Perhaps because I've always travelled a lot, this has been an important issue for me, and I've worked in refugee organizations or on refugee issues in various ways through the years.
So, when I wrote my novel Possession: a comedy of wrong belongings, I knew that migrants needed to be part of it, because Possession a story about ownership. The question I wanted to explore is: Why are we human beings so bent on owning things? Why do we want to keep having more and more and more? And why do we expand our feelings of ownership beyond things to even people - and to nations and places? People can feel so possessive of their geographies that they're insulted by the very idea of people coming from somewhere else to stay in their place.
I decided to set my story in the Mediterranean, where migration has been a very present and pressing issue; where people call it "the migrant crisis." I had, at first, decided upon Cyprus, but during my three months there, I decided that it wasn't the right location. So, I transported my story to Malta.
Malta is a tiny country. It has a total area of only 316 km2 and a population of just over half a million. So, there are very real issues around absorptive capacity. On the other hand, there is a lot of wealth in Malta (it is designated by the World Bank as a high income country). It sits at a crossroads between Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, so its geography is highly relevant. But it receives only a tiny number of refugees each year, while at the same time granting citizenship to those who can provide large financial contributions and investments. All these elements makes it a perfect location for digging into issues of possession.
Who gets to land their boat? Who doesn't?
Possession, as you would know from the sub-title, a comedy of wrong belongings, is full of hijinks; but that doesn't mean it doesn't take the subject matter seriously. And if we're lucky enough to possess shelter and citizenship today, on International Migrant's Day, let's do what we can to make this world a warmer, more welcoming place for all.1