Exodus: The Journey Continues

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NARRATOR: Since 2015, over one and a half million refugees and migrants have smuggled themselves to the West, fleeing war and poverty.

TAREK: [subtitles] We had a good life in Syria until the Syrian crisis started.

NARRATOR: But the countries they dreamed of reaching have changed.

NEWSCASTER: A bloodbath in the heart of Europe─

NEWSCASTER: ─a target of several terrorist attacks in just the past year.

NARRATOR: Borders have tightened. And in places, public opinion has turned against them.

DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Nominee: I call it extreme vetting!

DONALD TUSK, European Council President: Do not come to Europe. It is all for nothing.

NARRATOR: Filmed over the past three years across 31 countries, this is the ongoing story of an exodus─

PROTESTERS: [subtitles] Out with the ones with no passports!

MIGRANT: Reading graffiti, “Refugees, go home.”

NARRATOR: ─through the eyes of those trying to find safety in Europe and America.

NAZIFA: [subtitles] They say people who smuggle themselves across borders commit crimes. I never thought I was a criminal. We just had the courage to do it.


One of the main migrant routes to Western Europe passes through Serbia and Hungary. In 2015, Hungary closed its borders to refugees and migrants, leaving thousands stuck in Serbia. Over 1,000 people, mostly young Afghan men, live in abandoned railway buildings near Belgrade.

AZIZZULAH, Left Afghanistan six months ago: [subtitles] [singing] Life, you are sweet. Oh, my beautiful lover—

London is far from this country?

DIRECTOR: London is far from Serbia? Yes, quite far.

AZIZZULAH: How many countries far?

DIRECTOR: You got to go Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Germany, France, U.K.

AZIZZULAH: More than five countries. Very far.

Let’s go to the room. I’m living in this train. Here is five people with me. And there is another room. And there is living seven peoples.

[subtitles] When I was in Afghanistan, people would always say the word, “Game, game, game.” And I would always wonder, “What is this game?” When I got here, I realized “game” means when you cross the border, you win. And if you fail to cross it, then you lose. That’s what it means. It’s like when you’re playing a game. Since I’ve left home, it’s been nothing but games. But the borders were sealed shut. Nobody can cross. But every night, there would be five, six or even 10 games from the barracks. And they would all come back.

Be careful because here is dark. Here is darkness place.

MIGRANT: [subtitles] We all come here for safety, but these people are worse than the Taliban. What sort of humanity is this? We had high hopes about Europe. This isn’t Europe.

Show me to the entire world. This is our situation. For God’s sake, for the Quran’s sake, stop sending young kids to Europe. Don’t ruin these young children’s lives for the sake of filthy Europe.

Oh, damn. I called Europe filthy.

MIGRANT: Go ahead, speak if you like. Aren’t we actually living in a dirty place? Pray for our country’s peace so we can be done with these problems.

AZIZZULAH: Every single man that has come here has made the same journey as me. When we were back home, we’d talk about how peaceful and wonderful it would be in Europe and that we’d live happily ever after. But had I known that the way would be so difficult, I would have never come. I swear to God that’s true.

For as long as I can remember, there has been war in Afghanistan, til’ this day. But the Americans said they would end the bad times. It backfired because war has meant more Taliban. We didn’t have ISIS. Now we have them, as well.

According to the U.N., more than 15,000 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan since 2012.

I didn’t leave Afghanistan just for the sake of it. My brother, he was a translator in Kabul with the American soldiers. He got killed in a tank, and four American soldiers were killed with him. It affected me greatly, because the bomb exploded inside the tank. We couldn’t recognize him. The bomb had completely disfigured him. And so I left.

Now I’m here in Serbia, and there are also a lot of problems. So it would be good for us if the borders are reopened. [chuckles] God forgive me.

Malakasa Camp, Greece.

In March 2016, Macedonia shut its borders to migrants and refugees. Thousands are now stranded in neighboring Greece.

Nazifa and Lateef left Afghanistan a year ago with their children.

LATEEF: [subtitles] Please come in. This is our room. But unfortunately, we don’t have a kitchen. This room should have been our kitchen, but we don’t have a kitchen facility. So we made our own little kitchen in the shower room. We have put a stove here to cook food.

NAZIFA: [subtitles] I’ve made a sofa spread cover for here and put it on some pieces of wood, so we can use it as a sofa or chair.

Everything you see in this house we made ourselves from things we found. Because it’s a long time since we lived in a real house, we made this like a house to feel happy.

I had so many dreams about the home I would be living in, a home where I could live in peace and watch my children grow. My children don’t remember Afghanistan at all. They’ve grown up their whole lives in camps.

The best part of someone’s life is their childhood, but right now, my children are in a cage because I had no choice. I won’t give up until I make a safe home for my children.

