Documentary shows refugees dressed as wedding party to cross borders
A new documentary, ‘On the Bride’s Side’, shows the journey of a group of asylum seekers and their friends who dressed up as a fake wedding party in order to smuggle themselves from Milan to Stockholm.
The idea, though seemingly hilarious, shows the desperation and extremes of those seeking safety are willing to go to.
The film’s director, Khaled Soliman Al Nassiry, told the ABC about how a chance meeting at Milan Central Station led to him conceiving this strange plan, filming the documentary, and creating a lifelong friendship.
Khaled, a Palestian-Syrian poet, met up
with his friends, the writer Gabriele Del Grande and poet-translator Tareq al Jabr, for coffee.
“A guy he comes to us and he asks us [in Arabic]: ‘Guys, do you know where I can catch the train that goes to Sweden?’ You laugh because there is no direct train to Sweden from Milan,” Khaled told the ABC.
“We are directly asking: ‘Are you Syrian?’ He said yes, Syrian Palestinian, like me exactly. So we invite him to have coffee. And he tells us his story and it was really strong and sad.”
The man asking for directions was English literature student Abdallah Sallam, a Syrian refugee who was attempting to make the journey to Stockholm with a group of other refugees.
Abdallah was one of the 155 survivors of the 2013 Lampedusa shipwreck, which had taken over 300 lives and left 200 victims of the wreck yet to be identified.
For many of the survivors of the Lampedusa disaster, Milan Central Station was their first stop.
“All these people dying in the sea and you meet a person who has just survived from a boat. He saw 200 persons die in the sea. So when he tells you this story, you feel very sad and heavy.”
After hearing Abdallah’s story Khaled and his two friends decide to help the refugees escape their nightmares and seek political asylum in Sweden.
Two years ago Sweden was known by many refugees as the most likely to help their plight and secure them safety.
“Sweden was the most famous country which helped refugees,” Khaled said.
“They have a good system to help the immigrants. They host them. They help them to study to study the language. It was the most strong system in Europe for immigrants.”
Over 15 days the plan of the fake wedding party was created and 23 people were assembled to ensure they looked legitimate.
“Wedding means new life, the bride in English is something white, something clean to start a new life,” said Khaled
“And these people they come to make a new life, running from the war, leaving everything behind them and come to look for safety place and the new life. Not just a safety place that means they’re not going to die. But they need also a new life actually.”
The journey took them by foot through a mountain path into France and by train across countries, until finally reaching their final destination in Sweden.
While planning and crossing countries Khaled faced the prospect of 15 years in jail for assisting in irregular migration.
The thought of jail time and the difficulties involved in what he was doing never stopped Khaled as he was all too aware of the changes that need to take place in how we view migrants.
“You know what we need? We need to talk with other people. We have this image about immigrants they are coming from the outside,” said Khaled.
“We think they’re taking our job, our places and everything. And there are Muslims and maybe they’re ISIS. We just need to talk with them. If you talk with them you will change your knowledge about things.”
AMES Australia Staff Writer