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Poet's plea for boat refugees quoted on BBC's Question Time

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A line from a poem by Somali-British poet Warsan Shire was quoted on BBC’s Question Time on Thursday night as a panellist replied to an audience member who asked: “Is it time to give up on the Rwanda asylum plan?”

The question was asked after the government’s plan to deport refugees to Rwanda was ruled unlawful by the appeal court earlier in the day. Question Time panellist Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “There's a Somali British poet called Warsan Shire who said, no one puts a child in a boat unless the water is safer than the land. The Rwanda plan is a high-profile policy that grabs the attention of the rightwing press and is completely unacceptable."

Fearnley-Whttingstall was quoting from Warsan Shire’s poem ‘Home’, which includes these lines: “you have to understand, / that no one puts their children in a boat / unless the water is safer than the land.” The poem also says: “i want to go home, / but home is the mouth of a shark / home is the barrel of the gun.”

Warsan Shire wrote poetry for the album Lemonade and the Disney film Black Is King in collaboration with Beyoncé. Her collection Bless The Daughter was shortlisted for the 2022 Forward best first collection prize.

There was another remarkable moment during the Question Time debate when chair Fiona Bruce asked the audience: “Even though we have more people that voted Conservative than for any other single party here, is there anyone here who supports sending people to Rwanda?”.There was applause from the audience when no one responded to Bruce’s appeal.



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Uilleam Ó Ceallaigh

Wed 5th Jul 2023 08:59

I'm coming to a time in my life when I need to be resolving conflicts, not inflaming them.
So, after some reflection, I have voluntarily edited out my previous comment (and some others), troubled as I am by the anger of my reactions to the comments of other contributors.

This article is not about me, and my disagreements; it's about a piece of excellent poetry which concerns the safety and welcoming of refugees coming to our shores; they should be our primary concern.

I offer my sincere apologies to any whom I have offended

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Graham Sherwood

Mon 3rd Jul 2023 17:43

I am amazed at the interest that a news article on WOL has attracted. Usually there are one or two comments at most. So far illegal immigration/ refugees and deportation to Rwanda has drawn fifteen comments, mostly about the process/predicament that the UK finds itself bound into and not about the poem itself.

I think WOL might need a special section for political diatribe, well away from the more artistic offerings that we are well known for!

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Stephen Gospage

Mon 3rd Jul 2023 16:45

Warsan Shire's poem 'Home' on the experience of fleeing persecution and becoming a refugee is remarkable cry of despair and anger, yet is somehow infused with humanity and the power of the spirit. If I could write 1% as a well as this, I would be delighted. It deserves to be read and re-read.

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M.C. Newberry

Mon 3rd Jul 2023 15:00

I have long maintained the importance of debate, and that
applies to poetry, not least when it is politically connected.
Much of what I see comes from a certain point of view that
appears to be very ready to resort to indignant moral high
ground when comments are made about what is on offer.
Action engenders reaction and that's healthy, I hope that
WOL maintains a proper balance when approaching poetry
whatever its content and point of view. It is always possible to
agree to disagree! Pip-pip! 😌

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Julian (Admin)

Mon 3rd Jul 2023 14:20

Bravo, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, for quoting those lines of poetry; bravo to Warsan Shire for having written them; bravo, Write Out Loud, for reporting this. (Yes, I declare my interest.)
There is nothing in this, as Greg says, that denigrates Rwanda (though I imagine the country's reputation over the years might take the edge off its appeal as a migration destination for many of our readers).

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Uilleam Ó Ceallaigh

Mon 3rd Jul 2023 08:02

The first time I read your poem Warsan, I said, and I meant BRAVO! 💗

"...i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here."

As I've previously posted, I've read the recent Amnesty International, and UN Expert Group reports on Rwanda, with horror.
50 years ago, I read similar stories from those and other parts of the world with equal horror.

Now I've read your poem again.

You last three lines perfectly sum up your predicament, which is now also mine.💗

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Sun 2nd Jul 2023 22:32

There is a trend on WOL to post politically edged poems, particularly left-leaning and particularly from one member. Designed to goad the 'idiots' who voted for Brexit and for the Tories it is hardly surprising that reactions come on the political content rather than the quality of the writing itself.

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Greg Freeman

Sun 2nd Jul 2023 21:53

I find it rather disappointing that there has been no comment on the actual content of the poem quoted so far on here. This is a poetry website, after all. I like to remind people of that from time to time.

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Uilleam Ó Ceallaigh

Sun 2nd Jul 2023 17:01

Amnesty International. Report dated 17 Feb 2023.

• Members of the March 23 Movement (M23) rebel group (Rwandan-backed) killed at least twenty men and raped at least 66 women and girls in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in November 2022,
• In 2022, M23 took control of large territory in Nord-Kivu province, which borders Rwanda and Uganda, driving half a million people to flee their homes according to the UN.
• In 2012 Justine Greening withdrew £21m in aid funding to the country when she was international development secretary after the United Nations first reported that the Rwandans were helping the M23 rebels.

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Sun 2nd Jul 2023 15:09

So, all the people who say what we shouldn't do to tackle unwanted immigration, please would they say what we SHOULD do as the current level of immigration can't go on unchecked. Or perhaps you think that we should accommodate anyone who turns up on our shores, even taxi-ing them in from the French coast?

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M.C. Newberry

Sun 2nd Jul 2023 14:31

UOC - have you checked the levels of UK violent crime,
especially murder, these days? It sees the UK arguably within
to any definition of an "unsafe country" yet no one suggests
we can refuse migrants! Gun and knife crime (machetes seem
popular...check the users) are at criminal levels - and that's
being generous to the criminals. Interestingly, the MSM seems
ready to leave the reports of these offences to the local media.
One can only guess why! Rwanda seems to have little to
fear from comparison - and has a lot more room too.
GF - to describe an aspiring land as an "unsafe country" in this
century world is denigrating it by any term of reference IMHO.

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Uilleam Ó Ceallaigh

Sat 1st Jul 2023 23:54

When BBC Question Time’s Fiona Bruce asked the audience: “In the interests of balance, is there anyone here who supports sending people to Rwanda?”

…Not a single hand went up! That shows just how out of touch the Tories are with the UK public, and with their own voters.

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Greg Freeman

Sat 1st Jul 2023 22:51

Where in that little story does anyone denigrate Rwanda, MC?

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Uilleam Ó Ceallaigh

Sat 1st Jul 2023 16:20

Bravo Warsan Shire!💗

<Deleted User> (35565)

Sat 1st Jul 2023 15:12

I would like to know how we differentiate between genuine migrants and terrorist wolves in migrants clothing please?

I would feel a lot happier if we were helping the poor suffering people while at the same time weeding out those who for all we know are at this very moment hatching plans for a British version of 9/11-if being able to do that proves possible I will eat my hat and everyone else's!

Don't anyone tell me that they haven't seen the so-called ' children ' in designer clothes jumping off various rescue crafts and then legging it into the undergrowth x number of times as well!


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M.C. Newberry

Sat 1st Jul 2023 14:17

But what do the people in Rwanda have to say about this
denigration of their country? Has anyone asked?

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