“The Burning” — Documentary On Horrific Mediterranean Drownings Of Young African Refugees

Young Africans fleeing from failures of African leaders; only to drown, or be rejected in Europe.


By Milton Allimadi

Emory University Professor Isabella Alexander has made an important documentary “The Burning” about the plight of young Africans who make the tragic journey across the Sahara and the Mediterranean–thousands die each year–seeking a better life overseas.

Filmmaker Isabella Alexander

Alexander is now in post production and the documentary should be out next year. The name of the film comes from the practice of burning their identification cards by the young Africans to make it difficult for the authorities to identify them and deport them to their countries of origin; the name also signifies the various setbacks the youth encounter during their journey, including the abuses they endure.

I recently attended a sneak preview of parts of Alexander’s film at City College of the City University of New York (CUNY). Her film will help
expose the plight of these desperate young Africans, ignored by much of the world, including by African rulers.

Even when a few of these young people make it to Europe, almost nine out of 10 are denied refugee status and remain in prison like camps indefinitely or they are deported to Morocco, Algeria or Libya where they remain stranded, or enslaved in the latter country.

This is an issue that begs for the intervention of the United Nations and the Congressional Black Caucus; it would of course involve having to condemn the African Union and African rulers for their silence in the face of horror.

Truly Nkrumah must be weeping at what contemporary African leadership have done to our beloved continent. Many of the youth are beaten and raped during the dangerous journeys. They want to reach greener pastures in order to send money back home and support their families. Their families pool resources to pay for the brightest youngsters from their communities to make the journey.

Africa’s continues to enrich the rest of the world to the detriment of her own people. Nkrumah warned against this in Neo-Colonialism, The Last Stage
of Imperialism (1965). Western countries and China use Africa’s resources to fuel their factories and to create wealth.

Neo-colonial rulers continue to fail Africa’s youth. In a country like Uganda 75% of the population is under age 35; unemployment is at a catastrophic 85%. The country is ruled by a U.S. backed dictator, Gen. Yoweri Museveni, of 32 years now. He kills and robs with impunity. He does the U.S.’s bidding –like stationing troops in Somalia to fight al Shabab– so he gets away with running Uganda to the ground. Many other corrupt African leaders who serve Western interests are likewise maintained in power.

Yet Africa’s youth are beginning to rise up to seize their destiny; there are Peoples’ Power youth protests ongoing in Uganda, Congo, South Africa
and elsewhere. The youth must be empowered, and be in power. Working with other patriotic Africans, they will create an Africa that eliminates the need for the youth to flee their homes and die in the Mediterranean hoping to make it to Europe.

Alexander has conducted numerous interviews with Africans stuck in several north African countries and the film documents their stories. She was even arrested while filming and faced a 5-year prison sentence in Algeria but was saved by the intervention of Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Alexander is currently on campus tours around the U.S. to discuss the subject of her film. You can follow her on Twitter via @isabella_writes


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