migrantvoice
Speaking for Ourselves

The adventures of a Syrian refugee: it’s ok to smile

The adventures of a Syrian refugee: it’s ok to smile

Daniel Nelson

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - The adventures of a Syrian refugee: it’s ok to smile

The latest in a series commenting on the representation of migrants and refugees in the media.

An obnoxious customer tells a Syrian asylum claimant in a post office to eff off. Later a youth snatches his phone – the refugee’s only link with the wife and son from whom he became separated while fleeing to Britain.

And this is a comedy. Home is a 30-minute sitcom (Tuesdays, 9.45pm, Channel 4). It starts when new couple Peter and Katy return to suburban Dorking from their first family holiday with Katy’s young son, John, who has spent the journey from Calais winding up his would-be stepdad.

They open the boot to unpack and find Sami, stacked horizontally under the holiday luggage – except for the bags he threw out in order to make room for himself.

He has to negotiate with Peter, who is already struggling to be a New Man partner to Katy and to win acceptance from sceptical John.

The programme’s trick is to take Sami through the racism, xenophobia and misunderstandings with family, friends and assorted Brits and his minefield-filled negotiations with the police and Home Office, but to make the experience amusing rather than dispiriting and intimidating.

The writer loads the dice by making Sami a genial, cardigan-wearing, unthreatening, Christian, English-speaking teacher with a well-tuned sense of humour. What’s not to like?

He faces thugs, bigots, police, immigration officials and ignorance. But this is a feel-good programme, designed to make you smile rather than worry, so his charm and honesty usually win people over. And when these qualities fail there’s always an unexpected rescuer or slice of luck to save the day. And though Sami is the catalyst for the series, it’s the relationships between mum, stepdad and son that are most finely observed.

Does the series give a realistic picture of the hardships experienced by asylum-seekers in Britain? No. Does it make light of their problems? Yes. Does it indulge in stereotypes? Yes (though it sometimes turns them on their head). It doesn’t portray the grim reality of seeking asylum here or being a refugee: it’s not social realism. Nevertheless, I still think it’s ok. Sami is an ordinary guy doing his best in an extraordinary situation. He’s gentle, sincere, amusing. Equally important, the programme shows – admittedly in a superficial TV sort of way – that fear and suspicion of strangers can be overcome and that kindness is a worthwhile quality.

Home is a comedy sitcom about an asylum seeker that associates refugees with goodwill and laughter. Once in a while, that’s no bad thing.

* Home is a Channel4 programme, broadcast on Tuesdays at 9.45pm. https://www.channel4.com/programmes/home

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