Refugees

Exodus Delves into the Horrible Life of Refugees

Survival above all things.

|

'Frontline: Exodus'
'Frontline: Exodus'

Frontline: Exodus. PBS. Tuesday, December 27, 9 p.m.

Meet Isra'a, whose young life as a connoisseur of fine toys was rudely interrupted by a missile that obliterated the fine Syrian home of her merchant father. Now she's a canny street kid in the Turkish harbor town of Izmir, where her expertise includes one of the world's oddest niche markets—an open-air plaza where refugee families like hers can purchase all the appurtenances of illicit sea travel.

Over there, she gestures, are the dealers in "rubber rings"—inner tubes, which are used as life preservers by upscale refugees and as vehicles by those whose hopes are bigger than their wallets. The rubber-ring trade is only for the hardiest of entrepreneurs, Isra'a observes, since cops periodically sweep through and confiscate their stocks in hopes of discouraging refugee traffic. (Isra'a, though only 10 or 12, knows a good bit about the police; she laughs as other kids admiringly describe how she shouted at them to run when cops recently grabbed her and slapped her around.)

Less noticeable and therefore less risky, she advises, is the trade in small plastic bags that close with drawstrings: a waterproof carrying case for the cell phones that even the poorest emigres carry to map their trips and call for help in case of sinking, abduction or the other routine imperilments of refugee life. "If, God forbid, the dinghy sinks," Isra'a explains, "the phone will be safe." About the fate of the people carrying the phone, she is silent.

Isra'a one of a dozen or so refugees whose journeys are chronicled in Exodus, a sweeping yet intimate episode of the PBS documentary series Frontline. From passengers frantically bailing water out of a floundering boat in the Mediterranean to a riot inside the notorious Calais camp known as "The Jungle," footage shot by the refugees themselves with smartphone cameras turns Exodus into something more like a diary than a documentary.

Their message is that they are not so different than the rest of us would be if confronted with their dire circumstances. "Anyone can be a refugee," muses Ahmad, a young Syrian man who spent months slipping across borders in the Middle East and Europe in order to reach England after ISIS took over his village. "It's not something you choose. It's something that happens to you."

The refugees are among more than a million who smuggled themselves into Europe from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East during 2015. The flow is even heavier this year as Syria disintegrates into total chaos, from which most of the refugees in Exodus are bolting. ("A country that's thousands of years old was destroyed in a minute," mourns one.)

But as a young man named Sadiq, fleeing a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan, reminds us, the ceaseless wars of the 21st century have left behind many burned-out hellholes in which the only reasonable alternative is escape. "I'm sure if they had the money, nobody would remain in Afghanistan," says Sadiq as he makes his way toward his personal vision of Utopia, Finland. "Afghanistan would be empty."

How unlivable these ruined countries are is underlined again and again by the fact that not a single of the refugees profiled in Exodus ever turned back, despite enduring kidnappings, beatings, thefts, hunger, and extortions. When their fellow man wasn't using them as a punching bag, the Earth itself took over: treacherous seas, scorching deserts, sucking mud flats.

But don't be misled; this is no tale of indefatigable pluckiness. Even the success stories among the refugees are half-mad before their travel ends. "I survived ISIS, I survived beheadings, I survived Assad," declares one Syrian refugee, nearing hysteria after yet another of his attempts to conclude his journey by crossing the English Channel falls to pieces. "I survived shellings, I survived the sea, I survived everything." To wind up in a squalid French refugee camp, it appears.

Exodus is chock-a-block with harrowing scenes: Sixty people, jammed into a boat generously estimated to have a capacity of 30, trying to save themselves by bailing water with plastic soda bottles. Three Syrian men who've slipped into a parked French cargo truck, assuming it will be loaded onto a ferry for Great Britain, find themselves locked inside it for three days without moving. Or the wrenching despair of a Gambian family as they get a telephoned ransom demand for a son snatched off the street while awaiting passage from Libya to Italy. "Government forces, militias, who knows?" says an uncle in a crushed monotone. "What does it matter?"

Even so, the documentary may be at its best as it explores the peculiar little community that has grown up among refugees. On Facebook pages, they exchange travel tips—everything from the going rate on a fake Czech passport in France ($4,300, and a free plane ticket to England as a bonus if you act now!) to the most reliable no-questions-asked boat dealers in Turkey. In staging areas, they forge friendships so profound that a family that makes a breakthrough on travel arrangements may even offer to take along children of those still waiting.

