The waves slap angrily against the hull of the boat. The water is filled with the bodies of living and dead refugees; crewmembers throw out ropes to the people struggling in the water. Inadequately trained and poorly provisioned the Greek Coastguard crew makes a valiant effort to pull everyone to safety.
“4.1 Miles” by Daphne Matziaraki is a haunting look at the refugee crisis that Greece is currently facing. Refugees are leaving the Turkish coast and heading to Greece in large numbers by boat. At the peak of this immigration crisis, 5000 refugees a day enter Greece. Still recovering from a financial crisis, Greece is now trying to absorb a staggering number of refugees. The Greek Coast Guard is called out daily to help refugees involved in shipwrecks, capsizes, and other accidents with the refugee boats. Inadequately prepared to handle the volume of rescue calls, the Coast Guard crew members struggle with the rescues; most not trained in CPR. The 4.1 miles between the Turkish coast and the Greek island of Lesbos becomes a new hell the refugees have to endure after escaping their war-ravaged homes in Syria. The citizens of Lesbos are faced daily with the decision of turning away or going “beyond themselves to save a stranger.”
Though “4.1 Miles” was written and filmed in 2015, Greece continues to see an influx of refugees today because of the conflict in Syria. The article itself serves as a summary of the documentary film of the same name by Daphne Matziaraki, a Greek documentary filmmaker who lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area. The film and article underscore the conflicting emotions the Greek Coastguard members face on a daily basis. With inadequate training and poorly provisioned boats, the crew members head out daily to face the rawness of humanity. The central question the film raises is whether or not the Greek’s should be providing humanitarian aid while still recovering from their financial crisis.
There are several issues Matziaraki ignores, primarily the smuggling operations and the individuals responsible for attempting to ferry the refugees across such a dangerous channel of water. Knowing that this problem exists and willfully ignoring it is tantamount to condoning the practice. There is a group of people openly exploiting the refugees for their financial gain and placing these men, women, and children deliberately in harm's way.
Shedding light on one side of the story, though evocative as it is, does not help to bring focus to the larger picture at hand. Matziaraki does an excellent job highlighting the impact the refugee crisis is having on her native Greece. The focus is tight on the moral and ethical questions surrounding helping those in need. While the film indirectly shows that a closer look into the smuggling operations needs to occur, “4.1 Miles” also shows that additional support can enable Turkey to support the refugees from Syria.
The men and women of the Greek Coastguard do not hesitate when called to action despite their lack of training and supplies. With an infrastructure update and better training, they would be adequately prepared to provide relief and aid to these displaced families. The citizens of Lesbos, despite their financial hardships, step up and provide the help the refugees so desperately need.