The New Migration Project was inspired by the massive human migrations occurring at a global scale and the destructive nationalist and xenophobic rhetoric currently shaping our global response to the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II. In 2015, 65.3 million people globally were displaced, a population greater than that of the United Kingdom. The same year, the construction of new barriers to divide neighboring countries was greater than any other time in history. By capturing and sharing these migrants’ stories, the project emphasizes the diversity of human experience to further its mission of building better cross-cultural understanding. In short, the project is part volunteer work, part humanitarian campaign, and part documentary film.
Over the course of the next year, “The New Migration” will focus on immigration in Spain as part of a Fulbright Scholarship granted to Sydney Bowie, the project’s founder. Spain is unique in that it is the only land border between Africa and the European Union due to its two enclaves in Northern Morocco, Ceuta and Melilla. These enclaves have historically served as an entry point into the EU, and tens of thousands have climbed the barbed wire fence or swam the border crossing.
Others opt for the even more perilous route of crossing the Mediterranean in pateras (small wooden boats) headed for the Andalusian coast. These boats are exclusively run by the Moroccan mafia and are ill-equipped for the crossing. Once they reach Spanish soil, migrants spend up to 60 days in Centros de Internamiento de Extranjeros (CIE), while Spanish authorities attempt to determine country of origin to begin the process of repatriation. Many of these internment centers were formerly prisons, but have since been repurposed to detain migrants during this liminal period. Approximately 80% of the interned are eventually permitted to enter Spain for one of two reasons: 1) lack of documentation prevents authorities from determining country of origin or 2) the migrant’s home country is deemed too instable for repatriation. Once released from internment, these migrants enter Spain as an “undocumented migrant” without working rights, freedom of travel, or identification and therefore with limited prospects for starting a new life.
Most of these migrants come from war-torn and poverty stricken sub-Saharan-Africa, where 48.5% of the population live on $1.25 a day. Much of the population fleeing this region fits the legal definition of an environmental or climate refugee: a person who is forced to leave their home due to environmental changes induced by human or natural causes that pose a serious threat to their lives or livelihood. Many of these environmental changes are a direct result of developed nations whose energy and resource consumption has triggered desertification, drought, and monsoons due to climate change. By giving a face to the numbers and a voice to the oppressed, capturing these stories will help generate needed awareness and conversation around these issues.
Having already devoted several months to working with individuals across the spectrum on this issue, including non-profit humanitarian organizations and high-level Spanish immigration authorities, I not only have a clear vision for the film, characters, and story, but also the necessary support to turn my vision into a reality.
Storytelling offers a far more expressive and impactful medium than facts or figures, and has the distinctive power to transcend borders—essential for inspiring global change. By starting at the individual level, we can create a global community that emphasizes compassion, acceptance, and understanding over hate, exclusion, and difference.
*The opinions and views presented on this website and in this project are the author's alone and in no way reflect those of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Department of State, or the U.S.-Spain Fulbright Commission.