The BBC’s three part series Exodus: Our Journey To Europe offer an extremely personal insight into journeys in dinghies from Turkey to Greece, in lorries entering the Eurostar, and trucks crossing the Sahara. As mentioned in a previous post, the producers describe it as “a terrifyingly intimate yet uniquely epic portrait of what has become the biggest story of the decade”.
The first episode begins with the statement:
“This is the story of the migrant crisis, told by the people who risked everything for the dream of a better life in Europe.”
People’s need to flee Syria is underlined by a sequence filmed in a taxi as a young man is driven out of Aleppo. A bullet hole appears in the window screen in front of him, prompting a quip about the accuracy of the sniper.
Interviews with in Turkey and Greece were intercut with footage filmed by the refugees themselves on camera phones during their often perilous passages. Two startling costs appear in on-screen captions during the first episode which tells the story of individuals and families weighing up the risks and making the journey from Turkey to Greece.
Tarek paid a smuggler €12,000 for 8 adults and 8 children to travel by dinghy … If they were allowed to take the ferry it would cost €22 each.
Audiences see and hear panic setting into an overloaded boat as the water level inside the vessel rises to 12 inches in the choppy offshore waters. Rescued by the Turkish coast guards – as they hadn’t quite made it into Greek waters – the matter-of-fact conclusion is that no one drowned and no one died. After they were fed and their details taken, the refugees were released “back to square one” in Turkey.
They made it to Greece a few days later, though the passengers lost all their luggage in the journey and were left with only the clothes they were wearing and belongings they carried around their necks. Then it was a ten day wait for papers to allow them to catch a conventional ferry from the island to the Greek mainland. The contrast in speed, size and safety was obvious.
The welcome in Greece often underwhelmed the arriving refugees.
“When we landed in Greece expectations didn’t align with reality. In my mind I thought it was going to be this organised structure where there are NGOs, volunteers, people halting out but it was very chaotic. … I was shocked because I though ‘this is Europe’, thought it was going to be different.”
The three part series is being repeated on late night BBC Two on Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 August and again very late night on Tuesday 26, Wednesday 27 and Thursday 28. The series is also available to watch again on iPlayer in the UK.