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The Swimmers

Aug 18, 2023

Jamie Bryant Managing Director UK Visas

Individuals do matter

I watched a truly eye-opening film on Netflix called The Swimmers recently. It is about a family, led by a driven father who believed in his daughters’ ability to succeed but was broken apart by the war in Syria in 2015.  The two daughters, Sara and Yusra Mardini, swam for their country but the war led them to take the chance of escaping, ending up some months later in Germany.  The film portrays their horrendous journey including scenes of the two girls swimming alongside a broken dinghy for miles to reach Lesbos in Greece, followed by risky and expensive “lifts” across borders.

Yusra, went on to compete at two Olympic Games (Rio and Tokyo) representing the newly introduced Refugee Olympic Team.  Sara meanwhile vowed to do all she could to assist others in their attempts to escape from the Syrian war but was arrested by the Greek authorities and threatened with years of imprisonment. In January, just one month after the film went online, she was able to write on Instagram “Today we finally received some positive news after over 4 years of limbo. The judges decided to drop some of the misdemeanour charges due to the error-ridden indictment and the expiration of the statute of limitations for some charges.

“But this is not justice,” she added. “If the same strategy of procedural errors and extensive delays is continued for the remaining felony charges, we have another 15 years of limbo before we can prove our innocence. We would not have achieved this small victory without the immense support inside and outside Greece. Our fight for justice continues.”

I work in UK immigration (www.ukvisas.co.uk) but our teams are focused on helping sponsors employ global talent so rarely get involved in asylum cases.

However, I still thought I had some idea of how unbearable it must be for innocent victims fleeing war-torn countries to be “processed” by the bureaucrats of whichever country they ended up in.

How wrong I was! Individuals become a name and number on a list that works its way through a curiously slow and unbelievably complex and drawn-out asylum system.

Whilst politicians express their desire to wipe out the crooked gangs who profit from assisting “illegals” risking their lives to cross borders, little progress is achieved.

In the UK hotels are commandeered, barges bought and barracks, often unfit for purpose, are repurposed.

The international legal system is unbelievably complex and many countries struggle with how to balance humanity with political popularity.  Meanwhile, the numbers keep on increasing as the world population itself continues to wage war and polarise into those who have an identity and those who, quite frankly, do not.

Personal identity is lost in bureaucracy.  Individuals are no longer treated as individuals.  Attempting to separate the good from the bad is hopelessly difficult. Even for Olympians.

Please, if you haven’t already done so, watch this film.  Harpers Bazaar gives a great insight here https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/culture/culture-news/a41983020/the-swimmers-netflix-real-story-yusra-mardini/

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