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THE OTHER EUROPE
THE OTHER EUROPE Bookmark and Share

58 minutes, 2006
Produced and Directed by Poul-Erik Heilbuth and DR TV
English
ABOUT THE FILM
DISCONTINUED

Immigration is as hot button an issue across Europe as it is here. The Other Europe is a penetrating study of the economics and politics behind the immigration debate with revealing parallels to our own country. The film provides a cross-section of the immigrant experience, from fairly successful to disastrous, in Spain, Germany and England. It argues that Europe is putting out a contradictory message to immigrants: the economic system says we have plenty of jobs and will pay you more than you could ever earn at home; but the political systems warns we donít want you.

Running throughout the film is the dramatic re-enactment of the tragic but utterly predictable events which unfolded on February 4, 2004 on the tidal flats of Morecambe Bay, England. A group of illegal Chinese immigrants picking cockles (similar to a scallop), unfamiliar with the treacherous 30 foot tides, unable to understand the warnings of the English cocklers, became trapped in the freezing rising waters. Several had cell phones but rather than call the coast guard they called their families in China to say a final goodbye. Despite the efforts of more than two hundred rescuers, 23 died and only 9 survived, in the worst industrial accident in Britain for 25 years. The filmmakers travel undercover to China, because the authorities there want to hide the fact that so many people want to immigrate. They return to the roots of the story: a depopulated, destitute village where we meet the grieving families of the Morecambe Bay cocklers.

In Spain, greenhouses grow vegetables sold in every supermarket in Europe. They are picked mostly by illegal African workers. We meet one, Bokarova from Mali; nine people drowned when the rickety boat he took capsized on its way from Morocco. He now lives in a garage with 17 other people. He has been separated from his wife and daughter for five years and sends back 80% of his wages to his family. In fact, more money flows to the developing world through remittances from immigrants than from all the foreign aid from the West.

A Spanish grower and the director of a German factory admit that undocumented workers are essential to the prosperity of Western economies. A government official in Madrid says that, though Spain has 2,000,000 unemployed, its own workers are too highly educated to do agricultural labor and the law states you canít force a person to work in a job below his skill level. A British economist points out that the situation is absurd and self-deceptive: immigrants should be admitted legally to do the jobs Europeans wonít do, paid decently and extended social benefits.

Yet we hear politicians like Britainís Tony Blair, catering to the electorateís fears, brag they will cut illegal immigration in half. All efforts have failed; for every one worker Germany sends back, eight new ones arrive. As in this country, it is the destitute undocumented workers who are arrested and live in fear not the corporate executives who knowingly employ them.

Unlike most American coverage of the immigration issue, The Other Europe explains why undocumented workers are an integral part of Western economies. The film is an unambiguous call to stop the hypocrisy and political posturing and develop humane consistent policies for the foreigners who come to do the jobs we wonít.
Immigration is as hot button an issue across Europe as it is here. The Other Europe is a penetrating study of the economics and politics behind the immigration debate with revealing parallels to our own country. The film provides a cross-section of the immigrant experience, from fairly successful to disastrous, in Spain, Germany and England. It argues that Europe is putting out a contradictory message to immigrants: the economic system says we have plenty of jobs and will pay you more than you could ever earn at home; but the political systems warns we donít want you.

Running throughout the film is the dramatic re-enactment of the tragic but utterly predictable events which unfolded on February 4, 2004 on the tidal flats of Morecambe Bay, England. A group of illegal Chinese immigrants picking cockles (similar to a scallop), unfamiliar with the treacherous 30 foot tides, unable to understand the warnings of the English cocklers, became trapped in the freezing rising waters. Several had cell phones but rather than call the coast guard they called their families in China to say a final goodbye. Despite the efforts of more than two hundred rescuers, 23 died and only 9 survived, in the worst industrial accident in Britain for 25 years. The filmmakers travel undercover to China, because the authorities there want to hide the fact that so many people want to immigrate. They return to the roots of the story: a depopulated, destitute village where we meet the grieving families of the Morecambe Bay cocklers.

In Spain, greenhouses grow vegetables sold in every supermarket in Europe. They are picked mostly by illegal African workers. We meet one, Bokarova from Mali; nine people drowned when the rickety boat he took capsized on its way from Morocco. He now lives in a garage with 17 other people. He has been separated from his wife and daughter for five years and sends back 80% of his wages to his family. In fact, more money flows to the developing world through remittances from immigrants than from all the foreign aid from the West.

A Spanish grower and the director of a German factory admit that undocumented workers are essential to the prosperity of Western economies. A government official in Madrid says that, though Spain has 2,000,000 unemployed, its own workers are too highly educated to do agricultural labor and the law states you canít force a person to work in a job below his skill level. A British economist points out that the situation is absurd and self-deceptive: immigrants should be admitted legally to do the jobs Europeans wonít do, paid decently and extended social benefits.

Yet we hear politicians like Britainís Tony Blair, catering to the electorateís fears, brag they will cut illegal immigration in half. All efforts have failed; for every one worker Germany sends back, eight new ones arrive. As in this country, it is the destitute undocumented workers who are arrested and live in fear not the corporate executives who knowingly employ them.

Unlike most American coverage of the immigration issue, The Other Europe explains why undocumented workers are an integral part of Western economies. The film is an unambiguous call to stop the hypocrisy and political posturing and develop humane consistent policies for the foreigners who come to do the jobs we wonít.

CRITICAL COMMENT
"The complexity of being powerless is brought to the fore by Europe's immigrants. Not wanted by much of society but needed by much of the eocnomy. Not fully authorized by the state but recognized by civil society. Even the most vulnerable immigrants are informal actors making history. Whole state bureacuracies have regeared their operations in fear of these immigrants."
Saskia Sassen, Territory, Authority, Rights
"Illegal immigration is not just a problem in the United States. Migrants from Eastern Europe, Africa, and China move to Britain and Spain to fill the same types of jobs that Mexicans fill in the US. The Other Europe offers a stimulating look at these new migrants, focusing on the 23 Chinese who died harvesting shell fish in February 2004 and workers in southern SpainĎs greenhouses. The Other Europe provides a useful comparative lens for discussing migrant labor issues."
Philip Martin, Chair, Comparative Immigration & Integration Program, UC Davis
"This fine film focuses both on the process and tragedy of undocumented immigration. It probes the tension between strong support for illegal immigration in the economic system, and growing opposition at the political level. It is an excellent tool for raising issues and generating discussion."
Martin Schain, New York University

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