LATEEF: I’m going to meet him soon.

NAZIFA: The smuggler?


Nazifa and her husband want to get asylum in Germany. She’s six months pregnant and believes the family will have a better chance if the baby is born there.

NAZIFA: From the moment we left Afghanistan, I’ve had a constant feeling of anxiety. We hoped to always be together. The smugglers were asking for a lot of money to get to Germany. We only had enough for one passenger.

CHILD: I want to get on the horse.

LATEEF: You want to get on the horse? I’m sure it’s fun.

NAZIFA: Sometimes I comfort myself with a fantasy that someone comes with good news and says that we can all leave together. I wish that day comes when they tell me there’s another way.

LATEEF: He said if you have the money for one, then one will go. If you have the money for two, then two will go. It’s 3,500 euros per person. I can’t let you go alone.

NAZIFA: There’s no alternative.

I never imagined this day would come. [weeps] I came for my children. I came so we can have a peaceful life. As a mother, can’t I sacrifice myself for my kids?

My baby’s become sleepy. Come to me, come. [singing] Tulip flower, moon came up. It’s time to sleep now, my flower boy. Dear Armin, mother’s precious stone, wish-gem, mother’s ruby-mountain.

Dear Armin, if your mother is not here, will you sleep, my son? If you don’t have a mother, will you sleep?

Since 2015, Germany has let in more than one million refugees and migrants, more than any other country in the European Union. Now it has become much harder to get here. Tarek arrived in Germany 11 months ago with his family.

ISRA’A: My bike. My favorite is my bike.

CAMERAMAN: Which one is your bike?

ISRA’A: There it is. There is my bike. And this is my brother’s. And this is my best friend’s.

Isra’a. She and her family have been given an apartment and free German lessons.

CAMERAMAN: Which language do you like speaking best?

ISRA’A: German.


ISRA’A: Because. I must work. Not I “must,” I want to work because then we can all always speak German. Just at home, I speak Arabic.

TEACHER: Come, sit down.

ISRA’A: He counts each number with a different finger.

TEACHER: Does your dad understand? Isra’a, help your dad, please.

ISRA’A: Dad, it’s 25. You know it in Arabic.

TAREK’S WIFE: I’m so happy that my children are learning. They missed out on school in Syria, but here it’s better. They’re studying German, learning a new language. I feel happy.

In Syria, I was told my disabled daughter’s case was hopeless. But here they said she just needs some medicine to relax her nervous system. Honestly, they helped her so much.

TELEVISION: Aleppo woke to find three terrorist explosions in Sa’d Allah Al-Jabri Square. There were many injured.

TAREK: Our story is a tragedy for all Syrians. Blood on the ground and innocent people dying. I don’t wish this to happen to any human on this earth.

[weeps] You’re reminding me. You’re reminding me of the people who are dying. It’s a big tragedy.

We had to run away from death. The journey took us 11 days before we made it to Germany. We were the lucky ones.

[to child playing] Hit me from this side. Hit me here.

The little ones, they remember nothing about Syria. They forgot about the war because they are kids. Isra’a remembers a little bit, but the others remember nothing.

ISRA’A: Whenever I see blood, I remember Syria. I saw people dying in front of our house, bodies cut to pieces, each piece in a different place. Once you see those things, they get stuck in your brain.

I’m a bit scared. It’s my first day at school. I’m new.

TAREK: Good morning.

ISRA’A’ This is my pencil case.

TAREK: In Aleppo, Isra’a didn’t go to school a lot. She only went up to the third grade. She lost three whole years.

ISRA’A: School will be hard because they’ll speak very fast and won’t explain things.

TAREK: Just keep your mind clear.

GERMAN WOMAN ESCORT: Nervous? All good? Did you pack everything?

ISRA’A: On our journey to Germany, we crossed eight countries. Despite being a sad journey, I always want to keep my memory of it alive.

From Aleppo, we were smuggled into Turkey. We sold cigarettes to survive.

We’ve arrived in Greece.

I remember in Greece how we waited in the cold for a travel permit. From Greece, we walked all the way to Germany. I get sad when I think about such things. But I don’t cry because it’s in the past now. I survived it.

To help the transition into German schools, refugee children are given special classes.

[in German]

TEACHER: Good morning, everyone. Sit down, please. Today we have a new student. Isra’a is from Syria, and today is her first day at school in Germany. What can you ask her?

STUDENT: What is your name?

TEACHER: Right. What else can you ask?

STUDENT: How old are you?

STUDENT: How old are you?

TEACHER: Always when you want to say something, raise your hand, yes? And don’t just speak.

How old are you?

ISRA’A: Twelve.

TAREK: Germany gave us peace and security.

ISRA’A: ‘Bye.

