James Walton

Paradise lost | 2 November 2017

Plus: James Walton flounders before the endless thrills of Blue Planet II

Anybody who wants to maintain a strong and untroubled stance against mass migration to Europe should probably avoid BBC2’s Exodus: Our Journey Continues. In theory, the case for limiting the numbers may be more or less unanswerable — but this is a joltingly uncomfortable reminder of what it can mean in practice. Any viewers suspicious of the BBC’s pinko tendencies will presumably have noticed that all the refugees we’ve met so far are completely lovely. Yet, faced with Thursday’s episode, even they might have found it tricky to preserve a steely primacy of head over heart. Or not to notice that these are people very much like us — only a lot unluckier in where and when they were born.

As in last year’s Bafta-winning Exodus: Our Journey to Europe, most of the filming is done by the refugees themselves, with news clips and captions filling in the political background. This time, though, we join them after they’ve reached Europe: a continent that in advance took on an almost mythical significance as the solution to all their troubles.

Dame, for example, talked of how he’d been arrested and tortured in Ethiopia for carrying leaflets objecting to the mistreatment of the Oromo people. Now, he’d come to Calais, because ‘I was told it was a nice and peaceful place to live’ — a notion of which he was soon disabused by life in the Jungle camp and a spot of tear-gassing by the French police. As a result, we watched him scale the camp’s fearsome razor-wire fence, while delivering an aphorism that could stand as the series’ motto: ‘When it’s a human versus a fence, the human wins.’

From there Dame got to Britain — in a way that remained rather disappointingly unspecified — and made an appeal for asylum that was rejected but apparently strong enough for him not to be deported.

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