Saturday, 21 November 2015

The psychology of fleeing one's country

I was born in the Netherlands and so far spent most of my years living there. Yet at this point you couldn't pay me to return there. It's not that I risk being arrested and locked up - not to my knowledge at least - but the impossibility of building up a life there. For the last years that I lived in the Netherlands, I desperately sought a way out, a way to a better country and a humane life.

What is it that causes someone to decide that the only thing they can do is to leave the country in which they were born and raised? War and similar conflicts are an obvious reason. Persecution, whether political or for other reasons, is far more of a grey area, as the definition of what 'real' persecution is differs per country, organisation and individual.

At least to the UNHCR, the definition of a refugee is someone who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country." [1]

Since this definition used by the UNHCR was first created, it has been amended already to include sexual orientation. Intersex, transgender and related thus fall within the same general group as well. One can thus say 'persecution for reasons of not being to the liking of the social & political systems'.

My fear, based on actual experience, is that I will face more brainwashing and brutal indoctrination (including physical 'coercion') if I dare to return to the Netherlands. This simply based upon a medical condition I was born with. Both my traumatic disorders as well as the physical scars and ailments from the beatings and other violence I suffered are testament to this sad fact.

I guess I am lucky compared to other refugees that I did not have to avail myself of the UNHCR or similar organisations, but could as a European citizen simply cross borders to Germany and thus escape most of the persecution. Thanks to the same status as an EU citizen I was also able to get a job and establish a new life in my new home country.

Does this mean that I am any less of a refugee than, say, someone fleeing from an African or South-Asian country? Strictly taken not. I was merely lucky that I was born in the right place at the right time to make escaping persecution almost laughably easy.

I still had (and have) to go through many of the same stages as I come to term with the fact that I will likely never be able to return to the country of my birth, simply for who and what I am. The whole injustice of it all, as well as the letting go of it and all associated memories. Resigning one to rebuild one's life in a new, unknown country and learning its language and habits. Learning to accept help from strangers.

My country of birth is gone. A closed chapter. It doesn't matter whether it still exists or not, because I'll never be able to return there, nor would I want to. Not for all the terrible memories it holds for me.

Some refugees still want to return to the country they fled if the situation there changes, while others do not. Many acknowledge that what drove them to flee in the first place isn't likely to change or improve in their lifetime. Acceptance of this is the first step towards rebuilding one's life in a new, better country.



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