TAREK: I know that history will write in golden letters ─ not in silver, gold ─ about Europe’s humanity toward the Syrian refugees. History will write that it was an affectionate mother to those who asked her for refuge. History will write that Germany has done the right thing. Thank you, Germany.

NEWSCASTER: Germany takes in more refugees than any other Euro nation.

NEWSCASTER: Europe does not speak with one voice.

NEWSCASTER: A controversial closing of the Balkans route from─

NEWSCASTER: ─over a quarter of a century after they tore down the Iron Curtain, they’re putting fences back on─

NEWSCASTER: ─four-meter-high border fence runs for 110 miles and is topped with razor wire.

NEWSCASTER: ─separating Hungary from Serbia.

NEWSCASTER: Hungary has deployed up to 10,000 police and soldiers.

Belgrade, Serbia

Of the 7,500 refugees and migrants in Serbia, only 10 a day are allowed to cross into Hungary.

MIGRANT: [subtitles] At the border, they always take our money and smash our phones. They beat us up so bad that even now, I can feel the pain. They call us Taliban. Taliban bomb.

AZIZZULAH: I thought I’d only be stuck here for 10 days at most. But it’s been seven months.

This is my─ what’s the name in English, underwear? Underwear. Underwear.

[phone rings] Hello?

TELEPHONE CALL: The game is ready, all right?

AZIZZULAH: OK. That’s fine. So we’ll talk later.

My smuggler is in Hungary. God willing, he’s coming here and we’ll try to cross today or tomorrow.

What I say in English, my shoes is, like take the water.

Later, my smuggler is coming here. He call me. We’re waiting here for the game.

Hurry up! If we lose this guy, we won’t find him again. Hurry up, boys. Everybody stay here. Understand me? Do everybody? You six people, you stay here. Come on, get in.

When we’re close to the fence, we’re not allowed to talk or turn on our mobile, speak loudly or turn on any lights. And we have to do whatever the smuggler says.

Sit down here. They have two or three fences that they have built in a special way. It wasn’t electric, but it would make a noise and the police would get there quickly and they would know where we were.

No, not that way, the other way.

We were really scared. Every time we were going on a game, it was like going out to die.


Nazifa is about to travel eight hours north to meet a smuggler. He has said he will provide a fake passport and take her to the airport.

NAZIFA: [subtitles] Whose daughter are you?

CHILD: I’m my mommy’s girl.

NAZIFA: I love you.

My heart was never calm because I was being separated from my children. I thought that the whole weight of the world had fallen on me.

LATEEF: May God protect you.

NAZIFA: [to child] Don’t worry. Don’t worry, my love.

The kids thought it was a trip for two or three nights. They didn’t know it was a long trip.

Even if Nazifa reaches Germany, it could take up to four years for her family to be allowed to join her.

Thessaloniki Airport, Greece.

NAZIFA: The smuggler has brought me clothes, high-heeled shoes and a pair of jeans. I also lowered the hood of my coat to show my hair. It’s a sin, but I had to commit this sin once.

I had never been inside an airport before. I was completely clueless, and I was scared. When I was going through the second check-in, a German policeman took my ID, looked at it, then looked at me. I got scared because I thought the game was up. The photo had no resemblance to me.

He asked my name while he was looking at the fake name the smuggler gave me. He said─ I said, “Malena.” He said “No Malena.” And then he said, “Right, we’re going to the office.” And there he told me, “Go away and don’t come back.”

After that, I called my husband, Lateef, and said in a giggling voice, “They caught me.” He said, “You’re joking. You got through.” He said, “If you got caught, you wouldn’t be laughing so much right now.” I said, “They did catch me. Do you want me to cry? I’m laughing because I can see you and the kids again.”

Armin, are you a lady doctor or a Sir doctor?

ARMIN: Lady doctor.

NAZIFA: Are you really? You’re a sir doctor, sweetheart.

ARMIN: I’m a sir doctor.

NAZIFA: Yes, well done!

LATEEF: Hello. Hello, little sir. Who are you?

ARMIN: I’m a miss doctor.

LATEEF: Arzu is a miss? You’re the mr. doctor.

ARMIN: I’m a sir doctor.

NAZIFA: Being together is a lot better than going to Germany. But we really want to do something for the future of our children. We don’t want them growing up in a society where they can’t achieve their dreams. They can’t do it here.

It’s God’s earth. People have the right to live wherever they want. It’s true that humans have separated countries and put up lines, but it’s one earth. Every human in every corner of the planet has the right to live.

Pres. DONALD TRUMP: ─establishing measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America.

NEWSCASTER: America’s entire refugee admissions program has been suspended for four months.

NEWSCASTER: ─seven countries─ Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia─

NEWSCASTER: ─denied entry to all refugees from any one from seven mainly Muslim countries.

A week after taking office, President Trump banned travel from seven mainly Muslim countries.

