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16th Nov 2019

Filmmakers urge EU leaders to welcome refugees

  • Famous actors and directors handed a petition in favour of refugees to European Parliament president Martin Schulz. (Photo: European Parliament)

European filmmakers urged EU leaders to welcome refugees and resent xenophobic and populist urges on Tuesday (20 October) in Brussels.

Award-winning filmmakers presented a petition signed by over 5,500 people, mostly artists, to European Parliament president Martin Schulz and EU Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans.

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They urged the EU to offer legal ways for refugees to travel to Europe, and scrap the Dublin regulation that puts a huge strain on frontline countries by having to register and deal with the asylum claims of all new migrants and refugees.

They are also calling on EU leaders not to give in to populism and uphold EU fundamental values and principles when dealing with the refugee crisis.

“Europe seems to be wanting to do crisis management, we want more than that, we want a Europe that shouts its values loud and clear,” Michel Hazanavicius, French director of 2011 Oscar-winning film, The Artist, said at the press conference.

Italian actress and director, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, German actress Hanna Schygulla, French director Laurent Cantet - who won the Palme d'Or in 2008 for his film, Entre les murs - and Polish actor Andrzej Chyra were also in Brussels to pass on the petition that was launched after 71 people, mostly Syrians, suffocated to death in a truck in Austria in August trying to make their way into Western Europe.

“It’s not a flow of refugees, it’s men and women, they are dying on the way here,” Hazanavicius said.

Find solutions

The filmmakers expressed concern over what they see as the EU’s lack of response, and its leaders failing to come up with solutions.

They urged leaders to make funds available, offer refugees a home, a job, allow their children to go to school, and put an end to the Dublin rule that says the country where the asylum seeker first set foot in the EU must deal with the asylum claim.

“Dublin is an obstacle to cooperation among member states,” Hazanavicius said.

The filmmakers also warned of the threat of populism, as some politicians are exploiting the atmosphere of uncertainty and fear to their advantage.

“We would like to hear Europe’s voice, a discourse we can identify with, we would like a banner we can march under,” Hazanavicius said, adding that populist and demagogue discourse attracts significantly more attention, as they are louder.

“Silence works for the populists,” he said.

Other signatories to the petition include British actor and James Bond star, Daniel Craig, Belgian directors, the Dardenne brothers, Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki, Czech director Jiri Menzel, Hungarian director Bela Tarr, Greek-French film director Costa-Gavras, Italian actress Isabella Rossellini, Austrian film director Michael Haneke, and Danish actress Susanne Bier.

Calais

In the meantime, 800 French and French-speaking artists and intellectuals have launched another petition

calling for an "emergency plan" in Calais, where more than 3,000 migrants live in camps with the aim of crossing the Channel to Britain.

In the petition, they denounce the conditions in which migrants live and the violence inflicted on migrants by far-right groups.

The situation in Calais "undermines the founding principles of France, our common humanity and prepares us for the worst," the petitioners wrote.

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Opinion

Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'

As ex-national leaders, we know it's not easy to withstand public pressures and put collective interests ahead of domestic concerns. But without strong institutional leadership, EU values themselves risk ringing hollow, not least to those seeking protection on Europe's shores.

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