CNN doc examines the plight of illegal immigrants

MUMBAI: News channel CNN will air the documentary Living With Illegals on 5 August at 11:30 am, 7:30 pm, 6 August at 11:30 am and on 8 August at 7:30 pm.

In this documentary, award-winning journalist Sorious Samura spends a month living the life of an illegal immigrant, travelling over 1000 miles in the process and experiencing the same gruelling hardship as his undocumented companions. His journey is epic as he travels from Morocco through Spain and France, finally making it across the English Channel to Britain.

Samura begins in Northern Morocco, where hundreds of illegal immigrants live in forests waiting for their chance to break into the enclave of Ceuta, a Spanish enclave at the very tip of Africa. For them, Europe means work – as one says, “I am ready to do any kind of job. If I have to I’ll wash the toilets, bathrooms or train stations I’ll be very happy. Forget I am a graduate.”

All that separates these people from Ceuta and Europe is an 8km long, 6m high fence, around which they camp. Huddled together in cold, flimsy tents and hounded by daily police raids, the immigrants struggle to survive with no food, money or peace of mind. Yet, their dedication to reach the promised land is unyielding.

Samura meets Gus and Theo, two immigrants who have decided to swim around the fence and thus into Europe, an extremely dangerous method of entry which many have paid for with their lives. The next day, news arrives that only one made it to the other side. Samura leaves the Moroccan forest for Ceuta and soon discovers a derelict factory known as the ‘Longhouse’ where those on the run from immigration authorities live. The conditions are horrifying. For these people, the dream of Europe has already turned into a nightmare.

Samura travels through several cities in mainland Spain, where he begs, sleeps rough, performs odd jobs and learns inside tricks to survive as an immigrant. He encounters Thommy, a stranger of amazing generosity who helps him raise money to continue his journey. He also meets people who try to con him out of his earnings. The world of the newly arrived immigrant, Samura soon learns, has at least as many pitfalls as opportunities.

Through a “connection man”, Samura crosses the Spanish / French border and moves onwards by train to Calais, the hub for immigrants trying to enter the UK. Samura is surprised to find living conditions and scenes of desperation as bad as those in Morocco. Arick, a Sudanese immigrant, explains, “Every second, every minute I am trying to get to England. At least in London they treat you like a human being”. That night, Samura and Arick break into a lorry heading for the UK. Once inside they must stay completely still, but after an hour of waiting they are caught and arrested.

In the end, through circumstances, both Sorious and Arick do reach their final destination. It has been an incredible journey, but was all the suffering really worth it?

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