Pres. DONALD TRUMP: I call it extreme vetting, right? Extreme vetting! I want extreme. It’s going to be so tough!

It’s going to be only America first!

Northern Iraq

SAED, Living in a refugee camp since fleeing ISIS three years ago: [subtitles] There’s roughly 6,000 families in the camp. They all come from areas that are now controlled by ISIS. My brother worked for the Americans for five years. And because he was a translator, all our family are targets.

It’s my mom.

MOTHER: [subtitles] [grinning] I’m his mother.

SAED: This is my sister, Layla.

We sleep in here. [subtitles] That’s the toilet.

Before Tamir went to Nebraska, he used to stay in this tent with his wife. Now that he’s in Nebraska, I’m sure that wherever he’s living, it’s not a tent.

Saed’s older brother, Tamir, was given a U.S. visa two months before Donald Trump became president.

We’re waiting to go, as well. We want to go there. When Trump announced that they had put Iraq on the list of banned countries, then all our hopes suddenly vanished.

IRAQI NEWSCASTER: [subtitles] Now we go to the most important news. Government and American forces remain in control of the Mamoun district in Mosul, but ISIS is gaining ground in the surrounding areas.

SAED: Tamir went and became safe, but we’re not safe here.

Lincoln, Nebraska.

Editor’s note: A map in the original version of this film misidentified the location of Lincoln, Nebraska. It was corrected on Jan. 29, 2018.

TAMIR: We are in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska. I never imagined to be outside my country or my area. It’s not easy to leave all your memories, your friends, your place and everything, where you grow up, and leave everything behind and go far away. But we have to.

[subtitles] Aisha, where’s my cap?

Time to work.

Tamir and his wife have been trying to get the rest of the family to the U.S.

TAMIR: When Trump did the orders to stop the refugees, it was really bad. We make our family to be targets for the terrorist groups just because we work with the U.S., and we imagined they’d give us something special because we take that risk. My family living in a tent in Iraq.

This is my picture when I was a translator with the U.S. Army. It was a good job, but it was dangerous, too. This guy’s been captured by the ISIS, and no one know anything about him so far, but I think they kill him. When they know we are working with the U.S. Army, we are the first targets for them.

Northern Iraq

DRIVER: Is this the way you go to the old house?

SAED, Tamir’s Brother: Yes.

DRIVER: Shall we go down there?

SAED: Yes.

I went to this school.

This all happened when ISIS came. These are Yazidi homes. They exploded about 500 houses. This brutality is unbelievable. It has all gone with the wind.

NEWSCASTER: ─some of the thousands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority fleeing the advance and brutality of the Islamic State.

NEWSCASTER: ─speak of mass killings and forced conversions.

NEWSCASTER: ─over 5,000 men, women and children who were taken.

NEWSCASTER: The Yazidis are haunted by what happened to them.

In August 2014, ISIS massacred around 3,000 Yazidis and kidnapped more than 6,000.

NEWSCASTER: ─the Islamic State’s use of captured women as sex slaves. In fact, it’s even issued official guidance on the practice. Women can be bought, sold, traded as gifts. “Quite a lass,” he says. It costs more for girl with blue eyes.

SAED: [subtitles] ISIS is an ideology, not an organization. Before they called themselves al Qaeda, and now in Africa, it’s Boko Haram. Tomorrow, they’ll use another name, then another.

INTERVIEWER: When was the last time you felt safe?

SAED: I don’t remember.

This is the place. Since 2014, I’ve been back to the old house two or three times, just to see it and then leave.

INTERVIEWER: They say not to walk around a lot here. Could there still be any mines?

SAED: Yeah.

I was born in this house. After ISIS came, they burned it all down. This was the bedroom. It’s a place full of memories.

Our future has gone. My only hope now is to leave this land, to be able to get to America.

Malakasa Camp, Greece.

NAZIFA: I love you, too, my daughter.

CHILD: Do you love little baby, too?

NAZIFA: I love you, and I love Armin. And I love little baby, as well. I love all three of you.

LATEEF: I wanted our baby to be born in Germany. We tried very hard to make it happen, but we didn’t succeed. We couldn’t get through, and Nazifa had the baby here.

NAZIFA: There’s no way we can ever go back to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is completely unsafe. Lateef’s family has a military background and is linked to the old government.

LATEEF: A few months after we left, my cousins─ three were killed together, even the 16-year-old boy. Even he wasn’t spared. [weeps]

CHILD: Daddy, let’s go up the hill.

LATEEF: We fled Afghanistan so that we could be safe.

CHILD: I’d love to go back to Afghanistan.

LATEEF: Why, my dear?

CHILD: Because I’d love to see it.

LATEEF: Was Afghanistan better?


LATEEF: Really? Don’t you want to go to Germany and make a lovely garden?

