“We thought we would find paradise here, but that doesn’t make sense. We have found hell. ” This statement by one of the main characters of “Welcome Europe” sums up the content of the documentary well. The portrayed young illegal immigrants are hard-pressed to discover that “Fortress Europe” has multiple methods of defense or exclusion. It is not enough to cross borders illegally and walk around Amsterdam, Paris or Berlin. Without the correct papers you will not have access to the normal labor market with a work permit, and you will not have access to collective facilities, such as regular health care.
In Welcome Europe some dream of work, a relationship, children. However, to make ends meet, they have few choices other than gay prostitution, petty theft, and drug dealing. For these immigrants life is a long survival journey without the certainty that a warm bed and bath will be waiting afterwards. Food and personal hygiene – showering and shaving – is problematic. The hungry Kurd Mehmet eats his evening meal with utmost concentration at a shelter for illegal immigrants; he scrapes off the last scraps of a piece of foil. In a scene with the only sixteen-year-old Moroccan Allal, there is even dirt on the camera lens. As if bad food and bad hygiene are not enough for an unhealthy lifestyle, everyone smokes almost continuously. One immigrant notes that he lacks tenderness.
The life of these immigrants is reminiscent of life in the state of nature according to the philosopher Thomas Hobbes: solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. The director Bruno Ulmer pays little attention to the cities in which he has filmed. Welcome Europe consists largely of “close ups” of the immigrants in color and in harsh, deliberately overexposed, black and white. Ulmer wants to tell the story at the bottom of rich European societies. Unfortunately, the individual stories are too similar. Identifying with one person’s misery is easier than with eight. The reflex in anonymous misery is rather to deposit money into the account of an aid organization.