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Ciné-ONU Presents: Stranger in Paradise

Panel discussion after screening of Stranger in Paradise, including Geertrui Lanneau (IOM),  Marlies Stubbe (Government of Flanders) and Jan Wouters (KUL)

18 December 2017 - On the occasion of International Migrants Day, and under the banner of United Nations Cinema and the Global Migration Film Festival organized by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the screening of a semi-documentary ‘Stranger in Paradise’ was hosted by Cinema ZED in Leuven, Belgium.

As a work of part fiction and part documentary, Stranger in Paradise reflects on the power relations between Europeans and refugees. All the refugees in Stranger in Paradise, as well as their stories, are real. With reenacted fictional scenarios in which a white actor addresses a group of refugees in a classroom, the documentary offers three distinctive takes on the immigration story. First, the audience is confronted with an aggressive right-wing perspective, followed by a more liberal and idealistic stance. Finally, a classroom of real-life migrants are told how their cases may be handled in line with the reality of European and Dutch migration laws.

Testimony of Pir, a young Afghan boy who fled as an unaccompanied minor to Belgium

With its three takes on immigration, the screening provided plenty discussion. Before the panelists were invited to give their opinions on the film, the audience heard a touching testimony from Pir, a young Afghan boy who fled as an unaccompanied minor to Belgium. His experiences as a refugee escaping from the Taliban by crossing more than a dozen countries, often in very difficult circumstances, in order to arrive at a safe destination moved the audience and the panel.

Marlies Stubbe, who works for the Government of Flanders as Policy Advisor on Integration, began by talking about migration in Belgium and beyond and provided some statistics to highlight the reality behind immigration. Quoting a report from Myria, the Belgian Federal Migration Centre, she stated that the majority of foreigners coming into Belgium are from other EU countries. Among the newcomers, the three most represented nationalities are Romanians, French and Dutch. Even though Syrians coming in as the fourth largest group in 2017 is a new phenomenon, looking at the bigger picture, she stated that “Immigration is part of our story, we have known it for a longer time and from a larger group”. 

Stranger in Paradise, Leuven screening

For Geertrui Lanneau, a Senior Specialist on labour mobility and human development at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Stranger in Paradise is “an interesting film, revealing the reality of the different points of view on immigration and the existing policies in Europe. Unfortunately, more and more people are following the first conservative view and restricting policies. ” She addressed another major upcoming crisis in Europe, the ageing population, and the opportunities that migrants bring. “We should accept that more and more people will come. The cost of not integrating people is much higher. This crisis is about the lack of a long-term vision.”

Professor Jan Wouters, President of the United Nations Association of Flanders (VVN), commented on the aspects that were missing from the documentary, such as the place of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in the immigration story and host countries from third world countries, such as Lebanon and Pakistan. He also spoke about the issue of economic migration that “We have very detailed international frameworks for the movements of products, services and capital. But there is a gap when we are talking about people: we are missing a global framework for the migration of people.”


More information:

  • For more on Stranger in Paradise, click here
  • For the Flickr album, click here 
  • For more on International Migrants Day 2017, click here
  • For more on the Global Migration Film Festival, click here 
  • For UNRIC’s library backgrounder on migration, click here


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