Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet)

Bringing together researchers, practitioners and policy makers working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland

The Academic Border Guard


And they will say of me
that despite it all, I was a border guard.
That I assigned my signature to the papers
which monitored and revealed the whereabouts
of students from other lands, whose learning
was in my care.

And they will have evidence,
when they look again, once again,
at the only question we can ever have
of history,
“How did this happen?
How can human beings
do this?”

They will say it of me and of my friends
and also of those who comply easily
and don’t question, as I do, as I do daily.
They will say it also of those
who made the new rules gleefully
rejoicing in expulsions.
Maybe they will look at
my practices of resistance, but
the weighing of evidence is rarely
that subtle in such matters
of life and death, as implicate me now.
Maybe they will read the minutes
of the committee of Graduate Studies,
of 2007 where we said “No”.
Maybe they will
examine my chaotic filing system,
my resistance to demands, the way
I spoke to those I am to sign off, maybe
my accuracy will be found wanting.
But I doubt it. That is probably
not my way, even if I might wish it
to be so.
If justice comes quickly, hopefully
they will say it to my face.
It will help with the healings,
the clearing away of the detritus of the past.
If there is forgiveness in that future,
the one for which I work and pray,
then perhaps they
will say it kindly, and see that,
on balance I was “only doing my job”.
These, of course, are the words which
haunt me most.
But if truth be told, my truth be told,
every time I sign a form, I know my
guilt, and shame and believe, that
when the day comes, and the question
is asked, and the just verdict falls,
for every form filled out
and signed
You should spit in my face.
And if I am dead, then
desecrate my grave
with my guilt.

by Alison Phipps


Cover image ‘Border Controls’ by Eloise Kane licensed under licensed under CC BY 2.0


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This entry was posted on February 13, 2016 by in Personal reflections series and tagged , .
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