Migration (on) stage

At the end of the 19th century, the industrialization had created an economic system determining a lifestyle in which we excessively use and discard goods and services, i.e. this consumer society in which we still live. With this industrial revolution, the gap increased between the activities related to the material processing – the useful ones – and the artistic activities – the useless ones. Work became the fundamental value and Art has been defined as an accessory activity. So that’s where this idea of the uselessness of art is coming from… And sometimes, it may appear to be unnecessary, I agree. But if we look at the contemporary theater for example, we could see that often, there is this desire to propose an art in dialogue with our current political situation. Beyond the fact that theater appears as a reflection of reality, it’s trying to be a way to make the world better by proposing existential issues for mankind, by encouraging people to challenge themselves and by being a political act.


In fact, I could talk about a lot of theater plays which helped me to grow up and to raise awareness about our global reality but I’ll talk about one only: Ceux que j’ai rencontrés ne m’ont peut-être pas vu* created by the NIMIS GROUP. Composed of actresses and actors, the group wanted to question the EU migration policy. Before entering into the conception of a show, they worked to know more about the topic for 3 years. They reached out to people involved in migration issue at various levels: jurists, activists, state employees and European members of Parliament, lawyers, researchers, social workers, asylum seekers in open centers or detainees in closed centers. By meeting those asylum seekers, they realized their necessity of saying in public what they live. So, at the end, they decided to write and to play the show with 6 asylum seekers and refugees. Those who can be on stage don’t really play, they relive something they already lived before:

Three years ago, when I was locked up in a closed center in Bruges, I wrote this: “We live without becoming aware of problems which govern our society. And nevertheless, they exist. I had to tell you this tonight, on this stage. But now I’m locked into a closed center for illegal people in Bruges […]. You can’t see me this evening but you can hear me. Hear my word, this only weapon I haveto find justice. Tell me, honestly, if a human being is considered illegal on the Earth, where is his place then?”

Highlighting European contradictions with humor, they reveal EU migration policy in all its absurdity.
Maybe that’s the strength of the bill: being critical and fun at the same time…

– I read in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that anybody has the right to leave its country…
– Absolutely.
– So… I don’t understand why they can’t come to our place?
– Well, actually, it’s stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that anybody can leave its country but they didn’t write that the others countries have to welcome the migrant.
– So we can leave…
– …but we can’t really arrive.

Mixing fiction and reality, the NIMIS GROUP offers insight into the reality while avoiding moralizing messages. By using the screen on stage, they inform the spectators about the migration’s money angle without resorting to the boring political speech:

[screenshot of the screen on stage]


* BETWEEN 2000 AND 2015, EU SPENT:
– Detentions centers in third countries: €45.800.000
– Technical assistance to nearby dictatorships: €74.658.000
– Fortifications (Melilla wall, Ceuta): €76.600.000
– Framework Programs for Research and Development: €230.000.000
– Equipment for the UE border guards: €225.710.000
– Expulsions: €11.300.000.000
– EU coordination actions (FRONTEX, EUROSUR): €954.717.510
TOTAL: €12.907.485.510


I met one of the actresses after the show and she told me they based their show, inter alia, on a book called Xénophobie Business** showing the increasing role of the “secure economy”, i.e. the one which takes advantage of sophisticated devices used to close the borders. It explains all the why and wherefores of this “migration market” by exploring this advanced technology providing remote monitoring, those private societies specialized in detention centers’ management (G4S for example) and all this “migrants’ detention centers business”. Top hit on borders technologies, the drone seems to be part of the future: “a market which is being opened and will represent, in the next 10 years, €20 billion”. However, the drones, as other sophisticated technologies used to padlock the borders, don’t manage to contain the migration influx: mostly, this has the consequence of moving and multiplying the roads and the tracks used by migrants. But in the end, wouldn’t that be one of the objectives? “This cat-and-mouse game reveals to us that the cat doesn’t necessarily have an interest in eliminating his prey”. Indeed, it brings money to all those entrepreneurs and companies. A human market, that’s what we’re facing right now? A bleak conclusion but nevertheless very real…
Those I met maybe didn’t see me
** RODIER Claire, Xénophobie Business : à quoi servent les contrôles migratoires?, Paris, La Découverte, 2012.