In a bare compound off a dirt road:
They want to escape:
If the answer is yes,
They are spared the risky journey
Through the desert
And on the deadly boats.
“We’re here to stop people from dying,“
Said the deputy,
But few are actually approved.
Do not risk a perilous journey
For a claim that would be denied.”
Something has shifted.
The bus stations are empty.
The police check identity documents.
A sign outside bears the flag
And warns passengers not to travel without papers.
“Those with legitimate claims have a chance.”
But it is very low.
“We can’t welcome everybody.”
It is a policy without heart.
The smugglers herd together:
Some are sold into slavery
Before being loaded onto rickety boats.
Officials look for cases
Whose persecution might qualify.
In a day of interviews
At the sweltering center
Candidates waited pensively
Looking resigned as they sat on benches.
Showed scars on her body
And on her 2-year-old child.
Asked whether she ever phoned her family:
“I never tell them where I am”
Who spent time in a camp:
“If I return, they will put me underground.”
After nearly two hours a verdict finally came:
“You will have the right to enter legally,
You will be granted a residence permit,
You will be given accommodations
You will have the right to work.”
Poem found in French Outpost in African Migrant Hub, Asylum for a Select Few, The New York Times, February 25, 2018