I have been back in the Netherlands for about two weeks now. Time to let some thoughts and emotions settle.
I've seen the darkness of enforced EU policy. And I've seen the light of incredible humans, fighters, activists, locals and refugees.
The last month on Lesvos was very intense. I was shooting more for the movie than before. Precious ties of friendship and trust made this possible and also all in all gave me more of a direction of what I am doing.
At the same time, the dilemma was approaching. I am going to leave this island. I am just going to hop on a boat. For the people stuck on Lesvos* often a far away dream. They keep on waiting. Often in vain. Getting depressed.
I was asked, and I also asked myself: „If people have so much time, waiting around, why don't they use it to do something useful for themselves , learn a language or read books?“. Well, some do. But the answer is that this is tremendously difficult with a life in such a limbo. First of all, it is not like you know beforehand what is going to happen. You have no timeline. Your life plan goes from week to week. If you have an official appointment for, say, your interview which means all to you, you go there, prepared and nervous and then you ever so often hear: no, not now, come again in a month. Next, you live in Moria camp. It’s a place that doesn't promote any kind of motivation for anything at all. You spend your day waiting in lines for food which is horrible. If you make proactive attempts to get out of the camp, this cage-like-barbed wire place, you have to have a strong stand. Because police is not happy to see refugees in the city. They stop you, they check you, and even if you have papers that proof that you are on Lesvos legally, you are often taken to the police station, where you spend hours, you have to undress, let them search you for drugs and you can be happy if you're not beaten up.
All of this wears you down incredibly. It demoralizes. It tells you: „you are not welcome here“. Or, what I heard very often: „they are treating us like animals“.
I have been thinking about that a lot, about this dehumanizing strategy. It is so crazy, how easily one group of humans establishes these kinds of borders. To divide between good and evil. And I have to say, camp Moria looks very scary. This big cage. And it makes you think „wow, dangerous people must be in there“. But no, it is humans like you and me, we are all born free and equal. They just were unlucky enough to be born in poverty, oppression, war, insecurity. To look for refuge, to look for a better life.
I keep on being deeply shocked about this. I grew up in Germany, where we made a big effort to digest and learn from the horrors of nationalism and racism, taking responsibility for what we can take responsibility for.
And today these kinds of camps exist on the edge of Europe that don’t even pretend to care for humanity. The EU-Turkey deal goes at the cost of countless humans. Detaining them in Lesvos and not letting them leave is a crime against human dignity, is a crime creating depressions and too much pain to bare.
Worn down. Lesvos is worn down. Too much pain, for too long, too much powerlessness for too long.
In the movie I am editing now, I will try to walk that fine line between the harsh reality and inspiring individuals, who do not give up, who fight like lions to preserve their dignity. I still believe that this is the way to go, that we shouldn't loose hope in humanity. But I als want to make very clear that what is happening on Lesvos is a crisis that comes from the abuse of power and control. Which makes it very hard for individuals not to drown there, if they have not already on their way their in the Agean sea.
*I should note that I use „Lesvos“ in a very generalized way. It is a big island and my experiences are centered around its capital Mytilini and camp Moria. Leaving this area, Lesvos is beautiful, with wild nature and friendly locals. Something that most people forced to live in the mass camp never will experience.
In two day, on Friday 14th of July, 20.15, my partner and I will give an info talk in the Klinker, Nijmegen. Welcome!