With so much political and military turmoil in the world the number of refugees looking for refuge has mushroomed. It is at the point that I think there is now a genre of documentary films called the “refugee genre”. But we should be careful to distinguish between “refugee” and “economic migrants”. Refugees are those fleeing for the safety of their lives due to a political regime that views them as dangerous or threatening the legitimacy of that regime. Economic migrants are those seeking a higher standard of living. Many countries give preferential treatment to refugees. Many economic migrants claim to be refugees. Just because one says they are a refugee does not make it so. So many countries have a refugee screening process to determine the validity of a refugee claim. There are only so many new potential citizens a country can absorb.
In 2021 I saw a Swiss/French documentary “Wake up on Mars” about a family from Kosovo seeking refugee status in Sweden. If I recall they had been deported from Sweden but reappeared and strangely their two daughters apparently developed “resignation syndrome” rendering them in an almost vegetative state. There is some medical recognition that some children facing deportation back to their country of origin develop this syndrome. Was this a clever ruse?
In “Flee” Amin has successfully escaped Afghanistan. His father had been arrested by the then communist regime in power and “disappeared”. The family escaped to Russia and after their tourist visa expired were hunted down for bribes by a lawless and corrupt Russian police force. His sisters left Russia in a perilous journey locked inside a ship container paid for by Amin’s older brother in Sweden. They survived the journey. Next Amin, his brother and mother hired traffickers to get them to Sweden but were eventually intercepted and sent to Estonia and locked in a filthy hovel there for six months before being returned to Russia and arrested. This time the brother paid a huge sum to smuggle out Amin to Denmark by highly sophisticated Russian traffickers who told him before boarding an Istanbul to Copenhagen flight to lie to Danish immigration officials and say that his entire family had been killed in Afghanistan. Is such a lie justified? They also instructed him to destroy his forged passport before entering Denmark which he did.
Amin goes on to become a successful academic but keeping the lie a secret or rather not telling anyone about his family being alive and scattered throughout Europe. And it is difficult to maintain such a lie and it caused him great grief. He even kept it secret from his gay boyfriend Kasper. Finally after some 20 years he reveals that his family (except for his father) did not die in Afghanistan.
The documentary makes no judgements as to whether a lie to immigration officials is justified. I suppose that is up to you viewer! There is a very personal element to the documentary about what it is like to flee your country and the pain that can be added on to that by living a big lie. Now can we believe this as a true story told by a self admitted liar? And how different is this from the NGO’s in Greece and Spain “counseling” migrants on how to build their case to obtain refugee status?
Yes we’d like to believe Amin but is it on a fabricated story from a less than credible “refugee”? The documentary weaves a good story but how much is “nice to hear” as opposed to reality?
Interesting use of quasi-Japanese animation in the documentary.
There are over 10 countries involved in this documentary which is directed by Jonas Poher Rasmussen. It’s a winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for a documentary. Opens at Toronto Hot Docs Ted Rogers Theatre on February 11 and streaming on demand at Hot Docs at Home on February 15 for devices located in Canada only. See HotDocs.ca for more details.
You can catch the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzUVeuX1u04&t=11s
Photo of “Migrants” in Greece from camp in Samos Greece; Photo Robert K. Stephen