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  • Sana Uqba

Refugees in Europe find innovative ways to ease hardship


Refugees stuck within the borders of Europe have now set up their own television station in an attempt to mock western media reporting of the crisis.

The migrants who travelled thousands of miles to flee from war and poverty in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan among other nations, have taken it upon themselves to portray their struggle in what they see as a more appropriate manner.

Refugee.tv is a channel created in cooperation with a German-Austrian film team that hopes to empower those in refugee camps across Europe where hundreds of thousands now reside.

"Refugee.tv is 'artivism', uniting art with civil engagement. We want to resolve borders through film making and engagement," founder and Austrian filmmaker, David Gross said.

Full-length news reports - uploaded onto the popular video-sharing platform YouTube - are both directed and filmed by refugees who interview other migrants on their journey to the west as well as European residents on their opinions of the crisis.

One video, entitled 'Are you afraid of refugees?' sees reporter Arman from Afghanistan take to the streets to question the Austrian public whether the international media has affected their perception of migrants entering the country. In some cases, those with no media equipment have recorded interviews on phones with makeshift wooden cameras and microphones made from plastic cups.

In what can only be described as a direct mockery of the western media's portrayal of the crisis, refugees are seen imitating some of the many news reporters that regularly demonstrate intrusive behaviour at the camps.

The refugee crisis has been labelled the worst humanitarian disaster since the Second World War and has sparked fierce international debate.

More than one million people clandestinely crosses from Turkey to Greece in 2015, and some 150,000 have made the trip since the start of this year, with over 700 dying while trying to reach the camps scattered across EU countries.

"There are several camps across Greece, some of which are official military camps under the authority of the army and others are unofficial locations where people have simply gathered and set up tents," said Sura Jawad, a British volunteer who travelled to the Greek Idomeini camp with the Iraqi Welfare Association.

"Idomeni is one of the largest camps run solely by volunteers and NGOs. There are thousands of tents scattered across the farmland and there are many who are very vulnerable due to having chronic illnesses or being single mothers."

But the grass-root projects and safe spaces being set up across camps are easing the tough conditions, she suggested.

"It's actually quite heart-warming to see how creative people can be in such dire situations," Jawad said.

"Refugee.tv is just one example but there are other projects being set up by refugees. At one of the other camps known as Eko camp, there was a women-only tent where girls gathered and were putting make-up on and just generally having a good time.

"I asked what the tent was for and they told me it was just a safe place for women to go to and have and enjoy themselves. They played music and danced and sang and forgot about their worries," Jawad added.

Meanwhile in Sweden, a 'language-pub'set up to offer Swedish classes has proven to be popular among refugees.

"At first I tried to learn the language through the internet and other methods but in the end, you really need to practice in a real-life setting," said Mohammad al-Refaie, a Syrian refugee who arrived in the country a year ago from war-torn Damascus. "The meetings have broken down the wall and let me learn Swedish while meeting lots of new people and familiarising myself with the local culture," the 28-year-old added.

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