Escape from the war with a wedding procession
Övgü Pınar - 10/06/2014
“A fantastic yet damningly true story. A courageous act of civil disobedience with far reaching echoes.” This is how creators of "On The Bride’s Side”, a documentary about a fake wedding procession that travels from Italy to Sweden, to help 5 Palestinians and Syrians fleeing the war, define their work.
"What border guard would ever check the documents of a bride?”. As the documentary shows, the answer is' "noone." The procession passed from 5 borders between Italy, France, Luxembourg, Germany and Sweden without any problems and the immigrants managed to get political asylum as refugees.
Gabriele del Grande, an Italian journalist and one of the creators of the documentary tells the story:
How did you decide to set up this “wedding procession”?
It was in October 2013. Italy was shaken by the deaths of the five hundred dead from two shipwrecks in Lampedusa on October 3 and 11. I was back in Milan for a month, after my last trip to Syria as a war reporter. Those were the days when hundreds of Syrian refugees passed from Milan. They came by train from southern Italy, after having landed in Sicily on smuggling routes from Libya and Egyp. And they were looking for a passage from Milan to north Europe once again with the smugglers. Those days I often went to the central station with a Syrian-Palestinian poet friend, Khaled Soliman Al Nassiry (co-director of the film). Over time, we met five Palestinians and Syrians who had fled the war and we became friends. We've hosted them in our homes. And when we asked ourselves how we could help them to continue their journey to Sweden, there came the idea of the fake wedding procession. A director friend, Antonio Augugliaro (co-director of the film) convinced us to take a camera with us and make a film of the journey.
Who were these immigrants that you helped reach Sweden?
They were Syrians and Palestinians that had fled the war in Syria. A college student (Abdallah) in English language and literature, a couple of old Syrian opponents from the left (Mona and Ahmed) and a rapper boy traveling with his father (Manar and Alaa).
Why did they want to escape? Did you know them before?
They had escaped from the war in Syria. They had reached Italy traveling on the smuggling routes from Libya and Egypt. Since the war began in 2011, it has caused three million refugees out of Syria and nine million internally displaced people. A real humanitarian catastrophe. I didn’t know them before. We've met in Milan, because Milan has become an obligatory passage for thousands of Syrians who landed in Sicily and then tried to reach northern Europe.
Did you manage to arrive in Sweden without any problems? And did the immigrants have any problems later in Sweden? What are they doing now?
Yes we arrived without problems, after a journey of 4 days and 3 thousand miles, through six states and five borders. From Italy to France, Luxembourg, Germany, Denmark and finally Sweden. After all, what border guards would ever stop a wedding procession? Who could ask the documents of a bride dressed in white? Our five friends now have obtained political asylum as refugees. Three of them are currently in Sweden. Two others were sent back to Italy, according to the Dublin II Regulation, which necessitates to seek asylum in the first country where they are fingerprinted.
Have you been sued?
Fortunately we have not been sued by anyone yet. Also because no one stopped us at the border… However, the risk will be more concrete when the movie is released in theaters, as it will provide the evidence of the crime. In fact, we have documented how we crossed the borders illegally. The movie is a sort of “self-complaint” for us. We do this because we consider it a legitimate act, albeit illegal. We believe that it was an act of moral value having helped five people fleeing from the war to save themselves. And with this provocative gesture we want the public to question the European border policies, after thousands of people have died at the sea trying to travel on the smuggling routes for not having the opportunity to have a visa.
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