Worker covering Banksy’s newest street art piece on refugees in London

5 Docs about Refugees

The Refugee “crisis” is on the front page of every news publication and a hot topic feeding political debates in the West. According to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, 2015 exceeded all previous records for global forced displacement, with the total refugee population reaching a staggering 20.2 million as of June 2015. Syria’s ongoing civil war was sadly, the single biggest generator worldwide of both new refugees and continuing mass internal and external displacement.

With the highest estimates suggesting that a million refugees reached European shores in 2015 alone, the general public’s perception is that refugees are flocking our safe haven by the millions, bringing insecurity, corruption and an alien culture to the liberal West. 1 million people sure sounds like a lot, but it pales in comparison to the 1.84 million refugees Turkey alone is hosting, or the 1.6 million refugees Pakistan is hosting, or the 1.4 million Lebanon is hosting, making every 1 in 5 person a refugee in the small Middle-Eastern country.

If indeed Europe, the US, Canada and Australia were to collectively host the 1 million people who arrived in Europe in 2015 (which they won’t), it hardly sounds like “an invasion”, or unmanageable numbers.

So all the lefty lofty cuckoo people are rising in a show of compassion to refugees, Ai Wei Wei has now famously cancelled his show in Denmark in response to the government’s decision to seize any goods of value from asylum seekers entering their country. Banksy, Pharrell and Mandy Patinkin have also expressed their support to refugee populations.

But why should Europe host populations who cannot integrate? Look at Cologne, look at Paris, the perpetrators were all second-generation immigrants, were they not? Didn’t that do enough damage? It did, absolutely, and what a horror that was. But if we are to single out the men responsible of those acts to depict a population fleeing a humanitarian catastrophe, why doesn’t the same reasoning apply to the Breiviks (Norway, July 2011), Andreas Lubitz (Germany, May 2015), Bird Derrick (UK, 2010) or Tristan Van Der Vills (Netherlands 2011) or Richard Durn (France, 2002)? Truth is refugees are not better or worse than most of us. A tiny number of them will turn out to be murderers, the overwhelming majority will be life-loving people trying to make it through the day, and some will turn out to be absolute geniuses.

But enough of the rant, if you want to know more about the people crossing borders in search of a better life, check these out:

On the Bride’s Side

A Palestinian poet and an Italian journalist meet five Palestinians and Syrians in Milan who entered Europe via the Italian island of Lampedusa after fleeing the war in Syria. They decide to help them complete their journey to Sweden — and hopefully avoid getting themselves arrested as traffickers — by faking a wedding. With a Palestinian friend dressed up as the bride and a dozen other Italians disguised as wedding guests, they cross halfway over Europe on a four-day journey of three thousand kilometres. Emotionally charged, joyful and sad at once, the journey to the promised land brings out the stories and hopes of the five refugees who have fled the war and their rather special traffickers. For a full list of screenings, check here.

Days of Hope:

Moving onto economic migration this time, Ditte Haarlov Johnsen’s documentary, Days of Hope, moves between Mauritania, the starting point of the often fatal journey to Europe, to Italy’s detention centres where illegal boat refugees seek asylum, to the streets of Copenhagen, where reality hits the migrants.This documentary tells the story of people who have escaped conflict and oppression in their homeland with the aim of providing their loved ones with a better future. Watch in the link below.

The Jewish Americans: They came to Stay

A common misconception is that persecution was the main reason for the great Eastern Europe Jewish migration to America. Not so, say the historians consulted for this documentary. Michael Stanislawski, professor of Jewish History at Columbia University, says the idea that they came here to flee pogroms is a cliché, a literary construction. Rather, most came for economic opportunity. Better-off Jews stayed behind, as did those too poor to afford a spot in steerage, the ship’s hellish lowest tier, where some travelers died and were thrown overboard. This documentary traces 350 years of Jewish immigration to the United States, how they were demonised because of their identity and why they held on to their cultural and religious heritage. Watch in the link below.

Chinatown: Immigrants in America

Each year some 20,000 Chinese immigrants arrive in New York from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Though few speak English, all know one word — “Chinatown” — the most crowded neighborhood in New York City. Tourism is the major industry, but beneath a veneer of firework-filled celebrations are a people desperately struggling against language and cultural barriers. Poverty dominates. Chinatown’s dilapidated housing is the oldest in the city. Tuberculosis and diabetes rates are three times the national average. The exploitation and the dreams of the Chinese immigrant are similar to those of other immigrant groups who have come to America. But the road out of the ghetto is narrowing and becoming increasingly treacherous. Budget cutbacks are decimating the social services that have helped previous generations and ethnic groups. This documentary portrays a dignified people struggling for survival in their new homeland. Watch in the link below.

Sabra: Lives on Hold

Bassima lives in the Sabra refugee camp in Lebanon. A Palestinian refugee herself, she has struggled for the past 22 years to support her family.But having found work at a Women’s Centre and sent her children to college — she is now determined to aid those less fortunate than her.

Along with her best friend Nabila, they assist Syrian refugees arriving at the camp. But with a new wave of refugees, the camp is changing, funding is being redirected and the already limited resources are being stretched more than ever. Watch in the link below.

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