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Collateral: TV crime drama takes on migration

Collateral: TV crime drama takes on migration

Anne Stoltenberg

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Collateral: TV crime drama takes on migration

In the second of Migrant Voice's occasional series in which migrants and those interested in migration issues comment on TV and radio programmes about migrants, Anne Stoltenberg looks at the BBC2 crime drama, Collateral.

At first glance, Collateral is not about immigration. It's a BBC2 crime drama starring Carey Mulligan as the detective Kip Glaspie.

But from the outset it shows aspects of immigration in a way that may be more effective in reaching audiences than many documentaries that proclaim at the outset where they want our sympathies to lie.

Glaspie is depicted as having a soft spot for immigrants, unlike her sidekick, DS Nathan Bilk depicted as being more critical, and certainly critical of her 'soft' attitudes.

The crime on which the four-part series hangs is the murder of a Syrian refugee, Abdullah Asif, who is shot in London while delivering a pizza.

Glaspie and colleagues find where Asif was living. It's a garage, where two women, apparently Asif's sisters, are hiding.

The garage has three mattresses, a chest of drawers, a camping stove, and a few belongings.

”That's how it ends up, is it?” says Glaspie. "Escape war, make your way to England and start your new life in a garage? That's the best we can offer is it?”
“Well, we've seen it before,” says Bilk.

“Yeah, we've seen it before. Doesn't make it any better, though, does it?” responds Glaspie.

Episode two opens with the two sisters being driven to a "removal centre" (with the made-up name of Harlesfleet), and we see layers of barbed wire fencing and metal detectors before the doors lock behind them.

“Are we in prison?” they ask, and are told: “Hardly.”

When they ask, “Are you guards?” the reply is, “We're not guards, we're custody officers.”

A fellow detainee explains that Harlsfleet is a removal centre, not a detention centre. She says she has been held there for two years and has been living in England since she was three years old. Her mother brought her into the country but has since died: “Now they've decided they don't like my paperwork.”

For those unfamiliar with the detention system, its lack of time-limits, and the ease with which individuals' lives can change overnight, and lead to them being detained, the show may be revelatory. This is prime-time TV, so will have a big audience.

Award-winning writer David Hare says on the programme website that his intention was to write a series that delves into public reactions to immigration, and how public institutions, including the church and the army, react to the killing.

”The 21st century looks as if it will be a time of mass movements, and corresponding mass resentment of mobility," he writes. "It looks to me as if privileged societies are urgently looking for ways of protecting their wealth, and of keeping the poor outside their boundaries. For all our talk of encouraging initiative and enterprise, foreign entrepreneurs who travel the Mediterranean by boat seem especially unwelcome. Donald Trump’s proposal for a wall with Mexico and the UK’s vote for Brexit are both evidence of attitudes hardening in the West towards aspirational newcomers.”

* Collateral is on BBC2 on Mondays at 9pm

Previous instalment in this series of articles: My Millionaire Migrant Boss

collateral tv crime drama takes on migration