A harrowing new video hopes to highlight the plight of young refugees with its fictional depiction of a young British girl’s journey from her war-torn home in London as she seeks asylum in Europe.
The international nonprofit Save the Children film released on Monday shows 11-year-old Lily traveling across Europe on foot and by boat, bus and train before finally settling into a refugee camp in Germany.
Lily is under threat from armed men, sexual predators and bombs at home in London. She’s unwelcome in some of the countries she crosses. At one point, Lily walks past signs reading “Pas D’Anglais” — French for “No English.” At another, she’s placed in a cage with other children. At the end of the video, she registers as a refugee in Germany.
While Lily’s story is fictional, it’s based on the actual cases of young refugees who escaped the Syrian war and made their way across the Middle East toward Europe, said Carolyn Miles, president and CEO of Save the Children U.S.
“The reason for putting it [the video] in the context of London is to really get across this idea: What if this were happening here to us in a developed country somewhere, be it in London or New York or Chicago?” Miles told The WorldPost. “If it happened here, people would be incredibly shocked, right?”
Monday’s video is a sequel to Save the Children’s first film, released in 2014 and named “Most Shocking Second A Day,” which depicts Lily’s life crumbling as London descends into war. The charity released this second film — titled “Still The Most Shocking Second A Day” — to remind viewers of the nightmare that children from war-ravaged countries face.
“I think people tend to forget what’s happening in places like Syria, and other places where there are refugees,” Miles said. “We wanted to put out the new video to try and jolt people out of thinking: this is over, or maybe things are getting better, or that just because [they] don’t see it on the front page of the newspaper, maybe kids are not suffering like they have been.”
At least 340 children, either accompanied or unaccompanied, drowned while crossing the Mediterranean Sea between October 2015 and February 2016, according to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.
On top of the physical dangers, refugee children seeking asylum risk experiencing long-term mental trauma, a medical study found last September. This trauma could result in psychological distress and mental illness, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, the report added. Many children who had reached their host countries were also found to experience insomnia, homesickness and separation anxiety, the Guardian reported last week.
A photo of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi, a refugee from Kobani, Syria, washed up on a beach in Turkey sparked horror and disgust around the world last year. Kurdi and his family were attempting to cross from the Turkish port city of Bodrum to the island of Kos in Greece.
Many of these refugee children, like Lily, also travel alone. A record 96,000 children under 18 arrived unaccompanied in Europe last year, according to a Pew Research report published Tuesday. That figure is almost three times the number of unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Europe in 2013 and 2014 combined.
Save the Children hopes its video will draw the world’s attention to Syria’s refugees ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit, which will be held in Istanbul next week. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is slated to attend, as is Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam, among other world leaders.
Doctors Without Borders, however, has pulled out of the summit, expressing doubt that the summit will address the flaws in today’s humanitarian action and emergency response and branding the summit nothing but a “fig-leaf of good intentions.”
Save the Children provides refugee children and families in and around conflict areas, migrant routes and destination countries with essential needs like food, clothes and medicine. One of the organization’s most important goals is also to secure education for refugee children — the reason why many refugee parents make the treacherous trip to Europe in the first place, Miles said.