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His House (2020)

His House is a film that focuses on a couple from war-torn South Sudan, and their journey to England. It is a phenomenal work of social horror that encompasses the empathetic power of the genre. In it, we can find fear but not of the things that go bump in the night, the monsters hiding in the shadows but rather the darkness that dwells within our own hearts.

Sources in episode:

Why So Many Sudanese Are Prepared to Risk Their Lives to Reach the UK - ODI

What’s Next for Asylum Seekers From War-torn Sudan - Independent

Migrant Crossings: What Happens to Migrants Who Reach the UK? - BBC

His House: Dinka Mythology Accuracy Explained - Screenrant

‘His House’ Director’s Ending Explanation Finds Hope in the Haunting - Collider

‘His House’ Review: Remi Weekes’ Thrilling Debut Sees the Immigrant Experience as a Horror Movie - Indiewire

How you can help make a difference: 

South Sudan Emergency - UNHCR

Donations - UNHCR

The Hummingbird Project

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South Sudanese Asylum Seekers & Their Traumatic Immigration Experiences

Kat Kushin

RED: Quotes, someone else's words.

His House is a film that focuses on a couple from war-torn South Sudan, and their journey to England. This story is based on real things, which is what we see often in our media. There are many Sudanese people trying to enter into the UK because of dangers and violence in Sudan. For many, seeking refuge in the UK is an essential means of survival, and worth the risk of a very dangerous journey; a journey many don’t survive. In an ODI article titled Why So Many Sudanese Are Prepared to Risk Their Lives to Reach the UK by Margie Buchanan-Smith, an interview with a migrant from Darfur that took place in 2017, explained “They choose to migrate because staying in Darfur means a slow death. Because of this, quick death is better than a slow one”. The risk is deemed worth it, to avoid the persecution in Sudan.

I vaguely remember learning about the Darfur genocide when I was in High School, so I remember learning a bit about the violence happening there. In a quick google search, wikipedia gave me some numbers for context. In 2013 the United Nations (UN) estimated that up to 300,000 people had been killed during the genocide; in response, the Sudanese government claimed that the number of deaths was "grossly inflated". By 2015, it was estimated that the death toll stood between 100,000 and 400,000. There was an agreement formed between the rebels and the government in 2011 but that did not end the danger. In addition to Darfur being affected, this has also spread to other parts of Sudan, such as neighbouring Kordofan, and Blue Nile state. A study completed for the Why so many Sudanese are prepared to risk their lives to reach the UK article, provided substantial evidence that there was persistent and systemic persecution, attack, arrest and surveillance of young men from those regions of Sudan. Especially if they were from an ethnic group associated with the rebellion against the former dictator President Bashir. The article goes on to cite that many Darfuris who left Sudan to migrate to Europe had “spent much of their lives in camps; some had experienced multiple displacements within Sudan. They also faced discrimination in the workplace. Effectively living in a police state, the depths of despair experienced by many young Sudanese was striking.”

So, why the UK? There are a handful of reasons. The UK has colonial ties with Sudan, which has resulted in many Sudanese people having knowledge of the english language. Since many other European countries don’t have English as their primary language, the UK is an easier transition. For many, Europe is thought to abide by international conventions and human rights, so there is a hope for safety and refuge there. Since many Sudanese migrants travel to the UK it is also an opportunity to reconnect to friends and family that had previously migrated there. There are a few BIG problems with this though. The journey to the UK is extremely dangerous. There are laws that make it more challenging to claim asylum in places outside their original landing in Europe. If they arrive in another country first, they would be required to claim asylum there, which isn’t preferred because of the language barriers. In an interview with Darfuris in the UK in 2017, they had records claiming that to reach the UK people would travel under buses, in the backs of lorries (google informed me this means big trucks), and in unsafe rubber boats.

In another article I read on Independent, titled What’s Next for Asylum Seekers From War-torn Sudan by Paul Peachy, it is further confirmed that the journey to the UK is treacherous. It in many ways aligns with the deaths we see in the film, and how real the trauma of the journey hits for those who survive vs those lost along the way. A quote from it that hit especially hard was, “Some who make the crossing by sea say there is murder and rape on the boats, and that traffickers order people to jump overboard to their deaths to avoid everyone sinking. We’ve spoken to some who’ve clung to the bottom of trucks, paying traffickers the last of their money to risk their lives and make the trip. Having faced all that, it’s awful that they’re treated like criminals here and their claims for asylum are distrusted.” In the film we witness this distrust of migrants and asylum seekers on UK soil. The things shown in the film such as the horrible living conditions offered to asylum seekers, the detention centers, the vilifying of those seeking help is a very real thing. There is a very real disregard for their trauma, their post-traumatic stress, and their need for mental health resources in addition to the abysmal stipends and inhumane housing offerings.

In an article on the BBC titled Migrant Crossings: What Happens to Migrants Who Reach the UK?by Alice Aitken, it goes through some of the struggles asylum seekers face in the UK. When arriving in the UK, asylum seekers are often placed in hostel-like accommodations, before long term housing can be arranged. They are not able to choose where they live, and are not able to establish themselves outside of their stipends of 37.75 pounds per week per household member. This translates to about $51.77 US dollars per week. Which is an abysmal amount, considering outside work is not permitted. Overall, the conditions of individuals seeking asylum in the UK reflect how the UK feels about helping them. After the intense trauma these individuals are experiencing, they deserve better.


Media from this week's episode:

His House (2020) Director: Remi Weekes

Starring: Sope Dirisu & Wunmi Mosaku