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Rejecting Refugees: Political Asylum in the 21st Century by Carol Bohmer and Amy Schuman

Published in New York by Routlegde Press in 2007, 288 pp., ISBN 938 0 415 77376 8

 

Starting with the personal motivation, Carol Bohmer and Amy Schuman raise questions regarding the nations in accepting refugees. Along with the development of the policy of refugees’ countermeasure, they find that nations’ policy became more restrictive and burdensome. Therefore, in this book the question ‘how do the applicants of asylum construe their stories of persecution into an acceptable narrative to the officials?’ and ‘how do the officials determine whether to accept or not the application?’ would be answered.

They begin with the story of St. Louis that sailed from Germany in 1939 with more than 900 Jews fleeing away from Hitler’s persecution. When the passengers were not allowed to disembark in Cuba where they have the landing permission, St. Louis sailed back to Germany. No wonder why almost three-quarter of the passengers ended up in Nazi concentration camps. This refuge phenomenon as an old anomaly should be highlighted as the driven factor in creating promising laws for anyone fleeing from a persecution on the basis of conflict among races, political opinions, or social movements.

Rejecting Refugees is about the reciprocity between the asylum seekers and their upraised cases to be judged by United States (US) and United Kingdom (UK) autorities. Bohmer and Schumer criticize the hypocrisy between the ideal of the nations welcoming the asylum seekers and the actual practice. By comparing US and UK, they try to come up with the wider analysis of how the idea is presented in different actual policy. They align themselves along with the government of US and UK as one part, yet in the same time, they also show the disagreement with those governments’ policy.

As they illustrate, the stories became the emerging interaction between the asylum seekers who are considered suspicious and immigration bureaucracies who are enforced to apply the conservative immigration law. The interactions, somehow create very strange questions to be answered about for whom, why, and how the asylum claims should be given. Both authors address an aim to reveal the injustices in the asylum systems of US and UK, in particular for those indigent asylum seekers.

In the very beginning of the book, Bohmer and Schuman present the distinction between two terms: refugees and asylum seekers. The term ‘refugee’ is commonly used to describe anyone who flees his country unwillingly. He gets a legal status that allows him to be brought into a host country’s expense and benefits certain public rights (p.24). Meanwhile, asylum seekers are people who travel to US and UK under their own steam and apply for asylum (p.25). This is an important thing that makes Rejecting Refugees easier for the readers, who are not so knowledgeable this terms, to be understood. They also emphasize the asylum seekers as the subject of the book, thus, the readers would not be lost on the track.

In practices, both US and UK pull out the strict policy that cut the number of asylum seekers that succeeded the applications. Whether it is because the fear that asylum seekers are potential terrorists or job stealers, the number is getting decreased by days. Rejecting Refugees presents several asylum seekers experiences that vary in many process and results. Some of them get the benefit of legal aid that government provides, some of them not. In returns, many of them ended up with a rejection of application due to the lack of sufficient information and incapability to understand how the system works.

As US provides the 589 form for a claim, the UK has this SEF form. Both of this form is multi-paged but US’ 589 is less complicated compared to UK’s SEF. After completing this form, the asylum seekers should attend the interview and a hearing. Bohmer and Schumer also criticize this form, that seems so simple for us to be completed, but for the asylum seekers -that are displaced people- the form is very complicated. For instance, to claim an asylum, these people should provide the permanent address in order to be kept updated about the asylum process. The applicant would be informed about hearing after the assessment of their documents, which they have no idea when the exact date. The fact is, mostly they failed to attend the hearing because they missed the information after changing their addresses because they have to move since they have no permanent one. Bohmer and Schumer see this as the governments’ effort to keep these asylum seekers ‘illegal’.

Rejecting Refugees is an avant-garde in the sense of the interview with these asylum seekers who mostly seen as criminals or terrorists entering the border without the necessary document. The authors also raise up the possibility to suggest that the fear of persecution because having an ‘illegal entry’ could encourage a refugee to claim for an asylum. Yet, many of them ended up in a decision to stay ‘illegal’ because they were afraid of being deported. As Teinzin’s story (Chapter 3) was told, there is a possibility to succeed in claiming the asylum with expired deadline and no sufficient documents.

Rejecting Refugees also reveals the inconsistencies the states show regarding the asylum seeking process. Back to Nazi era, the asylum policies were developed to cater the humanity sense for those who suffered from Nazi and fled. Yet now, the present circumstance constructs the confusion and finally hinders the asylum process. Bohmer and Schumer also put altogether how the system fails: a gap in the production of knowledge; the reliance on narrative as a primary form of evidence; credibility, cultural differences; persecution description; law and policy implementation; and incompetence and inadequate resources.

