An overseas student reviews an unflinching film by augenauf, a Swiss human rights organisation, re-enacting a deportation.
To my mind, many of those who support anti-racism, multiculturalism, asylum seekers and refugees speak from an easy, privileged, white, middle-class position. Hence, it is often pity that they feel towards BME communities and asylum seekers rather than a sense of the need for complete equality. Such a patronising attitude is surprisingly common especially when artists discuss the themes of asylum seekers and refugees. More often than not these ‘victims’ are not portrayed as actors in their own right determining their fate but people to be looked after by those who know better. They are infantilised.
The film reconstruction of the deportation process in Switzerland produced by augenauf, which is available on YouTube, successfully provides the emotional distance necessary for the viewer to grasp the reality. Clips are not shadowed by or overrun with sorrowful music or tears of detainees but show what happens in the process of deportation in a blunt and direct manner. Detainees are treated as objects that need to be removed, and cuffing, putting on a helmet seems rather benevolent compared to the trussing up of people with countless plastic ties to a rolling chair – the type used in warehouses to move heavy goods. There is a lack of communication between the detainee and the officers who are handling him. This is rare as many visual pieces on asylum tend to show the use of violent and racist languages towards detainees. The silence works well, nevertheless, as it shows a clear structure of power and encourages us to think about the possible solutions regarding the violation of human rights rather than leaving us feeling helpless just reaching for a box of tissues.
In one scene, detainees are referred to by number, a common method used to dehumanise. This method was used in systems of slavery and indentured labour and now in Guantañamo as a lingering reminder of colonisation. However, it is not just detention centres that reproduce colonial discourse, it is also there in western attitudes towards asylum seekers – the feeling of superiority while ‘helping’ someone from an ‘unfortunate country’. This film avoids personal judgements and helps us to understand the process of deportation which leaves us with a clear mind. After watching the film, I was not blinded by emotion but wanted to actively do something to create a more equal society where no human is treated in such a way ever again.
Watch the film ‘Reconstruction of a forced deportation carried out by the Swiss authorities’ here