M.I.A. Rallies for Refugee Support in Powerful Music Video

The rapper calls out pop culture obsessions while demonstrating the challenges of traveling to Europe from war-torn nations.
Nov 28, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

People climbing barbed-wire fences, lying stacked atop shoddy boats, and running to freedom. M.I.A.’s music video for “Borders” visualizes the dangerous lengths refugees go to in order to find safety, while the lyrics condemn policies designed to keep asylum seekers out.

“Freedom, ‘I’dom, ‘Me’dom/Where’s your ‘We’dom?” M.I.A., also known as Maya Arulpragasam, raps to begin the video, released Friday on Apple Connect. “We’dom the key’dom to life,” she insists, extending “freedom” to include those in need.

While M.I.A. raps about our obsessions with pop culture inanities such as “breaking the Internet” and “being bae,” she sends a clear message of support to any refugees that might be listening.

“F--- ’em when they say we’re not with them./ We solid and we don’t need to kick them,” she proclaims.

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The video statement calling for compassion comes just two weeks after terrorist attacks in Paris killed 130 people. As one of the attackers is believed to have entered Europe by posing as a Syrian refugee, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of a bill that increases security checks for asylum seekers—a process that already takes roughly two years to complete. While France has renewed its commitment to welcoming refugees, other European nations have contemplated border checks between countries, and nations like Hungary have taken to building razor-wire fences to keep refugees out.

In this self-directed clip, the 40-year-old rapper shows the harm of such borders. The video ends with a stream of hundreds of people wading through water while another group heads back in the opposite direction, indicating that these barriers leave people with nowhere to go.

The issue hits close to home for M.I.A. Along with Friday’s video release, the rapper tweeted that the video was dedicated to her uncle, who helped her family move to England. At the age of nine, she was displaced during the Sri Lankan civil war before moving to London as a refugee.