Wednesday , June 20 2018
Home / Documentaries / Living With Illegals

Living With Illegals

This documentary is filmed at a time when the UK has announced the biggest shakeup of immigration policies in the last 40 years. These are aimed at stopping the flow of unskilled migrants into the EU. But for several illegal migrants from Africa, this will not make a difference. They will attempt to cross the fence around Ceuta, Spain, a piece of Europe in Africa. In the last September over 1000 made this attempt. It’s a dangerous journey, many have died. Britain and the EU make every effort to keep them out but every year thousands of Africans dare to cross all the same. Sorious Samura, the narrator of this documentary will join some 8 immigrants living in the Moroccan forest as they attempt to cross into Spain. Together with the immigrants he will attempt to smuggle himself into the UK.
Samura arrives in the forest in the dark of the night and meets his contact Austin and several others who will attempt to cross. Evidently from the documentary, the guys are so scared. Samura tries to film although it’s very dangerous; they could be noticed. These guys called the camarades live deep in the forest 2km from the strait of Gibraltar. The eight Nigerians allowed Samura to spend the night at their camp. Kizito a Philosophy graduate tells this documentary he has been living in this forest for 5 years. After graduating in 1998, he could not get a job for 3 years. He decided to try his luck in Britain so he started the journey. He says he will be happy even to wash the train-trucks or toilets in the UK as long as it pays him enough.
These 8 are just part of the thousands hiding in this forest. They will attempt to cross into Ceuta, a Spanish enclave in Africa. The area is highly militarized. The wall on Ceuta-Moroccan border is 8 km long and 6 m high. Atop of it is a razor wire. All these are designed to keep the Africans out. Theo is a business graduate. He left home after his 5 brothers died of hunger. He tells this documentary he is fleeing hunger, disease and poverty and believes he will find better life in Europe. They build their tents as close to the border-fence as possible. There is no safety guaranteed. Anytime police can walk in and destroy their houses and arrest them. If arrested they would be deported to the Algerian border and that would mean another 2-week trek to the forest to start all over. When their dog barks they all hurdle together and listen up. This is a signal that the police are around. As we see in the documentary they sit and wait in silence until it is all clear. After 2 hours with no movement they must move deeper into the forest. This is what life is like for the camarades.
Christmas is an especially difficult time for those in the journey. Samura who has only been in the forest 5 days is missing his children terribly. The camarades gather and say a prayer. They have nothing to celebrate for Christmas but they thank God for life. They hope their families are having a better Christmas at home. Austin has not seen his twin daughters in 3 years. As we can see in the documentary he is overcome by emotions. Only heaven knows the pain he is going though. But for Africans the message from the EU is clear there is no room for them on the other end.
It’s 28th December 2007. Theo and Gus are going to attempt to cross into Ceuta. Initially immigrants would climb the border fence, but increased military presence here has forced them to change tact. Theo and Gus will swim over an hour into Ceuta. Theo displays his swimming jacket to this documentary. Both of them have paid a Moroccan contact for the wet suit. He will also help to guide them avoid the authorities. Many have died trying this and in the last 6 months no one has made it across. But the risk of death will not hold them from crossing. Samura will not swim with them. He will meet them on the other side of the beach. The crew will be waiting for them on the other side but so will be Spanish Guardia Civil. As we can see in the documentary one of the camarades makes it across the sea. Theo has made it into Ceuta. It’s time now for Samura to leave the camarades. He has lived with them as an illegal immigrant for 10 days. As he bids them bye in this documentary he can’t help but wonder why these people have to live in such dreadful conditions when all they ever dream of is a menial job in the EU.
As Samura informs this documentary, Ceuta has a population of 76000. The wall around it was built only 6 years ago to stem the immigration of Africans. This is because once they cross into Ceuta they are subject to the EU immigration policies. Samura finally meets Theo as we can see in the documentary. Like many Africans who make it here he has been taken to the government’s holding center. Most of them lie about their nationalities choosing to say they come from war-tone countries in the hope of getting asylum into Europe. The process can take 2-3 months. In the meantime Theo’s main aim is to find a job. Kennedy his new found friend says they can make some money by showing motorists into free parking lots in town. But even here it’s desperate and they leave empty handed. Despite being one of the lucky few, Theo will take several months before getting to mainland Spain. Kennedy shows Samura a derelict factory known as the Long House. The old ruins seen in this documentary is home to illegal immigrants on the run. They have to live here with no food or water and endure the impossible stench. Many Africans flee their homes in search of work in Europe but their journeys end here in the hellish limbo of the Spanish Long house.
It’s 3rd January 2006. Samura is leaving for mainland Spain by ferry. Since most immigrants lie about their nationalities the Spanish authorities are never sure where to deport them. So after 2 months they are given ferry tickets to the mainland. One they get here they are free to disappear into Europe. Samura unlike many illegal immigrants has 10 euros. But even this is too little. As we can see in the documentary he has to beg for food. After 2 hours begging on the street to no avail, Tommy an African came to his rescue. He took Samura to the African stall owners in a nearby market. They know all too well the amount of trouble one goes through to get to mainland Spain. They are filmed in the documentary making contributions to help Samura. He now has enough money to travel to Barcelona and immediately sets off for the journey. Here he has been given the contacts of Tony who will help smuggle him into France. Barcelona is one of the main staging posts for illegal immigrants on their way to UK. Samura knows now what to do when you arrive in a strange city. As we can see in the documentary he approaches the first black man he sees. He asks him if there is anywhere he can sleep. The man tells Samura he can spend his night at a bank. The first one he goes to is already full of immigrants. After trying 3 banks Samura finds a place he can sleep.