Striving to humanize its subjects rather than assess blame, Exodus has next to nothing in the way of political content. About the closest it comes is one refugee's urging others to "put religion aside, humanity is more important." Yet it's precisely the failure of some refugees to do that which has clouded the issue of their status in Europe.

Whether they're under the command and control of ISIS or simply draw on it as an inspiration, there's no question that some have revealed terrorist suicide vests under refugee sheep's clothing once reaching their destination. And glib talk of the statistical insignificance of the numbers of terrorists among the refugees will be of scant comfort to the families of those who died in the Berlin Christmas market earlier this week. The failure to confront the question of terrorism leaves a gaping hole in Exodus.

Even so, it's nice to have a reminder, amid all the tough talk about big beautiful walls these days, that refugees are not numbers or political symbols but real human beings facing crushing losses. Even the exuberant little Isra'a starts to crack long before her family reaches its destination of Germany. When the family stops to rest after an endless trek along a frozen, muddy, Serbian road following a bus breakdown, her father asks, "How are you now? Better?" Tears trickle, lips tremble, but words don't come.

Advertisement

NEXT: 'The Surprisingly Weak Reasoning of Mohamud'

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Are they going to give a cost accounting of what all these refugees cost the taxpayers of America and Europe?

    Will this include how much money the various ‘charities” and “NGO’s” make off this traffic in humans?

    Is this program about refugees going expose how many of them are not refugees at all?

    Or how many of the ‘children” are not children

    But I suspect it will be one hour of brave tears and noble ideas.

    1. You’re a child until you’re 27.

  2. Tom Petty already did that

  3. The failure to confront the question of terrorism leaves a gaping hole in Exodus.

    Because any talk of it would trump the humanitarian impulse of the viewer. One bomber, mass shooter or rampaging truck driver is a betrayal of trust applied to the entire group. They’re in a bad situation not individually of their own making, but collectively so. The lesson, which doesn’t help here, is never let your community get to this point.

    1. One bomber, mass shooter or rampaging truck driver is a betrayal of trust applied to the entire group.

      If only it were one bomber, one mass shooter and one rampaging truck. But it’s a whole hell of a lot more and the common thread is Islam. Muslims categorically, as it happens, the practitioners of Islam.

    2. Well, one could take measures about terrorism that would mitigate this problem.

      A consistent policy of holding countries accountable for the nutjobs they harbor might bear fruit in as little as twenty years, which isn’t all that long considering how long this mess has been going on for. Of course the repressive measures States like Egypt would have to adopt would wipe out decades of social ‘progress’, but since that progress is almost exclusively in the delusional minds of the Progressive Left that might be a very good thing

      Or we could conquer the entire area amd administer the resulting client states in the manner of 19th century colonial powers. Also,a,step back, but it frankly doesn’t take too many decades of post-colonial kleptocracy, famine, murder, and war to make colonial paternalism look pretty good.

      Pity nobody really wants to do anything that might WORK.

  4. Striving to humanize its subjects rather than assess blame, Exodus has next to nothing in the way of political content. About the closest it comes is one refugee’s urging others to “put religion aside, humanity is more important.” Yet it’s precisely the failure of some refugees to do that which has clouded the issue of their status in Europe.

    Hmmm….does the show at least discuss Muslim refugees attacking the Christian refugees? Or is that also too dehumanizing? Maybe it’s disgusting to bring up, as PM Zoolander would put it.

      1. Xenophobe!

        1. Evil Christians and Jews and other non-muslims have been oppressing Muslims ever since Muhammad appeared and conquered all the non-believers and brought truth to the unwashed.

  5. I’m definitely on the permissive side of the overall debate, but refugees, by their nature, are going to have the hardest time integrating in the host society (they are not prepared, not moving because of mutually beneficial arrangements that await them, and come in waves), and Europe is a profoundly dysfunctional society for new arrivals and the poor (high unemployment rates and generous welfare are a toxic combination).

    And so they’ll probably be stuck in a cycle:

    1. Let refugees in because not doing so will seem to horrible to consider.
    2. Deal with the consequences (which will be worse than letting in an equivalent number of regular immigrants over a longer time period).
    3. Cut overall immigration for everyone else in response to the issues that arise.
    4. Wait a few years.
    5. Go back to step one.

    1. Europe is a profoundly dysfunctional society

      That isn’t what the guys who live in the student’s center, covered in tattoos and tie-dye, told me. They have been in college longer than anybody I’ve ever met anywhere else outside of the DC beltway.

