News travels fast across the world through various means of communication. The simple possession of a phone or a TV makes us aware of what’s going on in the world, whether a tragic or pleasant event. In the European context, one of the main news topics in recent years has been immigration and the refugee crisis. The problem is that people move from one country to another every day, but some people go through a real odyssey in order to find a better life for themselves and their loved ones. We witness these unimaginable journeys every day, we watch them through documentaries, TV reports or films and that is precisely the problem: we watch, but then what?
Over the past few years, the media has been showing us the tragedy of people setting out on an odyssey across the Mediterranean Sea. The images of these people are constantly before our eyes, whether we watch them on television or in films. A good example is Italian director Gianfranco Rosi’s latest docufilm Fuocoammare which, if anything, has the merit of using a format generally used for entertainment to tell a true story.
This means of communication certainly managed to bring to everybody’s attention what is going on in the Mediterranean every day, but the question is: is it actually helpful or is it just a manipulation of the phenomenon for the sake of news? I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The media revolution of the past few years has helped news to travel instantly and has allowed everyone to react almost immediately to whatever tragedy occurs in the world. But the truth is, also, that migrants are “only” people we see in the mass media or people in the pictures of newspapers: there’s no real consciousness of the tragedy. Our information sources give us very vivid images, but fails to raise the necessary awareness in the audience. We are shocked, but for how long? Because what we see might be fathers, mothers and children in despair, but after all they are just images on a screen and they disappear the moment we decide to shut them out of our minds.
As Kenyan-born British poet Warsan Shire wrote in her poem, Home: “No one leaves home unless/ home is the mouth of the shark […] you have to understand, / that no one puts their children in a boat/ unless the water is safer than the land […]”.
Raising awareness is urgently needed. We must understand that what we see is real and happens every day even when we stop thinking about it. Most importantly, we need to realize that migrants are real people and not just images in the media. There’s so much more behind this situation and maybe it’s worth discovering this rather than just passively watching.