’d made in our lives;

our sisters and brothers will work where you need us,

we’ll honour the ones who have fallen and died.

 

Some of us are illegal, and none of us are wanted,

our chances are gone and we have to move on;

hundreds of miles round the European borders

they cage us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

 

We die in the hills, we die in the deserts,

we die in the valleys and die on the plains.

We die ‘neath the trees and we die in the bushes,

both sides of the cruel sea, we die just the same.

 

We wait and we wait in Greece and in Italy,

whilst warmongers profit and fear eats the soul:

where are all our good friends, all scattered like leaves?

The radio says, “They are just refugees”.

 

Is this the best way to feed all the people?

Is this the best way to grow all we need?

To fall like dry leaves to rot on the topsoil

and be called by no name except ‘refugees’?

 

Ted x

 

Advertisements

9 comments

  1. Good one, Ted.I had another go, with Woody’s lyrics alongside, and this is what I came up with.Respect (as Jack would probably say!)Ag x The hopeis all gone and the homes are all flattened,

    The mortar shells piled in their bomb-craterdumps;

    They’re shoving ‘em back to the Syrian border

    To pay all their money to walk back again.

     

    Goodbye Afghanistan, goodbye Eritrea,

    Adios my friends in Sudan and Somalia;

    You won’t have your names when you ride theold rust-boat,

    All they will call you will be ‘refugees’.

     

    Our fathers and mothers were conned by thetraffickers,

    They tookall the money we’d made in our lives.

    Our sisters and brothers will work where youneed us,

    But we’ll never forget those who have fallenand died.

     

    Some of usare illegal, and none of us wanted,

    Ourchances are gone and we have to move on;

    In camp after camp round the borders of Europe

    They cage us like outlaws, like rustlers,like thieves.

     

    We’rebombed in the cities, we’re starved in the cities,

    we die inthe valleys and die on the plains.

    We die inthe hills, we die in the deserts,

    And in thecruel seas, we die just the same.

     

    We waitand we wait in Greece and in Italy,

    whilst warmongers profit and fear eats thesoul:

    Where are our lost friends, all scattered like leaves?

    The radiosays, “They are just refugees”.

     

    Is thisthe best way to nourish the people?

    Is this the best way to grow all we need?

    To fall like dry leaves to rot on the topsoil

    and be called by no name except ‘refugees’?

  2. This is great! Phew, excellent read. Also thought of Breaking Bad and the whole Mexican representation here. xxx

    Best,

    Jack

    http://www.jackeames.com

    T: +44 (0) 203 663 1934 M: +44 (0) 7960 423 735

    Shed Workspace 2 Jack Eames Photography 8 Lee Street E8 4DY

    >

  3. A very good poem. One which make people think. (I have problems to remember all the names of my pupils. 24 young boys an four girls). Marit

    Sendt fra min iPad

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s