CHILD: Yes, I want to make a very beautiful garden. And I will make fences like this one.

Helsinki, Finland

SADIQ, Seeking asylum in Finland since arriving in 2015: [calling to swimmers] You’re going to catch a cold!

In summer, there are a lot of people, but now it’s─ the weather is a bit cold and that’s why there is not much. But I come, like, three to four times a week for swimming.


FRIEND: Do you have any Afghan songs? Oh, wow.

SADIQ: Have you been to a sauna yet?

ABBAS: Yes, I have.

SADIQ: You went? Did you take off all your clothes?


SADIQ: Did you like it?

ABBAS: Quite a lot.

SADIQ: I was shocked to see men have showers, just standing there naked. It’s something that’s normal here.

FRIEND: Everyone here is obsessed with saunas. They say that mothers here have given birth in saunas. In Afghanistan, children are born in hospitals. But here, it has happened in saunas.

SADIQ: I had a good life in Afghanistan, but when I was targeted by Taliban, I had to flee. Otherwise, I would have been killed. When the borders opened, then just straight away, I flee from Afghanistan.

It took 45 days. I passed from 11 countries. I many times told my friends, “Look how European people are good and kind.” Here is freedom, freedom of everything.

SHELTER WORKER: [offering wool hat] It’s going to be cold. You want?

SADIQ: Thank you, sir. Now I go to Finland.

This is winter in Finland. How does it look? Every place is covered by snow.

FRIEND: [ice skating] Yeah, you’re fast! Go, accelerate! Well done! Well done. Well done! That’s good, good!

Refugee reception center, Helsinki.

SADIQ This is my room, 213B. This is the room where I spend my days and nights. Hey, Salam, salam. They are my friends. Here’s Mr. Abbas. This is my friend Shukrullah. He is one of my other best friends. We came together from Greece and he is studying Finnish language. And a very nice view to outside. And this is my bed, and it is quite comfortable to sleep and make myself relax.

And the very important thing is the papers, these are the papers, how I schedule my programs and my events. For example, I have a program called “Networking your way into a job, part one.” If the paper is here, I usually not forget my event.

I was thinking all that I need to do is reach Finland, I will get asylum, I will get a job, I will get a flat and I will start a normal life here. But I was rejected.

Finland currently rejects around half of asylum applications.

I did appeal and I am waiting for the decision.

[walking along street] Look how beautiful it is, lights everywhere, calm and quiet. Look at this? What is that?

Here you have a lot of locks. [padlocks on fence] And these are for lovers. [subtitles] What’s this bicycle lock doing here? [laughs] A bicycle lock!

[graffiti] Refugees go home.

ABBAS: Until you experience it, you have no sympathy.

SADIQ: Finland is getting cold.

Here is the building.

Unlike Sadiq and Shukrullah, Abbas was granted asylum and now has his own apartment.

SHUKRULLAH: You got a home. It’s very, very awesome.

ABBAS: Would you like Afghan tea or something else? This is Afghan green tea.

SADIQ: Give me the Afghan tea. Oh, my dad! It’s been too long!

ABBAS: Drink up, Shukrullah.

SHUKRULLAH: Wow, it’s proper green tea.

SADIQ: Is it tasty?

SHUKRULLAH: It’s delicious.

CAMERAMAN: Does it feel good to welcome your friends to your new house?

ABBAS: It makes me uncomfortable, as I was the only one to be accepted. I just hope they get their asylum soon. Let’s see what they decide. I’ll go anywhere in the world, but nothing can ever persuade me to go back to Afghanistan.

Since 2016, more than 30,000 Afghans have been ordered to leave countries in the European Union.

NEWSCASTER: Asylum seekers say it’s not safe for them to return.

NEWSCASTER: The Taliban has been growing in strength.

NEWSCASTER: 18,000 civilians have been killed or injured since 2015.

NEWSCASTER: The Taliban still controls large swathes of the country.

SADIQ: Do you know that, like, one week ago, I have moved to my friend’s flat, Abbas, and I am living now here. Everything was OK since a few minutes ago, I received a call from my lawyer and told me that, “Sadiq, I have bad news for you” and the news was that “the immigration office and the administrative court have rejected you again. It means you cannot stay in Finland.”

So I don’t know, I don’t know what to do. I have locked the door. Let me just show you. Look, in the door, there is, like, a chain and I have put that on in order to lock, so if police come, at least they cannot enter in the room and I can easily escape from somewhere. I have thought that if police come, I will jump from here. I have no choice. If I don’t jump, the police will catch me and will send me by force to Afghanistan.

There are seven billion people in the world cannot do anything for one million displaced people, refugees. Hey, seven billion people in the world, you cannot help Sadiq? There is not anybody to raise their voice to say, “Hey, Sadiq, I’m with you. I’m going to support you.”

