Green Border: a stain on democracy

Christina/ February 10, 2024/ Ideas of philosophy/ 0 comments

We from the “West” are never tired of telling the world how important human rights are to us. But only as long as our own prosperity is not threatened. How else could we explain the fact that we use our tax money to support ex-dictators like Mubarak or Gaddafi and still-active autocrats like Erdogan? Or rather, that we can use these funds to keep unwanted migrants away? And of course we don’t want to know exactly what happens to these immigrants at the borders. The film “Green Border” by the Polish director Agnieszka Holland shows us the result very impressively. The filmmaker doesn’t point the finger, but rather shows the different perspectives in a balanced way: those of the refugees, the border soldiers and the activists. Rating: particularly valuable.

The situation
This Monday Marco Frank, managing director of Refugium, and Swantje Schendel, MdL from Alliance 90/The Greens, are on site. The two introduce the audience to the topic. It is primarily about GEA, the Common European Asylum Procedure. The limits of our understanding of human rights quickly become clear: the MPs have agreed, among other things, that migrants can now be detained for a full 28 days instead of 10 days. The circle of “safe countries of origin” has been expanded. If you would like to find out more about how the West deals with migration policy, I recommend Jan Böhmermann’s Magazine Royale issue from May 2023. In this context, freedom means “protection of the EU’s external borders”.

The plot
Admittedly, I had quite a bit of respect for the film. Beforehand, I wasn’t sure how much inhumane treatment I would be able to endure. This is where the strength of the film and Agnieszka Holland’s balanced performance become apparent. The Green Border is divided into three episodes. First of all, the focus is on a Syrian family. The group is heeding the promises of Belarusian dictator Lukashenko. It will go via Belarus to Poland and from there to Sweden, where relatives live. After arriving in Minsk, it quickly becomes clear what awaits the refugees. They become human pawns in the conflict between Belarus and Poland with brutal consequences for everyone involved: two members of the family die. The grandfather is beaten to death by Belarusian border guards. The family’s son drowns in the Polish moor.

But the situation doesn’t just leave psychological marks on the refugees. The border guards are also struggling with their conscience. They try to give themselves courage with alcohol and macho sayings. The example of one of the soldiers shows clearly how his life changes as a result of working at the border. And then there are the activists, the “do-gooders”. I can never really decide whether these people really believe in saving the world, just want to make their contribution to a more humane world, or whether their efforts make them feel morally superior to other people. Green Border also behaves neutrally here and shows the ambiguity and conflicts of the actors.

The bottom line
The complexity of the film and the different perspectives of the protagonists do not allow for a simple conclusion. The overall situation is probably simply too complex. In my opinion, Western politicians primarily fight the symptoms and not the causes of human trafficking. Why might that be so? So far I have only found one explanation for myself. Our largely carefree, comfortable and safe lives rely primarily on the fact that people outside the Western Hemisphere live in different conditions. They are the ones who supply the mineral resources for our cell phones, laptops and other goods under questionable conditions. With a little thought, everyone will realize that it is not just gas and oil prices that will increase when global prosperity and democratic participation become normal. It is unlikely that “cheap discounters” like Primark or TK Maxx will continue to sell 5 euro t-shirts if countries like Bangladesh, India or Vietnam pay their workers a livable wage and introduce the 4-day week. Everything has it’s price. The images shown in the film Green Border are the price we pay for our freedom, our consumption and our understanding of human rights.

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