This book is very informative and thorough to at least provide the basic information about what happens in the process of claiming asylum by analyzing cases of real life accounts. By that, I personally see that Rejecting Refugees is suitable for students of political science, international relations, sociology, anthropology, and law. It shows the sight from the refugees, the obstacle they face that mostly their stories are incoherent and undocumented in which caused them in a trouble. They are likely incapable of proving themselves as what they describe because there is no legal authentic document with them. This kind of story will be read almost in the entire cases this book presents. It also shows the stories from the lawyers’ perspective. Thus, the readers can have two sides in every case. In a nutshell, it does a great job in describing the asylum claiming process and system from both perspectives: the seekers and the lawyers with its biases.

The importance of identity is also covered very well in this book with the incapability of the several people who fled with the false document or even with none. Both in US and UK, the identity is very important in claiming asylum. In 2004, the UK passed a law that it is not possible to enter the border of UK with no passport of a false passport unless this person has a ‘reasonable excuse’ (p.96). As Bohmer and Schuman analyze, this is a violation of the 1951 UN Convention that forbids the imposition or penalty for illegal entry. This just is a prevent action for letting more refugees come.

The limitation that is faced by the asylum seekers left a question that Rejecting Refugees should answer, what is the most possible asylum system in this century? Bohmer and Schumer bring up the concern for the states providing a legal advice for asylum seekers who cannot afford to manage the laws and regulations. They appoint the double standard system that states create to protect their citizens from the arrivals of these asylum seekers in terms of economy while at the same time they have to obey their legal, moral, and treaty obligation to provide a help for those asylum seekers.

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Il Volo – Grande Amore (ITALY)

Halo, selamat malam dari Istanbul!

Belakangan ini jatuh cinta banget sama satu lagu kontestan Eurovision Song Contest 2015 asal Italy. Judulnya Grande Amore yang dinyanyikan oleh Il Volo, grup vokal yang terdiri dari dua tenor Piero Barone dan Ignazio Boschetto, dan bariton Gianluca Ginoble. Grup yang terbentuk tahun 2009 ini baru memulai debut album pertama di tahun 2010. Cakepnya gak ketulungan loh! Italians!

Nah, lagu ini pertama kali dengar saat iseng surfing tentang Eurovision Song Contest. Langsung ear-catching deh. Biasalah, si akang dari Ankara dengan sedikit insist nyuruh denger beberapa lagu pemenang Eurovision Song Contest yang katanya keren. Iyasih. Mmm.

Coba denger deh.

Il Volo – Grande Amore

P L A Y L I S T

Music will always help. Somehow, it works with magic. Recently, I play these songs a lot. Check it out!

  1. Plain White Ts – 1, 2, 3, 4
  2. Shane Ward – Gotta Be Somebody
  3. Fall Out Boys – My Songs Know What You Did in The Dark (Light Em Up)
  4. Rixton – Me and My Broken Heart
  5. American Author – Best Day of My Life
  6. Natasha Bedingfield – Pocketful of Sunshine
  7. Sara Bareilles – Brave
  8. Phill Collins – Can’t Stop Loving You
  9. Colbie Caillat – Brighter Than The Sun
  10. Stromae – Tous Le Memes

Leap Year (2010)

leap_year

Tahun 2014 akhirnya tiba. Tahun ini genap tapi bukan kabisat ya? Haha.. jadi ingat film Leap Year (2010) yang dibintangi Matthew Goode dan Amy Adams ini. Film yang berkisah tentang seorang Anna Brady (Amy Adams) yang punya karir mapan dan pacar nearly a perfect man. Tapi sayangnya, dia tidak kunjung dilamar di tahun ke-4 hubungan mereka. Akhirnya, dia memutuskan menyusul pacarnya, Jeremy (Adam Scott), yang kebetulan saat itu berada di Irlandia untuk konferensi kesehatan dan melamarnya. Oh iya, Jeremy adalah seorang cardiologist. Rencana berjalan. Tapi, Tuhan kadang punya rencana lain. Badai dan cuaca buruk akhirnya menghalangi Anna untuk mendarat di Dublin dan memaksanya sampai di Dingle, yang berjarak 403 km dari Dublin. There she met this arrogant Irish man, Declan O’Callaghan (Matthew Goode). Situasi memaksakan mereka harus ke Dublin bersama. Anna yang dikejar waktu dan seems like nobody here is available to drop her to Dublin dan Declan yang harus melunasi hutang beserta bunganya supaya losmen miliknya tidak disita akhirnya start a journey which they could be killing each other before a half way.