NEWSCASTER: Attempts to cross the Mediterranean are up this year.

NEWSCASTER: Nearly 2,400 people have drowned making the journey.

NEWSCASTER: The migrants themselves come mostly from sub-Saharan Africa. They’re fleeing poverty and repression.

MOUSSA, Travelled 2,600 miles from Guinea to Morocco: [subtitles] I set myself the aim of getting into Europe, and here I am looking at Europe with my own eyes. Everything you see there is Spain.

Spain controls two enclaves on the tip of Morocco. If Moussa can get to them, he will be in Europe.

MOUSSA: [subtitles] Real life is found in Europe, a life where you can be free, where you can live in peace. Everything is in Europe, not here in Africa. Our land is rich. We have resources. But there is nothing. We don’t have good governments.

We want to go to Europe. I’m going to cut through the fence. Their fence can’t stop me, not Spanish police or the Moroccan police. Nothing can stop me getting across.

NEWSCASTER: You’ve got the Spanish enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta which have barriers which separate them from the rest of Morocco, built to stop immigration and smuggling.

NEWSCASTER: Seventy sub-Saharan Africans and migrants were injured when they tried to get through the razor wire-topped fence.

NEWSCASTER: This is the moment where their struggle to enter Europe was stopped at the top of a six-meter barbed wire fence facing rows of Spanish officers waiting to turn them back to Morocco.

Tangier, Morocco, 43 miles from the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.

MOUSSA: [subtitles] Tangier is the border between Morocco and Spain. Here, if the police catch you, they take you all the way to the other end of the country.

It’s cold!

FRIEND: Morocco is always like this.

MOUSSA: It would be hot in Guinea now. Everything changed in Guinea, especially the economic situation, all because of Ebola. A lot of people died. The economy was paralyzed. Its true we did receive a lot of aid. But where did the money go? The government took it. More than 50 percent of all the young people have left. Everyone is in exile because there is nothing in Guinea.

Hidden in the forest a few miles from one of the Spanish enclaves, a group called ‘The Government’ trains migrants to storm the fence.

MOUSSA: These are the hills. In the forest, it’s another life. Everything is organized in the forest. You need courage and determination to survive in the forest.

[to guards] There is no problem. You can take anything you find on me.

GOVERNMENT’ MEN: Your telephone. We are going to confiscate it. Is that everything?

MOUSSA: Yes, everything.

We’ve arrived in the ghetto. This is where the blacks run to. This is how we live. This is hell.

CAMERAWOMAN: How long will you stay here?

MOUSSA: Well, it depends, until there is an attack. The General can decide to attack today or attack tomorrow. Who knows?

The man they call ‘the General’ waits until enough people have arrived before ordering an attack.

MOUSSA: Before the attack, we drink alcohol. Everyone gets drunk, smoke weed so you can change your mentality, so that you become determined. If you drink and smoke, you can only see the fence. You only see the barrier.

GOVERNMENT’ MAN: I hope that through the grace of God, all of us will shortly be on the other side. To our freedom. Let us have faith, courage and strength. The forest is for animals. We are humans. We are not destined to live in the forest. Tomorrow we will live like men in society. When we cross the border, we are not coming for war, we are going to grab our freedom.

MOUSSA: When I saw the barriers, I said, “It’s this bitch of a fence that’s stopping me from entering Spain.” There are radars everywhere, but we took off all our rings and mobile phones, anything that would allow the police to detect us. I said to myself, “I will enter.” It’s a matter of life or death.

NEWSCASTER: More than 1,000 people surprised the Moroccan border control and ran for the fence.

NEWSCASTER: Hundreds of migrants entered Spanish territory in North Africa on Friday. Upon arrival, they shouted “Freedom.”

Moussa was arrested trying to cross and was imprisoned in Morocco for three months. He is still trying to get to Spain.

Belgrade, Serbia.

AZIZZULAH: After we cut the fence, we ran in. When we got through, we ran for around 20 minutes. We wanted to rest, but unfortunately, the police, they came and caught us. They had seen our footprints in the snow. And they had some dogs with them, too.

Azizzullah has tried eight times to illegally cross the border from Serbia into Hungary.

AZIZZULAH: They grabbed me here. And they’re really big, right? And they just kneed me in the face and punched me twice. My nose started bleeding a little and blood was coming down my face. I was on the floor and the dog kept snapping at me. I kicked my legs. They made me scream like crazy. It was a really big dog. I was really scared.

When the dog bit me, I didn’t realize that I had been bitten. The pain came later. The doctor gave me really good medicine. He bandaged it for three days.

I don’t think these people understand the value of a human being and how highly valued a human is. This has been forced upon us. We have no choice.

