“We Are Humans, Just Like Them”: A Refugee Reacts to Anti-Refugee Protesters

January 22, 2018
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by Patrice Taddonio Assistant Director of Audience Development

Back in Afghanistan, Sadiq worked as an electrician. He had what he describes as a good life.

But that all changed, Sadiq says, after he was targeted by the Taliban. So he embarked on a 45-day journey to Europe looking for freedom and a better life — something he thought he’d found when he arrived in Finland in 2015. “Here is freedom, freedom of everything,” he says. “I many times told my friends, look how European people are good and kind.”

But as FRONTLINE explores in the new documentary, Exodus: The Journey Continues, the Western countries that refugees and migrants fleeing violence, persecution and poverty once dreamed of reaching have changed.

Right-wing, nationalist parties have gained political footholds. Borders are tightening. And anti-immigrant sentiment is on the rise.

In the above scene from the film, it’s 2017, and Sadiq, who has been seeking asylum in Finland for two years, is growing desperate. His asylum application has twice been rejected, and if Finland’s supreme court refuses to hear his appeal, his lawyer says he could be forcibly deported back to Afghanistan — where continuing violence is having a devastating impact on civilians.

One evening, Sadiq encounters a group of protesters on the streets. He looks on quietly as they march.

“Finland First!,” they shout. “Out with the fake refugees! Close the borders! Make Finland safe!”

Afterwards, he speaks with his friend, also a refugee from Afghanistan.

“We are humans, just like them,” Sadiq says. “There is no difference.”

Reflecting on the protests, he says that “humanity is dead.”

“When I first arrived, I said that what I had learnt from Europe is that women and men are equal, there are human rights here, we are all humans,” he says. “But that’s not the case. They really don’t like people like you and me.”

To learn the outcome of Sadiq’s quest for asylum — and to explore the stories of other refugees fleeing violence, but facing rising anti-immigrant sentiment both in Europe and America — watch Exodus: The Journey Continues on Tuesday, Jan. 23 on PBS (check local listings) or online starting at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST.

It’s a sequel to FRONTLINE’s acclaimed 2016 documentary, Exodus, and an unforgettable window into the human stories of the evolving refugee crisis.

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