The following excerpt is taken from ‘Refugee Tales IV’ edited by David Herd & Anna Pincus, published by Comma Press on 28th July 2021 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
70 years after the adoption of the Refugee Convention, the UK is guilty of undermining the very principles of asylum, inhumanely detaining those seeking protection and ushering in sweeping changes that threaten to punish refugees at every turn.
But the UK’s immigration system is not alone in committing such breaches of human rights. The fourth volume of Refugee Tales explores our present international environment, combining author re-tellings with first-hand accounts of individuals who have been detained across the world. As the coronavirus pandemic defies borders – leaving those who are detained even more vulnerable – this collection shares stories spanning Canada, Greece, Italy, Switzerland and the UK, and calls for international insistence on a future without detention.
All proceeds from this book go to Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group and Kent Refugee Help. Pre-order the anthology now.
Canada attempts to deny the fact that it employs a system of indefinite immigration detention by leaning on semantics: because every detainee is eligible for a monthly detention review, no one is technically detained for more than one month at a time. By some strange and self-serving logic, the indefiniteness of these monthly installments is not taken into consideration. Enter Kyon Ferril, whose story stands as a condemnation of this contradictory and inhumane system. In over three years in immigration detention, Kyon faced some 40 such detention reviews, often overseen by the same adjudicator of the Immigration and Refugee Board, and often lasting only a few minutes before he was remanded to a further month’s detention.
The fact that we can read the poems gathered here, and – perhaps even more importantly – hear his resistant voice, is testament to both the human spirit, and to Kyon’s own indomitable will to be free, to be heard, and to live a meaningful life. These poems were mostly written while Kyon was held as a migrant detainee in Central East Correctional Centre, a maximum-security prison in Lindsay, Ontario. Their author was born in Jamaica and came to Canada as a four-year-old child, growing up in West End Toronto, where he loved to garden with his Ma and try different cuisines.
He has spent the better part of his young adulthood – from his late teens to his late twenties – navigating the discriminatory system of double punishment and immigration detention. While detained, Kyon has been an active organiser for the rights of prisoners and detained persons, to the point of suffering for his outspokenness in the form of physical violence, extended prison sentences, and transfer to higher level security facilities. Kyon writes that he ‘is intent and focused on rebuilding his life and his broader community through poetry.
His creative contribution to society is to help remember the voiceless or those made voiceless on the grounds of class, race, sexuality or citizenship. He takes up this work at a critical level, streaming from within his self and through external reflection regarding his dual carceral status of inhumane arbitrary detention.
– Stephen Collis, Erin Goheen Glanville & Ayendri Riddell
Come down from there
Come down from there, you can’t keep that to yourself,
your heart, isn’t meant for a shelf, for there’s other hearts
another heart just for you.
But what about that other heart watching my heart for a
sign, from the other shelf in the shadow.
Was my placement, my heart, truly alone?
I can’t keep my heart to myself, but whose is it I shall share
this heart with (confusion), care for, be there for,
For once attached where you go I’ll follow, as an individual
heart I’m worried to call another heart home.
My heart’s walking away, heavy way down, weighted down
inflamed within melted compound from what it’s been abused
and used, too (without a compass) along the long road back
through the highway of pain.
For what is real, is fake, what is good never existed in the
All is distorted like time which leaves and never returns.
This heart longs for more… time,
that evaporates for it does not reside in the highway of pain.
Nothing past resembles tomorrow, what was, will never be the
same. So I continue walking on, in and without (a compass)
through the highway of pain.
This heart searches for acceptance in society, from its family
and from itself, while detained and segregated in the highway
This heart is forever labelled a foreign national
is any of this heart’s pain foreign?
This heart, my heart, is a citizen of pain.
The system will break your heart
The system will break your heart, if you pledge absolute
belief and trust
in administrators, its gate keepers, only to become astonished
by what lies within: broken men, vulnerable hearts, valuable
to the system’s function, lives rendered unvaluable, worthless
Set and established (enshrined) by pre-conceived conditions:
power, control. Don’t let it break your heart, the truth will
do it. Do your research and evident is the shapeshifting qualities
of administrators, but the gears / mechanism of institutional
remains or is concrete.
I am ignored and detained throughout this process.
Kyon Ferril was born in Jamaica and has lived in Canada since he was four years old. Currently detained, Kyon is intent on rebuilding his life and community through poetry.