NEWSCASTER: “Merkel must go,” they chant. This is the backlash against Germany’s generous refugee policy. The right wing has been making spectacular gains here in Germany in the last couple of years. The AfD, or Alternative for Germany, has only existed for three years, but in that time, it’s attracted lots of support for its anti-migrant views.

PROTESTERS: We hate AfD! We hate AfD! Nazis out!

TAREK: Hello? What is that?

BYSTANDER: [subtitles] It’s against the far-right AFD. They are holding their party conference here today.

TAREK: Ah. Danke.

PROTESTERS: Warning! Warning! Anti-fascists!

CAMERAWOMAN: Did you expect when you came to Europe that there would be movements against refugees?

TAREK: We had heard about it, but we didn’t see it with our own eyes. Now we have.

PROTESTERS: Say it loud! Say it clear! Refugees are welcome here.

TAREK: I think Germany has taken in the largest number of Syrian refugees. It has become overwhelmed now. Germany can’t take in anymore. But Germany is not the whole of Europe. There are many countries that don’t take. There are other countries that don’t accept, that have taken a small number and then stopped.

PROTESTERS: Borderless! Feminist! Loud and non-violent!

TAREK: I think all countries should open their doors to refugees because we all need a safe haven.

No Fascists!


ISRA’A: [to mother fitting her with hijab] You pinched me!

ISRA’A’S SISTER: When I get older, I will never, ever wear that. Mom, I won’t wear it.

ISRA’A: It looks nice. Could I wear Dad’s jacket?

MOTHER: Wear your leather jacket.

ISRA’A:: Oh, yes! My leather jacket! I want to ride a motorbike while I’m wearing hijab.

MOTHER: [taking photo] I can only get your face.

ISRA’A: And the jacket. Do you remember Syria?

They say Syria, Syria, Syria, but I have forgotten about it. No, I didn’t forget.

TAREK: Do you love it?

ISRA’A: Of course. It will always be our mother.

This smells of shampoo.

MOTHER: The smell of freedom.

ISRA’A: It is the freedom smell!

In 10 years, I will be 23 years old. I will be opening a surgery, a children’s doctor surgery, or I will be working at the hospital as a nurse or a doctor.

TAREK: Aim to be a policewoman, not a nurse.

ISRA’A: Dad, bye! Go and have a cigarette.

TAREK: She is sacking me.

ISRA’A: I’m just telling you to go and smoke.

TAREK: I don’t want to. I lost my pack.

ISRA’A: [sings] Despacito─ I love Justin Bieber. If Justin Bieber ever visited us, I would go crazy. I’d just go over and kiss him.

I’ve learned a lot of things here in Germany. They are very democratic, and they─ everyone has a boyfriend. And it doesn’t mean anything to them. With us, it’s completely different. I want to buy a car without a roof and play really loud music with my friends, go out at night and do stuff like that, go to a restaurant with all my friends. I feel proud of myself now. because I have adapted.

TAREK: Isra’a is now a German. And we have all started to feel happy here. But in this wave, this exodus, there are more than a million Isra’as, more than a million Tareks. They don’t make this mess.

Malaskasa Camp, Greece.

Lateef has borrowed money to try once again to smuggle Nazifa and the baby to Germany.

LATEEF: Your mother and Fatima are going to Germany together.

ARZU: Don’t go!

LATEEF: Listen to what I have to say first. Your mother and Fatima have to go to Germany. You and Arzu will stay with me, then later we will join them. Mommy needs to go to Germany and find us a nice house.

NAZIFA: We might not see each other for a long time, but I will send for you as soon as possible. Until then, you have to help your father a lot.

ARZU: I will be very nice to Armin so that I can come to you in Germany because I will miss you so much.

NAZIFA: My sweet flower, my darling, my beloved.

I get courage whenever I look at my children. And though I might not see them for a year or two, they will have a good life in the future, so it’s worth it.

The smuggler called us to say its definitely happening.

When I got ready on that day, I cleaned the house and made sure the kids didn’t play outside so they stayed close to me. And then we all started heading towards the city.

LATEEF: The flight was around 8.45 in the evening, if I remember correctly. When the smuggler came to take her away, it was the most difficult moment of our lives.

Sweetie, we will all go, as well. We’ll go too, OK?

ARZU: It’s better if nobody goes.

LATEEF: Don’t worry sweetheart. Your mom will go and we’ll follow afterwards OK? Look at me.

ARZU: I want to go home right now.

LATEEF: The other times, I’d had doubts and second thoughts. But this time, I just knew she’d make it through.

NAZIFA: I had tried so many times that I had lost my fear. I wasn’t scared anymore. My husband was sure that I could look after myself. Just because you’re not with your family, it doesn’t mean you will be eaten by wolves. And I was confident that I could stand up to the responsibilities ahead of me. I’d finally made it.