  6. The United States has no responsibility to take in any refugees. But we really should stop appointing idiots like Hillary Clinton to Secretary of State, that might help matters, maybe there will be less refugees.

    1. Of course we do. Because we stole all their stuff and enslaved their greatest and brightest.

      1. That was mostly Europeans, not Americans.

  7. ME Christians and Zoroastrians have been refugees for decades and we heard very nearly nothing about it. Why haven’t we been taking them in? The people who turned them into refugees become refugees themselves and all of a sudden we have a moral obligation?

    Bullshit. The answer is no.

    1. Because a vicious dictatorship in Iran didn’t protect Zoroastrians, we shouldn’t help Syrian refugees?

      I don’t follow that.

      I don’t think we should use vicious dictatorships in the Middle East and elsewhere as a moral guide for what we should do either.

      Your complaint isn’t even with the refugees–it’s with some foreign government. The refugees had no control over the policies of their dictators, and third party dictators couldn’t care less how we treat Syrian refugees.

      The question for me is all about costs and benefits and American security.

      It isn’t about leaving refugees to rot as a means to strike back at third party Middle Eastern governments that don’t give a shit anyway. Do you imagine that I owe some minorities something because my Southern ancestors were racists, too?

      The people you’re mad at aren’t the refugees. There are reason to leave them to suffer, but to strike back at them for something they had nothing to do with isn’t one of them.

      It’s pythonesque. We’ll keep beating up the refugees until the vicious dictators finally start caring about people?

  8. “Refugee” begs the question. The refugee resettlement scam has been exposed as a scam. Get with the times, Reason.

  9. “Striving to humanize its subjects rather than assess blame, Exodus has next to nothing in the way of political content.”

    Okay.

    “Glib talk of the statistical insignificance of the numbers of terrorists among the refugees will be of scant comfort to the families of those who died in the Berlin Christmas market earlier this week. The failure to confront the question of terrorism leaves a gaping hole in Exodus.”

    That doesn’t sound like the first sentence.

    Any discussion of refugees must turn to what to do with them.

    There are no easy answers.

    I’ll call an ambulance for somebody I find bleeding to death in the street–regardless of whether he has the money for the ambulance. The difference is that random strangers lying in the street outside my house aren’t coming by the thousands from a hotbed of anti-American terrorism and just because I call him an ambulance doesn’t mean I have to take him home and take care of him for the rest of his life.

    I think we should do something to help them. I don’t think that necessarily includes bringing them here to the United States.

    Speaking of sins of omission, has there been a big celebrity push to do something for these people by way of private charity, etc.? No Live Aid for the refugees?

    I wonder why no one has come forward.

  10. WHYCOME AINT TREASON SAYIN NOTHIN BOUT NO RAPE HUH

    1. Rape Day isn’t for another week.

    2. “Those bitches in Cologne were asking for it” -rape apologist Warty.

    3. Buy a boy Thursday?

    4. Christians are the only raperists !!!

  11. “Amri’s case has been especially embarrassing for the authorities. After serving nearly four years for arson in an Italian prison, he came to Germany in summer 2015.

    Soon after he arrived, investigators noticed he was making contact with known Islamist radicals. He appeared to research how to build a pipe bomb online and seemed interested in obtaining automatic weapons through a contact in Paris, a Berlin government official, Torsten Akmann, said Friday.

    But none of the clues were solid enough to stand up in court, officials say. Berlin prosecutors stopped monitoring him in September. By early December, he had slipped the gaze of German intelligence officials still trying to keep tabs on him.

    On Monday, authorities say, he rammed a stolen truck into the crowded Christmas market, killing 12 people.

    http://www.wsj.com/articles/be…..1482487426

    —-Wall Street Journal

    The article says that the Tunisian government is refusing to take rejected asylum seekers back.

    THAT is an excellent reason not to accept any asylum seekers from Tunisia.

    1. Europe may be libertopia. The Tunisian truck terror stylist was able to go from Germany to France, then on to Milan… with no id.

    2. Perhaps the best reason to refuse asylum seekers from Tunisia is that at the moment Tunisia is a rather stable and safe country for the region. The Tunisian Code of Personal Status is the most progressive in that region — admittedly a low bar — and the Parliament is about a quarter to half women. There shouldn’t be any refugees from there.

