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Europe's perfected crime

Regissør: Markus Imhoof

The documentary Eldorado addresses Europe's cynical treatment of refugees and reminds us that Europeans themselves were on the run for scarce 100 years ago.


It has become common to see the same lying along the borders of Europe as part of the "state of things". Surveillance planes and rescue bans are limited and held back to cover the bleak visibility of the disaster: It is preferable for people to die in hiding.

What can a filmmaker do in the face of the globalization of humanitarian disasters? IN Eldorado – presented at the Berlin this year – director Markus Imhoof uses his own personal memories to shed light on our current migration crisis. Through a low voice
The audience gets to take part in his exchange of letters with a childhood friend, the war refugee Giovanna.

Giovanna was a starving Italian girl during World War II. Among so many other needy young refugees, she was left in a depot just after the outbreak of war, in Imhoof's hometown not far from Zurich. Through the Red Cross 'transport program for children, Imhoof's family adopted the little girl, helping Giovanna and her family for a short period on neutral Swiss soil. Despite the scarcity of goods, Markus' family shared their food with Giovanna during the periods. with food rationing. . After a few months, the refugee family was forced to return to Italy. Eldorado shows how Imhoof's memories of the tender letter dialogue with Giovanna are brought back to life.

Neoliberal paradoxes

From flashbacks to childhood, Imhoof turns his focus to today's refugee crisis, and goes step by step through the scandalous paradoxes of today's neoliberal world politics. The first pictures show drowned people along the coast of Italy. Imhoof documents the rescue operations of the Italian operation "Mare Nostrum", which has so far saved the lives of about 100 people.

The first paradox is easy to notice: European countries without a coastline dictated the absurd guidelines for refugee registration – which, among other things, makes the country responsible for the refugee where he or she first registered. this is true even if the refugee already has relatives in other European countries. Such a rule necessarily leads to a tightening of the immigration policy of the arrival nations, which is a clear example of today's situation in Italy. Imhoof also documents the administrative machinery, where capacity is squeezed to the breaking point due to the huge number of refugees coming.

Painful experiences from when he himself was a young boy in the custody replay: He looks into hopeful eyes seeking help, but without the means to help; He catches the weakened bodies on an overloaded Italian lifeboat where critical situations can quickly end in mutiny, refugees traffickers have been swindled for the 1500 dollars the crossing costs. Imhoof observes people being transported to crowded camps, where they usually spend from 8 to 15 months, traumatized – often ashamed – and without anyone to talk about their experiences while having nothing but hope for asylum.

Institutions the director seeks seem carefree and inconvenient, afraid of being portrayed as either "too cruel" or "too tolerant". They fear attacks from exponents of the right and left sides.

Forced slavery

As a result of the discomfort, Imhoof would rather aim the camera at those who earn on hopelessness. He documents the lives of illegal ghettos, as well as slave labor in the fiery heat of southern Italy – jobs that are rewarded with ridiculous 15 euros a day. He shows people who are literally invisible to the authorities – and who thus live completely unprotected. Instead, they are controlled by the mafia, who is not left to use physical violence. All this is tolerated by the Italian state, by the police as well as the general public. Everyone ignores what's happening. And this does not only apply to Italy.

Eldorado gives a much-needed empathic look at an ongoing mass murder.

A union representative tries to act on his own and helps Imhoof gain access to a camp where he witnesses life-threatening hygiene conditions; stools, dioxins and lack of drinking water. Women are not allowed to work in the fields and instead resort to prostitution: Throughout the night, the male locals flock to exploit their hopeless situation.

Eldorado Director Markus Imhoof

On the other side of the border, in Switzerland, migrants are placed in bunkers designed for temporary protection for the civilian population in the event of war. The confined living spaces can easily awaken memories of those placed there: humiliation, torture, robbery and rape in Libya's prisons. For 250 000 franc, the richest Swiss regions buy themselves free from the burden of having to provide housing for migrants. Imhoof commemorates the great migrations of the 1800 century and the waves of refugees in the wake of the two world wars. At that time, hundreds of thousands of Europeans searched for places where they could live and survive.

In conclusion, the director focuses on them real the reasons for migration worldwide: the international groups' systematic exploitation of third world countries – which are plundered for raw materials and left without their own means of production. An example is the southern European tomato production, where immigrants are offered to buy expensive cans of tomatoes they have picked themselves under slave-like working conditions. On the other hand, EU duty – free dumping prices on dairy products lead to a complete crackdown in production in Africa.

Permanent state of emergency

These ongoing and disastrous mechanisms leave the locals in a permanent state of emergency. It is only as far as they can survive, without adequate health care or social safety net. All in all, the EU's ideological classification of political and economic refugees seems both hypocritical and false.

The EU's ideological classification of "political" and "economic" refugees is both hypocritical and false.

Europe participates in an ongoing, perfected crime. The co-conspirators are all those who profit from the systematic exploitation. All the daily abuses in Libya's prisons, among other things, occur without indictment or trial; there is not even a judge. Systematic torture and murder are tacitly accepted by the EU and its citizens. And not only that; ideally, we want to make even more of the misery, and are now ready to pay Libya per head to prevent asylum flow. The refugees are not allowed to submit applications for residence. Those operating around the sea will immediately be handed over to Libyan clans.

Compared to all this, the Swiss paradox seems almost innocent: Here, asylum seekers work for three francs an hour, and there are plans to put robots that can relieve the nurses in the camps, rather than offering people the job.

Imhoof connects his most personal and painful experiences with dry, analytical observations. Eldorado in this way gives a much-needed empathic look at an ongoing mass murder. Empathy can bring power to change, breaking the emotional mechanisms of denial that have become a routine today.

Dieter Wieczorek
Dieter Wieczorek
Wieczorek is a critic living in Paris.

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