The Deal

Intro

In March 2018, it is two years since the EU-Turkey migrant deal came into effect. Under the deal, Syrian refugees who had reached Greece were to be returned to Turkey, while Syrian asylum seekers in Turkey were to be resettled in the EU. Some regard the deal as a necessary evil; others as a diabolical pact. Gerald Knaus, the founder of a Berlin-based think tank, is the architect of the deal. He is reviled by extreme left-wing and human rights organizations alike but also admired for his intellectual courage. He travels around Europe arguing tirelessly for an asylum policy that is both humane and effective.

Read the story

In March 2018, it is two years since the EU-Turkey migrant deal came into effect. Under the deal, Syrian refugees who had reached Greece were to be returned to Turkey, while Syrian asylum seekers in Turkey were to be resettled in the EU. Some regard the deal as a necessary evil; others as a diabolical pact. Gerald Knaus, the founder of a Berlin-based think tank, is the architect of the deal. He is reviled by extreme left-wing and human rights organizations alike but also admired for his intellectual courage. He travels around Europe arguing tirelessly for an asylum policy that is both humane and effective.

Meanwhile, the slow pace of procedures and relocation has left thousands of refugees stranded in horrendous conditions on the island of Lesbos. Local residents, volunteers from across Europe and refugees themselves are trying to alleviate the situation. The EU-Turkey deal now serves as an example for new agreements with countries in North Africa. But does it even work? For whom? And what have we learned from it? Documentary The Deal explores the answers to these questions as well as possible improvements for Europe’s current asylum policy.

The Deal is part of a cross media project ‘The EU Asylum Machine‘, a cross-border, multidisciplinary, transmedia project that explores the complex world of European asylum policy and connected asylum policies of EU member states. The main and initial component is a web documentary providing insight into the European and different national asylum policies and inviting users to think about how they think the policies should work. The EU Asylum Machine brings together investigative journalism, documentary film, photography, interaction and debate. Combining new material (text, photography, film) with excerpts from existing productions, The EU Asylum Machine takes its audience on a journey through the convoluted world of EU asylum policy. We also compare different member states. How do refugee numbers compare to those of our neighbours? Is a common European asylum policy realistic, given the many political compromises such a policy entails?

The project started with De Asielzoekmachine (The Asylum Machine, also available in English), which focuses on Dutch asylum policy. Now this ground-breaking project is looking passed Dutch borders.The EU Asylum Machine combines the expertise of documentary makers, journalists, artists, (web) designers and curators. For the different national projects we are looking for fellow journalists and documentary makers across Europe to use our online and offline storytelling tools to investigate their own asylum policies.

Watch the English subtitled version of The Deal by clicking the button below and using the password: TheDeal2018

Watch The DealExplanation by makerBack to the stories

Explanation by author

How did the making of The Deal come about?

We travelled to Lesbos to see what the EU-Turkey deal meant in practice. And we were shocked. Thousands of people were crammed into camp Moria, without decent sanitary facilities, no proper help for their medical needs, and without proper legal aid. It’s a humanitarian crisis in Europe and the EU is looking away. With our film we wanted to make a nuanced and critical analysis of the deal and the people directly involved: the ‘architect’ of the deal Gerald Knaus, refugee Ramy Qudmany, who crossed after the deal, was shipwrecked and has been stuck on the island for more than one and half years, the volunteers from all over Europe who want to help and Greek Katerina, who helps refugees and almost serves as a ‘moral conscience’.

The Deal is part of the cross media project ‘The Asylum Search Engine’, a cross-border, multidisciplinary, transmedia project that explores the complex world of European asylum policy and connected asylum policies of EU member states. The main and initial component is a web documentary providing insight into the European and different national asylum policies and inviting users to think about how they think the policies should work.

The refugee crisis has deeply divided Europe. While some call for closed borders, others advocate free entry. Although few topics ignite such heated debate, how and whether the policies work is almost impossible to comprehend thanks to the vast number of procedures, organizations, rules and exceptions. We live in a democratic society where we share responsibility for our asylum policy. But how can we be sure it is the right policy if it is too complex for most people to comprehend? The EU Asylum Search Engine aims to unravel these complexities. It poses the questions: How does our asylum policy work? And how do we actually want it to work?

