Human flow : the forced displacement crisis on screen


Ai Weiwei’s documentary « Human flow » is about people throughout the world being forcibly displaced from their homes due to circumstances beyond their control, often war, conflict, persecution, natural disasters, but also poverty or hunger. The 2 hours and 20 minutes-long documentary is a stark and visually-powerful reminder of today’s unprecedented forced displacement crisis and of the plight of its over 65 million people displaced at the end of 2017 throughout the world.

While it is easy to blame our governments for building walls instead of bridges and failing to help those fleeing for their lives and trying to offer a better future for their kids in the west, ultimately we all share some of the blame. In the democracies we are so proud of, we choose to elect our leaders and support their agendas.

As Ai Weiwei points out in his article « The refugee crisis isn’t about refugees. It’s about us« , the forced migration crisis as rooted in our incapacity to prioritise people’s fundamental human rights and their most basic needs over our greed and short-sighted financial gains. We need to reconcile our humanity with ourselves and to accept all people in need as worthy of our efforts to protect and assist them.

While the poorest countries in the south continue to host the vast majority of people forcibly displaced, including refugees, the richest countries in the west, with very few exceptions, continue to barricade themselves behind walls, making it increasingly difficult for forced migrants to reach our shores.

The Refuge crisis in numbers, Amnesty International, 2017

To make things worse, people assisting the most vulnerable migrants are becoming targets of our judiciary system, facing legal sanctions for saving lives.

It is high time that the west also shares some of the burden of the forced displacement crisis. After all, there is no denying that countries have been the largest contributors to climate change and that most of the conflicts around the world are fuelled by the sale of weapons produced in the west.

How long can we pretend that this is not our problem?

What if we were in their shoes?

Would we also not try everything to escape war, poverty and famine?