Late one night, I was flipping channels and came across a 2002 docudrama made by Michael Winterbottom called “In This World.”
The camera followed two Afghan brothers, Jamal and Enayatullah, on a harrowing journey from a Peshawar refugee camp through the Middle East and Europe. Because they were crossing borders illegally, the risks were enormous. They climbed snowy mountains without warm boots, were smuggled out in crowded trucks and shipped in stifling hot containers.
I won’t tell you how that particular journey ends – you will have to watch the movie.
But this morning, the French government dismantled “the Jungle,” a makeshift camp that housed men who had fled their homelands in search of prosperity in Europe. They were all illegal; most had been motivated to flee because of persecution. I would think that they ought to qualify for refugee status.
They go to Calais with hopes in their heart of one day crossing the English Channel into Britain, which for some reason has developed a reputation as a haven for illegal migrants.
On a clear day you can see the white cliffs of Dover from the French coast. The men from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Somalia and other troubled lands, cast their eyes across the 20-mile stretch of water, wondering if there is a future for them across the waves.
Just like the brothers in Winterbottom’s movie, they hope to be smuggled into England, perhaps hidden underneath a lorry crossing the water by ferry.
Illegal immigration has, of course, become a big problem in Europe. Hence, the crackdown. The French government has not yet said what will become of the migrants who were detained Tuesday. Humanitarian workers are pressing both Britain and France to take in those who are at great risk.
One Afghan man told CNN reporter Phil Black that the Taliban had accused him of being a spy. He feared for his life in Afghanistan and left his family behind to seek a safer prospect. Tuesday, the uncertainty in his life became greater. He only knew one thing for sure. He could not turn around and go back home.