“I may even get there before the stores close. I could get some shopping in.”

“That’s the reason you’re going to Dublin, is to shop?”

“No, I’m… If you must know I’m going to propose my boyfriend.”

“… yeah?”

“Yeah. And you guys have this great tradition when a woman can propose to a man on the 29th February in a leap year”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Hahaha.. That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”

“No. It isn’t.”

“Yes. It is.”

“No. It’s a tradition. It’s a romantic tradition.”

“It’s a day for desperate women trying to trap themselves a man who is clearly doesn’t want to get married. You’ve got to know that if your man wanted to propose, he’d have done it already. Fact.”

Bisa ditebak, perjalanan mereka menjadi tidak biasa. Salah satu scene favorit saya adalah saat mereka mendaki Kastil Ballycarbery, kastil kuno yang terletak dekat stasiun kereta api tempat mereka menunggu kereta menuju Dublin. Saat keduanya mendaki bukit menuju kastil itu, ada percakapan yang cukup menarik.

“Riddle me this! If your apartment, beautiful apartment was on fire. What would you take?”

“What?”

“If your house was on fire, you had 60 seconds, what would you take? Come on!”

“I…”

“Come on! Would it be the Chihuahua on the duvet?”

“I’m not playing this game with you.”

“There you are.”

“What would you take? What would you take? Your lovely inn is on fire.”

“… I know exactly what I’d grab.”

“Oh yeah? What?”

“I’m not telling you.”

Sifat keduanya yang sangat berbeda menjadikan perjalanan itu sebagai sebuah bencana bagi mereka sendiri. Tapi, sebenarnya tanpa mereka sadari mereka saling melengkapi. Hingga akhirnya perjalanan itu berakhir, Declan bahkan tidak meminta bayaran atas jasanya mengantarkan Anna sampai ke Dublin. Keduanya sadar bahwa mereka tidak lagi sama seperti saat mereka memulai perjalanan itu. Namun tidak ada yang berusaha mengutarakan ‘kelainan’ itu.

Pertunangan Anna dan Jeremy akhirnya dilaksanakan di apartemen impian Anna di Boston. Sayangnya, Anna akhirnya tahu bahwa pacarnya melamarnya hanya karena tidak ingin kehilangan apartemen ini walaupun Jeremy memang mencintainya. The former owner are ancient. Mereka tidak ingin melepas apartemen mereka kepada pasangan yang tidak dalam hubungan pernikaha. Simply as that, Jeremy pun melamar Anna. Mulai menyadari perasaannya, Anna akhirnya mencoba sebuah peruntungan. Ia menyalakan alarm kebakaran saat pesta pertunangan mereka berlangsung. Fortunately, tindakan Jeremy akhirnya meyakinkan Anna siapa yang dia butuhkan.

Maka terbanglah Anna ke Dingle, berusaha mengejar cintanya. Propose.

“When my 60 seconds came around, I realized I had everything I ever wanted but nothing really I needed. And I think that what I need is here. And I came all this way to see if may be you might think so too. If you do, well, I don’t really have any plans pass that which is new for me. So, Declan O’Callaghan and I should probably learn your middle name, here is my proposal. I propose we not make plans. I propose we give this thing a chance and let it work out how it works out. So, how do you say? Do you want not make plans with me?”

Declan tersenyum dan berbalik pergi.

“I guess that an Irish no.”

Dengan latar tebing terjal dan pemandangan yang luar biasa indah, scene itu berlanjut.

“Mrs. O’Bradycallaghan, where the hell you are going?”

“You said no.”

I didn’t say no. I didn’t say anything.”

“You walked away.”

“I was getting something.”

“Really, that was a good time to go get something?

“Yeah, it was actually.”

“I was getting this.” Sebuah cincin dengan ukiran dua tangan yang memegang sebentuk hati. “Idiot, I wouldn’t be holding this ring if it’s not for you. I reject your proposal. I don’t want not make plan with you. I want make a plan with you.”

“You do?”

“Yeah, I do.”

Dengan akhir yang bahagia, sangat berbeda dengan kebanyakan film drama Asia, film ini ditutup oleh salah satu lagu favorit saya, You Got Me-nya Colbie Calliat. Mungkin sudah banyak yang menonton film ini, tapi bagi yang belum, film ini recommended lho.