In 2015, the European migration crisis brought out the worst of many people. Hungary and several other countries on the Western Balkans route built fences. Population in destinations countries like Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and elsewhere protested out of anger and fear of asylum seekers, too often leading to violent confrontations. The Danish government undertook plans to seize asylum seeker’s personal goods. Sweden reduced mobility on the Oresund bridge, straining the connection between Copenhagen and Malmo and prompting Denmark to reintroduce border controls. The Schengen passport-free travel zone is under collapse. Populist parties reign in the polls in France, The Netherlands and elsewhere. The list goes on.
It is true that the large numbers of migrants put a strain on systems. It is impossible to orderly register and assist the amounts of people now. But it’s also useful to put the numbers in perspective: outgoing UN High Commissioner for Refugees Guterres pointed out that in absolute numbers, the 1 million people reaching Europe is high. But in relative numbers, compared to a population of over 500 million, the number is rather small, especially in comparison to the refugees received by Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.
Ultimately, the refugees are not numbers, but people. A documentary shot on Lesbos by Dutch filmmakers Philip Brink and Marieke van der Velden shows this very clearly. In their documentary “The Island of All Together”, they pair refugees, most from Syria, with vacationers from the Netherlands, Germany and the UK. The people-to-people conversations between refugee and tourist show that ultimately, the human connection factor is stronger than prejudice and fear. A wonderful film showing the human face between the two sides of the crisis.