Nobel winner: Compassion not barbed wire should greet migrants

Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah who won the 2021 Noble Prize in Literature, poses for the media at his home in Kent, Britain, October 7, 2021. REUTERS-Henry Nicholls

Europe should greet migrants with compassion rather than barbed wire and the British government is “rather nasty” about those who seek asylum, said Tanzanian writer Abdulrazak Gurnah, who won the 2021 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Gurnah, who explored the legacies of imperialism on uprooted individuals in his books, said he was so shocked when he was phoned by the Swedish Academy to tell him of the prize that he thought it was a cold caller.

He spoke poetically about the experience of migration – of leaving behind family and part of one’s life for a life in a new society where one would always feel partly foreign.

He said he felt the British government seemed nasty about those seeking asylum.

“Currently, it seems the government is rather nasty about people seeking asylum or people seeking admittance into this country,” Gurnah, 73, told Reuters in his garden beside an Acer tree in Canterbury, southern England.

“It seems such a surprise to them that people coming from difficult places would want to come to a country that is prosperous. Why would they be surprised? Who wouldn’t want to come to a country that is more prosperous? There is a kind of meanness in this response.”

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