'To Stay Illegally or To Die"

I am not sure about the ethics involved in making this film or how truthful the experiences of British journalist Sorious Samura are, but “Living with Illegals,” his 50 minute documentary (made for British television) is depressing viewing. To investigate undocumented migration from Africa to the European Union, Samura (who is originally from Sierra Leone and made films about the civil war there) decides to become an undocumented migrant.

He freely mixes with migrants in Morocco, Spain, France and the UK (the final destination for most of them) and puts his life at risk: He sleeps rough, begs, trusts smugglers, and hides in trucks to cross borders.  Samura is definitely pro-immigration. And after a while you root for these men. (He does not interview women migrants although you some women migrants once in the film.)  In the end, you root for the migrants.At times he can’t get his head around why these migrants risk their lives for menial jobs and loneliness.  One tells him: “I am ready to do any kind of job. If I have to I’ll wash the toilets, bathrooms or train stations and I’ll be very happy. Forget I am a graduate.”

Later a Sudanese migrant who has been deported three times from the UK and who Samura grows close to, tells the filmmaker: “I have no choice. What do you prefer? To stay illegally or to die?”

Sean Jacobs



Sean Jacobs

Also goes by Hasan Wazan. Life President.

  1. You are right Sean: no matter how much Samura cut corners, ethical and otherwise, it's still very depressing. I had the same feeling about the civil war documentaries he made – questions about accuracy but conviction about the overall picture. I recently watched a documentary on Zimbabwean illegal immigrants in South Africa that raised similar questions of ethics and accuracy but was still on the whole right about the overall picture.

  2. Rather than depressing I found this documentary inspiring. These brave men are sacrificing everything in order to pursue their dream. The hardships that they are willing to endure put the rest of us to shame. In many ways I am envious of their passion.

  3. It's depressing that all that people with all that bravery and passion are forced by circumstances to leave their homelands to eke out a marginal existence in other countries. The effects of the loss of all that drive and talent to their home countries is incalculable.

  4. I agree with both of you; perhaps my emphasis was not as clear in the post.

    That yes it is depressing, but also you root for the men.

    The larger picture, of course, is the state of the continent and the EU's impractical and cruel immigration policies.

  5. I smiled when I saw Arik made it to the UK, but tears welled up with the idea, that we can not provide enough employment, or even a basic civil society, for its citizens to work. We're living in a world where we are still escaping our motherland to build up the west.

  6. I remember once going to the Frontline Club in London to see the premiere of that film. In the Q&A, someone asked what had happened to one of the Nigerians filmed in the documentary (i.e. whether he managed to stay in the UK etc). Then someone in the audience shouted: ‘Watch Crimewatch’. I actually couldn’t believe such an outrageous comment could be made in that environment. I guess it shows you what goes on in the old boys club of journalists and foreign correspondents…

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