Belgrade, Serbia

AZIZZULAH: I started talking to a new smuggler. He had connections with the long-distance truck drivers. He told me that he sends just one person in the back of the truck. One person who doesn’t make any noise can’t be detected if they scan the truck because they weigh each container, and if there are a lot of people, then the container gets too heavy. Inside, it was pitch black. I think I was in there for five or days, and for this game, I paid 3,000 euros.

Tudela, Spain

I am now in Espana, Spain, and really good city and nice people. I’m thinking that I might stay here. It isn’t a difficult language to learn─ ciao, hola.

I’m happy here, but not 100 percent happy because I’ve borrowed quite a lot of money from people and I have to clear the debt with the smugglers. My family don’t have money. We borrowed all of it, so if I don’t find a job immediately, my family might end up in trouble. If I can’t get a job, then I must think of changing countries again. I have no other option. I must find a job. It has just begun.

Helsinki, Finland

SADIQ: I am going to visit my lawyer because my pressures are too much on me. If within two days my appeal is not sent to sovereign office, then the police can come and take me.

What do you think about my case? Will sovereign court take this or not because I hear they only take one from one thousand cases.

LAWYER: It’s true that the highest court administration, they don’t take most of the cases. It’s very few which they take. And therefore, we have to give them more details in order to succeed. But they do take these issues. We had one client and we get good reasons and they stopped the process.

SADIQ: In supreme court.

LAWYER: In supreme court, yeah.

CAMERAMAN: If the decision doesn’t go Sadiq’s way, what would happen to him?

LAWYER: Well, basically, then the state tries to send him back to Afghanistan. And it can happen either voluntarily or if the person doesn’t accept that, then they try to make it unvoluntarily.

SADIQ: By force.

LAWYER: By force, yeah. Then the person can be sent back.

PROTESTERS: Finland first! Close the borders! Out with the fake refugees! Close the borders! Make Finland safe!

SADIQ: How long can we tolerate this? We are humans, just like them. There is no difference. Humanity is dead. There is no room for humanity. When I first arrived, I said that what I had learned from Europe is that women and men are equal, there are human rights here, we are all humans. But that’s not the case. They really don’t like people like you and me. How much longer can we listen to this? It’s enough now.

NEWSCASTER: “Send them home, send them home,” they chant.

By October 2017, there were right-wing nationalist members of parliament in 24 European countries.

NEWSCASTER: Right-wing nationalist parties have boomed in popularity on the continent.

The AfD are the first far-right party to win seats in the German Bundestag in more than half a century.

NEWSCASTER: ─anti-Islam, anti-immigrant, anti-Euro. Its leader recently suggested German border guards shoot refugees.

Nazifa has arrived in Germany with her baby. She now plans to apply for asylum.

NAZIFA: [on the phone] Hello. It’s good news.

LATEEF: You arrived OK?

NAZIFA: Yes. You can sleep easy now. I can sleep easy now, too. How are the kids? Have they eaten?

LATEEF: Nazifa is surely a lioness. Because she will be separated from her two children, who are at such a tender age. It is exceptionally hard for any mother to be─ to be away from her own flesh.

[to child] My little heart.

ARMIN: Who is this?

LATEEF: It’s a cow.

ARMIN: Who is this?

LATEEF: It’s a pig. They are all animals.

SADIQ: Sovereign court took my case and gave me another chance to be interviewed by immigration office, and I call that the interview of my life.

LAWYER: Basically, we have to keep in mind even in the new interview, negative decisions happen.

SADIQ: I am waiting for my fate to be told, that Europe either gave me a life or a death. I hope they give me life.

NAZIFA: Put yourself in our shoes for one moment.

10 months after the travel ban was officially lifted for Iraq, Saed and his family are still trying to get a U.S. visa.

NAZIFA: Is seeking refuge in a different country a crime? Don’t we all have the right to live somewhere in peace? Can we see our children and husbands and brothers die under a bomb?

Around a million people in Europe are waiting for their asylum claims to be decided. In 2017, EU countries were accepting over 90 percent of Syrians. Over half of Afghans were refused.

NAZIFA: I’m going to surrender myself to the police.

Nazifa has applied for asylum in Germany and is hoping to be reunited with her family. If her application fails, she could be deported to Afghanistan. In 2017, Germany announced it would deport 300,000 failed asylum seekers.

NAZIFA: I’m 24. And in all those 24 years, I never felt the sorrows of life until I became refugee. We came here with hope.

Five months after his interview, Sadiq’s case was decided. He was granted asylum.

Massacre of El Salvador
Massacre in El Salvador
FRONTLINE, Retro Report and ProPublica examine the ongoing fight for justice for the horrific 1981 attack on the village of El Mozote and surrounding areas.
November 9, 2021