BY DAVID BENNETT
In early October, 2015, a group of friends set out to understand, first-hand, why Calais – just 22 miles from Britain’s shore, and the North Western gateway to Europe – had become home to thousands of stranded migrants and refugees, in a squalid camp known as ‘the jungle’.
Without a solid plan, the group (which included filmmakers and cameramen) would find the real life aspect of the story which had been missing from general mainstream reporting on the refugee crisis. In the words of the group themselves: “a story of migration and the voices of the people making these courageous journeys”. Having visited ‘the jungle’ in Calais, hearing the stories and sharing time with the camp’s inhabitants, what they discovered became the basis for the film they had inadvertently begun to make. “It became clear that we had to go further and dig a little deeper into [the refugees’] journey”, the group shares on their Facebook page; “a journey in search of hope, in search of stability and in search of a better future.” Thus, ‘Somewhere Out There’, a documentation of the plight of refugees, was born.
The current, ongoing refugee crisis is clearly an extremely complicated affair. Reports on facts and figures vary wildly depending on which news organisation one chooses to listen to. The trusty old BBC refuses to call it a ‘refugee’ crisis at all, opting instead for the term ‘migrant crisis’ (seemingly in the face of the meanings of words); and the public and political opinion of the situation appears to be a tussle between compassion and empathy for fellow humans on the one hand, and economic management on the other. All in all, we are bombarded from all angles with vast amounts of conflicting information, making it nigh on impossible to form a completely accurate perspective. But one thing is certain: there are thousands of innocent human beings, forced from their homes and countries by war and extreme strife, traveling thousands of miles in search of safety and a better future.
Much of the reporting on the refugee crisis, in Britain at least, comes from the perspective of British politics. British politics, influenced heavily by European politics, takes into consideration economics, quotas, comparisons between Britain and other ‘world leaders’, when deciding on how is best to deal with the situation. Politicising such a situation takes away the human aspects of how best to deal with the situation. Politicising such a situation leads to refugees seeking safety and a better life being equated to, in the words of the British prime minister, David Cameron, “a swarm” – which verges very much on an animalistic analogy. From a purely human perspective - a perspective of compassion and empathy - refugees become nothing but fellow humans, and the idea of economics, national boarders, quotas, and the like, evaporate, and are replaced by the all-encompassing ambition to help everyone in need. And this is where the importance of ‘Somewhere Out There’ comes into play.
As ‘Somewhere Out There’ travel with the refugees across Europe, regularly updating their experiences on their Facebook page, the experiences they report make the situation very real. The uncertainty of not knowing what reception shall be awaiting you as you arrive at another national border – some welcoming, some hostile – must be harrowing. If Europe is one, cohesive entity, there certainly does not seem to be any cohesion in the decisions on how to deal with people looking to Europe for help. Austria had stated they were letting a daily quota of 1,500 people cross their border; Slovenia had stated that it would let 2,500 people cross its border and Croatia 5,000 people cross its border everyday” read one Facebook post. They continued, “If you take the most northern country on that list and work backwards you can see the disparity in figures …” The further into Europe the refugees go, the more blockades and restrictions they find; the wealthy northern countries seemingly cutting the poorer nations short. “This is a case of the rich European nations playing politics and asking people further down the line to deal with the issue.” - states the group.
One perpetuating argument against helping the refugees, is that some of those travelling the length of Europe, from the Middle East, to find refuge are not refugees at all, but ‘economic migrants’. This argument seems to be plain racism, masked as economic stupidity. Under a capitalist system of free trade, anyone from anywhere is entitled to better themselves economically; competition it is the very thing that drives capitalism. For someone to be classified an ‘economic migrant’, is merely to say a person is traveling to where all the money is, in order to better themselves and their family. If the world’s wealth was distributed evenly from country to country, people would not seek to travel great distances to northern Europe to better themselves. Thus, not only do ‘economic migrants’ have a legitimate right to better themselves wherever the money is, they are also the driving factor behind what makes capitalism possible.
With all economics aside, this is a story of human suffering and the ability of prosperous Europe to help those in need. ‘Somewhere Out There’ has an important role to play in showing the true human aspect of what is too often politicised by European leaders and the media outlets whose mandate is not to inform but to create opinions, dehumanising the situation in the process. “All of us want the stories of the refugees to be told to the world in their own voices…” stated Natty Speaks, a musician and member of ‘Somewhere Out There’, when I spoke to him recently. “It's the refugees who have sacrificed everything in order to escape war, torture and hardship” he continued.
Empathy and compassion are exclusively human traits; the ability to imagine how others feel is what sets us apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. So what is left once we choose to abandon empathy and compassion, or decide on their value in monetary terms? We are left with humans being treated as monetary commodities and their lives being seen in profitable or non-profitable terms. This is in no way to suggest the answer to this ongoing problem is an easy one, but ‘Somewhere Out There’ are a group of people helping us understand the situation first-hand. Media and political opinion are things which are too often misaligned with reality, and ‘Somewhere Out There’ go to great distances to provide the world with some truth.
You can find the experiences of ‘Somewhere Out There’ on their Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/somewhereoutthere.eu/?ref=ts&fref=ts
And their Instagram – https://instagram.com/swotdoc