Human-Trafficking News

“The Swimmers”, the harsh reality of migration

“The Swimmers”, the harsh reality of migration
  • PublishedJune 12, 2023

The Swimmers follows the story of the Mardini Sisters. They lived in Syria and were trained by their father to become Olympics’ swimmers. Everything was going well until the war broke out. Sara, the eldest, played by actress Manal Issa, convinced her parents to let her go to Europe with her younger sister Yusra, interpreted by Nathalie Issa.

The beginning of their journey

Their journey allows the viewer somehow to understand why migrant would choose to cross the sea despite the dangers. The Mardini Sisters have followed the same path as more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees. Like them, they hoped to reach the Greek islands across from Turkey.

The sisters, short of money, decided to cross the Aegean Sea with a group of refugees. They were placed on a overcrowded raft. Important detail: many of the actors portraying migrants have been migrants themselves. So filming the crossing scene was loaded with meaning. Some took their children to shoot the scene with them. Meant for 7 people, they were 18 migrants on board. In the movie, we see migrants with life-jackets. It is not always the case.

Material : the real hazard

According to the UNHCR, in 2016, 5,096 people disappeared or died in the Mediterranean Sea. Given these figures, the absence of life jackets may raise questions.Their absence can be explained by several reasons.

Not everyone can afford one. According to InfoMigrants, a lifejacket can cost from 50 to 400 euros. Even if they do buy one, it may be defective.

Traffickers can confiscate it because it takes up space. To make trips profitable, they need to fill the raft. Moreover, the bright orange of the jackets can attract the attention of coastguards.

However, crossing conditions are complicated enough to require the use of a life jacket as is shown in the film.

The overcrowding and poor quality of the boat put the crossing in danger. After an engine problem and an unusable emergency phone, they were left at sea.

Intrepid or desperate, the sisters throw themselves into the water. Excellent swimmers, they pulled the raft. What was supposed to be a 45 minute boat ride become a feat of more than 3 hours of swimming. They reached the island of Lesbos, in Greece, exhausted.

Finally, they could resume their travel to Germany. Viewers could share their concerns : sadness of leaving their native country behind, anxiety of being separated from their family, fear of not succeeding or being sent back.

Once they arrived at destination, they completed administrative paperwork and became asylum seekers.

An asylum seeker is a person who has left his/her country and is seeking protection from persecution and serious human rights violations in another country, but who hasn’t yet been legally recognized as a refugee and is waiting to receive a decision on their asylum claim.

When the dream comes true

The sisters, determined to become Olympic swimmers, joined a a local Berlin swimming club. The youngest, Yusra, tried out for the German Olympic swimming team, but she didn’t make the cut. Resolving not to give up on her dream of being an Olympic athlete, she qualified for the refugee team.

According to the Refugee Convention of 1951, a refugee is a person who had fled their own country. They did it because of the risk of serious violations and persecution. The risks were so great that they felt they had no choice.

At the end, Yusra competed in the Olympic Games of Rio in 2016 and once again in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Written By

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: