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Wednesday, 19 October 2016


Two hours skyping Mhairi last night, vicariously tasting her experience of sharing refugee life with a community of nomads marooned in the Sahara for forty years. Forty years of isolation in the sands, where there are no opportunities to build life, only day after monotonous day of surviving, waiting for the world to right the wrong of their displacement by Morocco. 

Forty years of being supported materially by aid agencies and the UN, but also being forgotten by the UN who were to have raised their plight on the world’s stage in 1991. Nothing still. Forty years of receiving good education abroad only to have to return to the desert of no hope. 

Having taken a wind-up torch and expected absolute darkness to descend each night in the powerless camp, Mhairi was surprised to find that six months ago electricity was installed. How to feel about that? An improvement to daily life, yes, but also a discouraging sign of permanency as Saharawi refugee camp transforms into refugee city. 

The annual FiSahara film festival screened films, projected outside on the side of a building, and these films largely focused on the dozens of other refugee situations, many largely unreported on, which exist around the world. The Red Carpet – or rather, the people on it – didn’t resemble any of the glittering film celebrities one might see at Cannes. But those on the carpet showed the refugees that there are people who care.

For the refugees, the festival is a welcome respite in their year, an opportunity to feel that not everyone has forgotten them. Amongst the diet of refugee movies, the organisers screened a Buster Keaton silent movie and finally, everyone, whatever language they spoke, could share a laugh.
I cry out to God. I thought I had a big enough helping of the world’s misery on my prayer plate, but turns out it’s a meal of several courses.  And I’ve just sat down.

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