At what moment did you think ‘This won’t work, I’ll have to give up’. And how did you continue from there?

Funding for the film was difficult, because the refugee topic is no longer ‘hot’. Fortunately we had the support of broadcaster IKON/EO and two smaller funds. But we made it really low-budget (with the support of our amazing crew).

During the research and production we often asked ourselves: how are we going to tell such a tough, bureaucratic story in a film? Also, things are shifting quickly, new policies are made every day, new deals were being constantly discussed. When we were filming on Lesbos even the Refugee Treaty itself came under attack.

How can we make a film that is up to date and at the same time is more than something you would see on the news?

During the edit period we often thought: hell, this is not going to work. But that is a normal process. And in the end we discovered that telling the story from three different perspectives brought the complex political and rational story also to the heart.

Could you tell us something about the state of narrative in your country, The Netherlands?

There are many possibilities for storytelling in The Netherlands, both in the sense of funding as well as media outlets that are open for different (and new) forms of storytelling. I’m really lucky to be based here.

Who are your narrative hero’s in your country?

In writing, I’m inspired by the work of Joris Luyendijk, whose productions are all well investigated and of great quality, and Paul Teunissen, who writes great narrative stories. Others I look up to are Minka Nijhuis, Ryszard Kapuściński and F. Springer. Filmmakers that inspire me are Kim Longinotto and Baz Luhrmann. I’m also inspired by the radio projects of Laura Stek and the trans-media projects and photography of Anaïs Lopez, whose project The Migrant I co-produced.

This maker’s storyBack to the stories

Biography

Eefje Blankevoort

Eefje Blankevoort (Montreal, 1978) studied History at the University of Amsterdam. Between 2002 and 2006 she lived in Iran on a regular basis, where she studied, compiled archive for the International Institute for Social History, wrote articles and worked on her book ‘Stiekem kan hier alles’ (‘on the sly, everything is possible here). In between she enrolled in a year-long graduate program American Studies at the ‘all women college’ Smith College, Massachusetts. Eefje writes articles and books, direct and edits (commissioned) films. She published the books ‘The Refugee Jackpot’ (together with photographer Karijn Kakebeeke) and ‘Dream City’ (together with photographer Anoek Steketee). In 2014, she made the interactive web documentary ‘Love radio’, in 2016 ‘The Asylummachine’ and in 2017 ‘The Holy Road’ (together with Dirk-Jan Visser).

Why this story?
In March 2018, it will be two years since the EU-Turkey migration deal came into effect. The deal established a ‘one in, one out’ protocol, with the EU accepting one asylum seeker for every irregular migrant returned to Turkey from Greece. Under the deal, Syrian refugees who had reached Greece were to be returned to Turkey, while Syrian asylum seekers in Turkey were to be resettled in the EU. Some regard the deal as a necessary evil; others as a diabolical pact. Gerald Knaus, the founder of a Berlin-based think tank, is the architect of the deal. But does it work? For whom? And what have we learned from it? The documentary The Deal, an example of excellent journalism and outstanding narrative, explores the answers to these questions as well as possible improvements in Europe’s current asylum policy. The documentary shows the efforts of Gerald Knaus, who is behind the EU-Turkey migration deal, to get it implemented in the way he envisioned.

Explanation by the maker
We travelled to Lesbos to see what the EU-Turkey deal meant in practice. And we were shocked. Thousands of people were crammed into camp Moria, without decent sanitary facilities, no proper help for their medical needs, and without proper legal aid. It’s a humanitarian crisis in Europe and the EU is looking away. With our film we wanted to make a nuanced and critical analysis of the deal and the people directly involved: the ‘architect’ of the deal Gerald Knaus, refugee Ramy Qudmany, who crossed after the deal, was shipwrecked and has been stuck on the island for more than one and half years, the volunteers from all over Europe who want to help and Greek Katerina, who helps refugees and almost serves as a ‘moral conscience’.

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