      1. The doc was ample evidence that the law won’t prevent them from coming over. The mechanisms of the asylum process and subsequent appeals can take years before they’re even finally turned away.

  12. Arabs are savages. The more they die the better off the world will be. And the evil Commies at PBS should stop comparing murderous Arabs to murdered Jews with the title of their trash “cockumentary,”: “Exodus.” What is with you rhomites? Are your minds so destroyed by drugs that your are both antisemitic and pro Islamic terror? Is wallowing in evil that much? You’re closer to Nazis than the spirit of America.

    “There’s no need to fear. Underzog is here”!

  13. Striving to humanize its subjects rather than assess blame, Exodus has next to nothing in the way of political content.

    Actually, I think trying to manipulate the viewer’s emotions is quite “political”.

  14. I’m using it now and it’s awesome! I’ve signed up for my account and have been bringing in fat paychecks. For real, my first week I made $305 and the second week I doubled it and then it kinda snowballed to $122 a day.M$2……

    ————– http://bit.do/bestweb-GetPayUsd-Hour

  15. my friend’s sister makes $79 /hour on the laptop . She has been out of a job for 10 months but last month her payment was $19847 just working on the laptop for a few hours…

    +_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+ http://www.homejobs7.com

  16. upto I looked at the paycheck saying $9861 , I accept that my father in law was like they say trully bringing in money in their spare time online. . there best friend haz done this less than 8 months and a short time ago repayed the dept on there appartment and bourt a great Citro?n 2CV . see at this site

    ????????> http://www.homejobs7.com

  17. Facebook gives you a great opportunity to earn 98652$ at your home.If you are some intelligent you makemany more Dollars.I am also earning many more, my relatives wondered to see how i settle my Life in few days thank GOD to you for this…You can also make cash i never tell alie you should check this I am sure you shocked to see this amazing offer…I’m Loving it!!!!
    =====================> http://www.homejobs7.com

  18. Facebook gives you a great opportunity to earn 98652$ at your home.If you are some intelligent you makemany more Dollars.I am also earning many more, my relatives wondered to see how i settle my Life in few days thank GOD to you for this…You can also make cash i never tell alie you should check this I am sure you shocked to see this amazing offer…I’m Loving it!!!!
    ????????> http://www.homejobs7.com

  19. It was a good doc, but I felt little sympathy for the Gambian kid or his pushy mother, migrating purely for economic reasons instead of war and death.

    And that Sadiq guy! He’d never even seen a picture of Finland, he just pulled the name out of a hat. His asylum was denied. 🙁 Don’t worry bro, Sweden will take you.

  20. HAPPY NEW YEARS

    I can see what your saying… Raymond `s article is surprising, last week I bought a top of the range Acura from making $4608 this-past/month and-a little over, $10,000 this past month . with-out any question its the easiest work I’ve ever had . I began this five months/ago and almost straight away startad bringin in minimum $82 per-hr

    +_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+ http://www.homejobs7.com

  21. HAPPY NEW YEARS

    upto I looked at the paycheck saying $9861 , I accept that my father in law was like they say trully bringing in money in their spare time online. . there best friend haz done this less than 8 months and a short time ago repayed the dept on there appartment and bourt a great Citro?n 2CV . see at this site

    +_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+ http://www.homejobs7.com

  22. Facebook gives you a great opportunity to earn 98652$ at your home.If you are some intelligent you makemany more Dollars.I am also earning many more, my relatives wondered to see how i settle my Life in few days thank GOD to you for this…You can also make cash i never tell alie you should check this I am sure you shocked to see this amazing offer…I’m Loving it!!!!
    ????????> http://www.homejobs7.com

  23. Aaliyah. I see what you mean… Edwin`s artlclee is unimaginable, on friday I bought themselves a Cadillac after making $5642 this past five weeks and-more than, 10/k lass month. this is definitely the best-job Ive ever done. I began this six months/ago and pretty much straight away was earning at least $75, per-hr. Learn More Here

    _+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+ http://www.homejobs7.com

  24. I basically profitcloseto $6k-$8k every month doing an online job. For those of you who arepreparedto do easy at home jobs for 2h-5h each day at your house and earnvaluablepaycheck while doing it…

    +_+_+_+_+_+_+_+_+ http://www.homejobs7.com

  25. My best uncal ex-wife makes Bucks75/hr on the laptop. She has been unemployed for eight months but last month her income with big fat bonus was over Bucks9000 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this site…..
    =============== http://www.homejobs7.com

  26. rooftop

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.