ALM: Please, introduce yourself to my followers
CR: My name is Corinna and I am a 32 year old anthropologist from Freiburg, Germany. After graduating I worked as a project manager of development projects mainly funded by the EU or World-Bank. Then last year I decided to quit my job to put a long-standing idea into practice: to make a film about European border, migration and refugee policy.
ALM: Several weeks ago, you gave a presentation about your work – you are trying to make aware of the current refugee crisis. Please, tell me more about your work and your documentary Beyond Borders.
CR: Since 2015 the term ‘refugee crisis’ has become synonymous across the Northern hemisphere with the deluge of pictures of people wearing orange life jackets; their rubber boats, masses of people walking hundreds of miles and bodies of drowned people washing ashore. The ‘emergency situation’ has been widely broadcasted and was made publicly accessible. Newspapers, talk-shows, political speeches and documentary films have appeared showing many angles of the ‘crisis’. Confronted with the overwhelming magnitude of the hardship, a feeling of powerlessness has crept up on many Europeans and the political suggestion that the ‘crisis’ can only be averted, and lives can only be saved by “closing the border” has become what appears to be the only tenable resolution in many contexts.
Yet, if we look at the situation along the European external borders over the last decades it becomes apparent that the public has a short memory span. These ‘crises’ have repeatedly emerged at different ‘hotspots’ (e.g. Canaries 2006 or Lampedusa 2011/13) since the Schengen agreement in the 90s. It was then that first migrant boats appeared, and the first migrant lives were lost. Despite massive EU investment in border control and surveillance1, people have continuously arrived on the continent in increasingly dire circumstances: The EU’s approach is evidently failing.
As opposed to the many documentaries on border control and externalisation already in existence, our film will stand out by not focussing on a singular ’spectacular‘ crisis at one current EU-border ‘hotspot’ but rather examines the underlying causes of the many humanitarian crises that have evolved at the ‘hotspots’.
This enables us to look beyond the geography and beyond only problematising the suffering and deaths. The film evolves around the question: If the approach of increasing border control has been failing, what humane alternatives could be implemented instead? The film primarily focusses on the journey of the two young filmmakers, who set out to find answers to that question. What role does development aid play in this? Which legal pathways should or already do exist? And what can ‘we’, the people in Europe, do to ease the situation along ‘our’ borders and beyond?
We will visit projects and organisations that work on answering these questions; they speak to scientists and experts from Africa, Europe and the Middle-East, they visit border ‘hotspots’, and most importantly hear alternative ideas from people most affected by the EU policies – migrants and refugees themselves.
ALM: What was the reason for you to start this kind of work and project?
CR: It all started in 2011 when I was conducting research in the border area between Arizona, USA and Nogales, Mexico. During this time, I learnt a lot about the global connections of migration: About the underlying economic dynamics between low-income and high-income countries, and its consequences for small farmers – in this case – in Mexico; about the power of security companies lobbying in the field of border enforcement; about the fact that goods I consume come from companies that make people work in unworthy conditions; about the circumstance that the bank that stores and manages my money, has shares in security companies that earn billions with border security and deportation.
Ever since that experience I knew that I will have to dedicate my life to the subject of borders, refugees and migration. Already then, I knew that at one point in my life I want to bring all this rich knowledge that exists in social science about borders and migration into the format of a film.
ALM: What is the purpose of what you are doing? What do you want to achieve?
CR: The film Beyond Borders Documentary will provide the (mainly European) audience with arguments that lead away from the common standpoint “We cannot let them all in”. It will empower the viewers to enrich the public discourse and to put pressure on politics, in order to argue for a more compassionate and humanitarian response.
ALM: Did you have any situation which touched you the most during your work?
CR: There were many moments that touched me deeply during our research trip for the film project. From June to September 2017 Dschafar and I already conducted a three-phased research trip to several (former) border ‘crisis’ hotspots to simply listen and talk to people affected, NGOs and scientists to get a first feel for the situation. We participated on a two-week rescue mission off the Libyan coast in the small and rusty GDR-fishing cutter ‘Seefuchs’ from the NGO Sea-Eye. We spend another week in Malta to talk to more NGOs and experts. In August we spent three weeks in Northern Morocco and spent time with Philip Zulu from Sierra Leone who showed us around and introduced us to his thoughts and friends. Here we also had the honour of talking to the archbishop of Tangier who is very active in supporting migrants. This was followed by one week in Ceuta, the Spanish enclave on the African continent. In Ceuta we met with two grassroot NGOs. In September we took the car and drove down the so-called West-Balkan route for 2.5 weeks and made stops at the border between Croatia and Serbia, Belgrade, Northern Greece and Chios island. We met refugees and migrants and visited several NGOs in Serbia and Greece.
What stuck to me most is the many people you meet who are somehow influenced by the restrictive border regime of the EU. In many cases we listened to life stories that are hard to comprehend, if you have been growing up in Germany. You listen and try to comprehend the story the person is telling you that let him or her leave his/her home. You feel devastated and powerless… and then you take your German passport and leave. Leaving the person behind, because he or she has not been lucky enough to be born on German soil.
ALM: What would you like to say to people who are against accommodation of refugees/ What did you learn for your personal life, since you have been doing this work/ What do you think should change, in order to live in a better place?
- CR: Stay informed and consult sources that are trustworthy.
- Realize that much that we do – living and consuming in the Global North – has an influence on people’s life in other countries.
- Listened to the people most affected by the deadly border and migration policy, and realize we are all just human beings with flaws and positive attributes.
ALM: Where can my followers find your documentary “Beyond Borders”?
CR: We are still working on it and are currently still in pre-production phase. You can see the trailer from the research trip here: www.startnext.com/en/beyond-borders-documentary
ALM: If you had 3 wishes free, what would that be?
- CR: A world, where everyone has the chance to live in peace
- A world, where everyone has the chance to have perspective in life
- A world, in which everyone realizes that we are all equals
1The border security market, valued at more than 16 billion euros in 2017 and estimated to grow 8 percent annually in coming years.
thank you so much for giving me such an informative interview. You are doing an incredible work and it was a pleasure for me. Thank your for accepting my interview request. You are paving the way for a better understanding of the current refugee crisis. Thanks and all the best.