Europe’s Migration Crossing Points Captured in Six Films

“The European border is like a wall—we have to get across, whatever it costs,” said Wassim, a 31-year-old Syrian man I met in Turkey, in the southern port town of Mersin. He had left a wife and a newborn child to flee to Mersin, the new crossing point for migrants trying to reach the European Union.

The smuggler network here was so out in the open that middlemen would advertise their services via Facebook, even posting their own cell phone numbers and the schedules of upcoming trips. From September 2014 to January 2015 around 5,000 migrants, mainly Syrians, managed to get to Europe this way.

Wassim is one of the many people that my team and I met in our four-month journey along Europe’s borders to produce the video series Borderline: Europe’s Walls. We have been in Bulgaria, in the Spanish enclave of Melilla that borders Morocco, on the Italian island of Lampedusa, and in Calais, the French town from which hundreds try to cross the English channel to the United Kingdom. We also explored less obvious borders, such as the Rome Fiumicino airport, where migrants are frequently stopped and pushed back to their home countries or to the transit countries they came through.

The people we met on this journey were mainly asylum seekers, the majority of them fleeing war-torn Syria. They come to Europe at such risk and expense because they have no other options. If they apply for a visa at a European embassy, the most likely outcome is that they will be denied. There is no system in place to apply for asylum from their countries of origin. The only viable choice is to put their life in danger by crossing the sea on makeshift boats, trying to climb over fences, or hiding in trucks that are crossing borders.

Migrants refer to smugglers as “travel agents” rather than “traffickers.” Smugglers are a byproduct of Europe’s immigration and asylum policy: they exist and flourish because European borders are tightly closed.

When the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi calls smugglers the “21st century slave traders,” he is oversimplifying: cynical and ruthless as they are, these organizations are providing their clients with a service. Migrants are not slaves but consenting adults who voluntarily choose to face a difficult journey to reshape their life. It’s a choice made out of desperation.

These are the people we met along the way. All were expecting a welcoming Europe. What they found were smugglers who manipulated them and stole their money, policemen and border guards who kicked them back, petty criminals who robbed them.

The most determined—or the luckiest—managed to cross. Others are still stuck in a limbo. These six videos, realized with the support of the Open Society Foundations and published on the Italian website Internazionale, tell their stories. 

13 Comments

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Since when are the citizens of the European member states accountable for the hardships of migrants in their countries of origin?
Byproduct of Europe's borders being tightly closed? What should we do, then? Let everyone in as if we were some damn world welfare center, and become strangers in our own countries?
This is bunk. The true solution is to help the situation in the countries of origin to get better, so the people won't be tempted, and won't need to migrate.

or at least, Europeans not to interfere and support armed groups by money, weapons ... in other countries.

they must help their home citizens in the countries they are born...........................are the European Union an open tribunal for them seems to be closed than ever..........................

I am not immigrant, Europe is no longer a paradise, sad news for Europe and the world

There is a cause for every effect. Wars are the the results of hate that exist among people. It fueled by bad politics and the sale of arms. Where there is war there is market for weapons of all make. The best option to create peace where there a war and stop illegal migration is to create love where there there is hate. Political Leaders of the world must come into agreement with producers of weapons to stop producing them and change their minds to think producing farm implements which will help to solve the problem of hunger and starvation.

I am an African. It breaks my heart to see people suffering worse when they try to flee a bad situation. I think There are three reasons for people to risk such horrible predicaments by migrating. There are people who migrate to avoid political persecution. There are those who migrate because their talents cannot be appropriately exploited at home. The third group is those idlers who don't want to join hands with their compatriots to labor in order to make things better. Such parasites migrate targeting easy welfare in the developed nations.
The developed nations should better act against hegemonic dictators in order to help citizens of poor countries stay at home in freedom. The rich nations can also increase investment in peaceful poor nations. This will be beneficial for all. I know that most poor Ethiopians don't want to migrate if there were home situations can sustain life without hunger. The rich nations could also rip the benefit of investing in countries like Ethiopia due to the cheap labor and enabling climates.

To those people who say Europe has no debt to pay to Africa and the "developing world," I ask: Do you think we don't know whose stolen resources built Europe and continue to build western countries through phony contracts signed with dictators - most supported by western countries? After white people (sorry to say) got wealthy from other people's property, they turn around and say "why should Europeans be held accountable for other people's miseries?" Visit a country in Africa and see the devastation left by Belgium, France, Germany, Portugal, Italy, and the U.S. Hard to be sustainable when your farm has been confiscated by a western mining company. Or your water polluted. Check out the indentured servitude imposed by vulture capitalists buying up unpayable debts.The current crop of leaders in the Middle East has only added to the misery. But were the Saudi leaders ever refused an invitation to a European party because of stonings and beheadings? Yes, we're accountable.

We all have a duty, to work together, contribute our best in making our society the place we all dream of, to dissuade them from migrating and facing these untold hardship.

I agree with Joe Hill: the thruth is that the wealthiest European countries (and the U.S.) have a huge historical, economic, human, environmental, etc., debt towards African countries. Any historial review will result in this reality, which can't be denied or hidden.
To my mind, the wealthiest and most powerful Occidental countries are 100% accountable to provide support, aid, resources, etc., to the countries of origin of these African migrants, so that the structural causes that lead them to migrate are addressed.

Joe Hill presents the best lecture of the situation.European countries devastated African nations from the XVII century onwards.I live in Costa Rica, a little refuge in a world gone mad with greed and violence.
But we are not alien to these problems, as we have our share of Central American brothers coming to our country in search of a better life

These videos allude to the need for there to be humanitarian visa application procedures in countries of origin or transit to enable migrants' legal channels to Europe other than for purposes of work or for family reunification.

I am interested in learning about migration to Europe.

I am an African born in Africa and raised in Cuba and my thoughts are "How dare them." How dare anyone deny the right to seek freedom! There is not a European, Asian, African or other human being in the world who cannot relate to what I am saying: how dare them.

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