The next day Samura meets with Tony. It will take him a few days to arrange how to smuggle Samura into France. In the meantime he shows Samura how to make some money. Many illegal immigrants buy cheap products from the market which they sell to tourists for a small profit. As we can see Samura tries to sell batteries in La Rambla but to no success. Moments later he returns with flowers. With these he is a bit lucky but he earns only 2 euros. He posits in this documentary that it must take illegal immigrants months to get enough money to move on.
Tony introduces Samura to Innocent a Nigerian smuggler. He will take Samura and Peter through the border tonight. Innocent tells Samura in the documentary that the journey into France will take about 2 hours (in the unlikely event that they are not caught by police) and will cost him 700 euros. The crew agrees to pay. If Samura was any ordinary immigrant he would have to beg in the street for that money or make it selling flowers. Peter also came in through Morocco. It has taken him 3 years to get this far. Tony hands them over to Joseph, his driver. As filmed in the documentary they cross the border and arrive in Perpigna with ease. However there is a problem. Peter says Innocent had promised him that Samura would help him get to London. Samura now finds himself caught up in this man eat man web where Africans sell out fellow Africans. After a heated exchange with the driver he leaves. He realizes he has to be more careful.
Samura now has to go to Calais-the final staging post for the UK. As filmed in this documentary he spends another night in the cold, surrounded by the stench of urine. He does not have money but is determined to get on the train to Calais. As we can see in the documentary he hides in the toilet and waits for the train to start. As expected many people attempt to open the door in order to use the toilet but Samura does not open. After several hours of hiding the attendant finds him. The documentary crew is forced to buy him a ticket for the rest of the journey.
On arrival in Calais, Samura meets other illegal immigrants who show him into their encampment. It’s a short distance from the train station in the woods. Arik-a young Sudanese welcomes Samura to his tent. As is evident in this documentary they are living in inhuman conditions. Home to over 400 the woods house immigrant of several African nationalities including Iraqis, Afghanis and Kurds. Like many immigrants the conditions here are taking an emotional toll on Arik. He shares his frustrations with this documentary. He has not had a shower in 17 days, has no food and sleeps in the cold. After fleeing war in Darfur he is now faced with death not by the gun but by starvation.
The Calais camarades rely on food donations from Christian Charities at a nearby distribution point. The police are constantly harassing them and Samura has to be careful filming. As we can see in the documentary the immigrants have to scramble for the little food. It’s totally humiliating. All these illegal immigrants are headed for the UK which has an almost mythical significance among immigrants. They also believe they are treated better by authorities there.
Arik believes there are better jobs for him in the UK. The water channel is too dangerous to cross; so they will attempt to hide in trucks bound for the UK. The port in Calais is heavily guarded and has multiple security cameras. But all illegal immigrants know the blind spots. Samura, Arik and others jump over into the port. Once inside as we can see in the documentary they have to wait in silence. They can only hope they will make it without the trucks being checked at the 3 custom points ahead. After 8 hours police arrive and smoke them out. Samura identifies himself as a journalist and is released. He returns to the woods. It’s a lottery as to what happens when one is caught. Sometimes they are released; other times they are deported and sometimes they are driven to the German border and told to go away. From this documentary it appears there was a police raid on the woods. Arik is not here. Samura tries to find him at the food distribution center to no avail.
Among the immigrants of Calais are Kurds. They know the port all too well and make money by smuggling people in through the trucks (never mind that are immigrants too). Samura has to pay 500 Euros an amount that is close to impossible for immigrants to raise. As we can hear in the documentary the Kurdish smugglers starts a lament which brings over 30 immigrants out from the woods. From this holding center he will attempt to smuggle them into Britain. Samura is led to a truck. The Kurds break into the back while the driver is asleep. Samura finds a place to sit. 5 hours later he has not moved an inch. His back and legs ache and he is freezing cold. After 8 hours the lorry makes it through customs unchecked. But as we can see in the documentary, somewhere near Northampton the lorry stops at a warehouse and Samura is caught. The police arrive and he identifies himself as a journalist and is released. If he were any illegal immigrant he would be held till immigration officials arrive. He would then be deported and would have to start the journey all over again.
The same night Samura got a call from Arik. He arrived safe in Manchester and has been sleeping rough here. Samura is glad to meet him. Arik tells Samura in this documentary how he got this far. He hung at the bottom of a truck in motion for 7 hours. Samura cannot believe it. But only a month later Arik calls Samura again. He is being housed by the government in a small house in Wigan. He was given a small allowance for food. His asylum papers (seen in this documentary) have been rejected and he has been instructed to leave the country. He reveals to Samura that he has been deported twice before. He came via Libya and was smuggled in through Italy. In both countries he was jailed for being an illegal immigrant and has spent more than 6 months in jail. This time he is determined to remain even illegally if he has to. Arik tells Samura in this documentary that he has no choice. He cannot go back to war-tone Darfur.
As the documentary comes to a close Samura is convinced that illegal immigrants will continue to come to Britain and EU even if the sea was electrified. They make up part of the UK workforce doing the menial jobs that no one else would want to do. But the EU has chosen to lock them out. Instead they encourage skilled labor from Africa; contributing to the brain drain. But it is these poor immigrants that need the jobs more than anyone else. Surely there must be a better way of dealing with them than this.

Leave a Reply