“WELCOME TO REFUGEESTAN”
A Blight on the World
Anne Poiret’s documentary, “Welcome to Refugeestan” explores the current refugee system and gives a rare glimpse at life inside the world’s major refugee camps. The film’s release comes as a recent United Nations report there are 65.6 million people currently displaced from their homes globally, with 22.5 are considered refugees..
These refugees lives in camps, in a virtual country the size of the Netherlands. The names of these places do not appear on any maps. The ways these camps are run are both efficient and absurd. This film explores the land of camps, from Kenya, to Tanzania, Jordan, and the Greece/Macedonia border, as well as at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva. We see an immense system that combines humanitarian concerns with the management of undesirables who rich countries want to keep out, whatever the cost.
We see a Burundian man stepping off a bus in Tanzania and waits to be processed at a refugee camp. Two of his brothers are dead, and his parents have disappeared. With no idea what lies ahead, other than a conviction that it must be better than what he has left behind, he lines up and waits to be processed. He is about to become one of the many people all the world that are refugees.
We are given a view into life in the world’s primary refugee camps. The Dadaab camp in Kenya is the world’s largest, with a population of 350,000. The brand-new Azraq camp in Jordan, built to house Syrian refugees, was supposed to be a model of enlightened design, but this did not happen. Director Poiret also takes us to the UNHCR offices in Switzerland, where many of the policies originate.
The world’s refugees are also becoming an important captive consumer market as we see here. The camps have become places for companies to test out new technologies and retail outlets cater to a captive population forcibly prevented from shopping elsewhere.
“Welcome to Refugeestan” explores of both the refugee experience and the failures of a system that can keep people trapped and stateless for years.
The lives of refugees are not easy. They exist in camps often surrounded by barbed wire; are forbidden from working and subject to frequent dehumanizing security checks; and ruled by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a distant, colonial-style bureaucracy.
Director Anne Poiret also takes us to Norway, where humanitarian workers are trained in the arts of negotiating with corrupt officials, and to the “UNHCR offices in Switzerland, where innovation is the buzzword of the day”.