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  • So this right here

  • is the tiny village of Elle, close to Lista.

  • It's right at the southernmost tip of Norway.

  • And on January 2 this year,

  • an elderly guy who lives in the village,

  • he went out to see what was cast ashore

  • during a recent storm.

  • And on a patch of grass right next to the water's edge,

  • he found a wetsuit.

  • It was grey and black, and he thought it looked cheap.

  • Out of each leg of the wetsuit

  • there were sticking two white bones.

  • It was clearly the remains of a human being.

  • And usually, in Norway, dead people are identified quickly.

  • So the police started searching

  • through missing reports from the local area,

  • national missing reports,

  • and looked for accidents with a possible connection.

  • They found nothing.

  • So they ran a DNA profile,

  • and they started searching internationally through Interpol.

  • Nothing.

  • This was a person that nobody seemed to be missing.

  • It was an invisible life heading for a nameless grave.

  • But then, after a month,

  • the police in Norway got a message from the police in the Netherlands.

  • A couple of months earlier, they had found a body,

  • in an identical wetsuit, and they had no idea who this person was.

  • But the police in the Netherlands managed to trace the wetsuit

  • by an RFID chip that was sewn in the suit.

  • So they were then able to tell

  • that both wetsuits were bought by the same customer at the same time,

  • October 7, 2014,

  • in the French city of Calais by the English Channel.

  • But this was all they were able to figure out.

  • The customer paid cash.

  • There was no surveillance footage from the shop.

  • So it became a cold case.

  • We heard this story,

  • and it triggered me and my colleague, photographer Tomm Christiansen,

  • and we of course had the obvious question: who were these people?

  • At the time, I'd barely heard about Calais,

  • but it took about two or three seconds to figure out

  • Calais is basically known for two things.

  • It's the spot in continental Europe closest to Britain,

  • and a lot of migrants and refugees are staying in this camp

  • and are trying desperately to cross over to Britain.

  • And right there was a plausible theory about the identity of the two people,

  • and the police made this theory as well.

  • Because if you or I or anybody else with a firm connection to Europe

  • goes missing off the coast of France, people would just know.

  • Your friends or family would report you missing,

  • the police would come search for you, the media would know,

  • and there would be pictures of you on lampposts.

  • It's difficult to disappear without a trace.

  • But if you just fled the war in Syria,

  • and your family, if you have any family left,

  • don't necessarily know where you are,

  • and you're staying here illegally

  • amongst thousands of others who come and go every day.

  • Well, if you disappear one day, nobody will notice.

  • The police won't come search for you because nobody knows you're gone.

  • And this is what happened to Shadi Omar Kataf

  • and Mouaz Al Balkhi from Syria.

  • Me and Tomm went to Calais for the first time in April this year,

  • and after three months of investigation, we were able to tell the story

  • about how these two young men fled the war in Syria,

  • ended up stuck in Calais,

  • bought wetsuits and drowned in what seems to have been an attempt

  • to swim across the English Channel in order to reach England.

  • It is a story about the fact that everybody has a name,

  • everybody has a story, everybody is someone.

  • But it is also a story about what it's like to be a refugee in Europe today.

  • So this is where we started our search.

  • This is in Calais.

  • Right now, between 3,500 and 5,000 people are living here

  • under horrible conditions.

  • It has been dubbed the worst refugee camp in Europe.

  • Limited access to food, limited access to water,

  • limited access to health care.

  • Disease and infections are widespread.

  • And they're all stuck here because they're trying to get to England

  • in order to claim asylum.

  • And they do that by hiding in the back of trucks headed for the ferry,

  • or the Eurotunnel,

  • or they sneak inside the tunnel terminal at night

  • to try to hide on the trains.

  • Most want to go to Britain because they know the language,

  • and so they figure it would be easier to restart their lives from there.

  • They want to work, they want to study,

  • they want to be able to continue their lives.

  • A lot of these people are highly educated and skilled workers.

  • If you go to Calais and talk to refugees, you'll meet lawyers, politicians,

  • engineers, graphic designers, farmers, soldiers.

  • You've got the whole spectrum.

  • But who all of these people are

  • usually gets lost in the way we talk about refugees and migrants,

  • because we usually do that in statistics.

  • So you have 60 million refugees globally.

  • About half a million have made the crossing

  • over the Mediterranean into Europe so far this year,

  • and roughly 4,000 are staying in Calais.

  • But these are numbers,

  • and the numbers don't say anything about who these people are,

  • where they came from, or why they're here.

  • And first, I want to tell you about one of them.

  • This is 22-year-old Mouaz Al Balkhi from Syria.

  • We first heard about him after being in Calais the first time

  • looking for answers to the theory of the two dead bodies.

  • And after a while, we heard this story

  • about a Syrian man who was living in Bradford in England,

  • and had been desperately searching for his nephew Mouaz for months.

  • And it turned out the last time anybody had heard anything from Mouaz

  • was October 7, 2014.

  • That was the same date the wetsuits were bought.

  • So we flew over there and we met the uncle

  • and we did DNA samples of him,

  • and later on got additional DNA samples from Mouaz's closest relative

  • who now lives in Jordan.

  • The analysis concluded

  • the body who was found in a wetsuit on a beach in the Netherlands

  • was actually Mouaz Al Balkhi.

  • And while we were doing all this investigation,

  • we got to know Mouaz's story.

  • He was born in the Syrian capital of Damascus in 1991.

  • He was raised in a middle class family,

  • and his father in the middle there is a chemical engineer

  • who spent 11 years in prison for belonging to the political opposition in Syria.

  • While his father was in prison,

  • Mouaz took responsibility and he cared for his three sisters.

  • They said he was that kind of guy.

  • Mouaz studied to become an electrical engineer

  • at the University of Damascus.

  • So a couple of years into the Syrian war,

  • the family fled Damascus and went to the neighboring country, Jordan.

  • Their father had problems finding work in Jordan,

  • and Mouaz could not continue his studies,

  • so he figured, "OK, the best thing I can do to help my family

  • would be to go somewhere where I can finish my studies

  • and find work."

  • So he goes to Turkey.

  • In Turkey, he's not accepted at a university,

  • and once he had left Jordan as a refugee, he was not allowed to reenter.

  • So then he decides to head for the UK,

  • where his uncle lives.

  • He makes it into Algeria, walks into Libya,

  • pays a people smuggler to help him with the crossing into Italy by boat,

  • and from there on he heads to Dunkirk,

  • the city right next to Calais by the English Channel.

  • We know he made at least 12 failed attempts to cross the English Channel

  • by hiding in a truck.

  • But at some point, he must have given up all hope.

  • The last night we know he was alive,

  • he spent at a cheap hotel close to the train station in Dunkirk.

  • We found his name in the records, and he seems to have stayed there alone.

  • The day after, he went into Calais, entered a sports shop

  • a couple of minutes before 8 o'clock in the evening,

  • along with Shadi Kataf.

  • They both bought wetsuits,

  • and the woman in the shop

  • was the last person we know of to have seen them alive.

  • We have tried to figure out where Shadi met Mouaz,

  • but we weren't able to do that.

  • But they do have a similar story.

  • We first heard about Shadi after a cousin of his, living in Germany,

  • had read an Arabic translation of the story made of Mouaz on Facebook.

  • So we got in touch with him.

  • Shadi, a couple of years older than Mouaz,

  • was also raised in Damascus.

  • He was a working kind of guy.

  • He ran a tire repair shop and later worked in a printing company.

  • He lived with his extended family,

  • but their house got bombed early in the war.

  • So the family fled to an area of Damascus known as Camp Yarmouk.

  • Yarmouk is being described as the worst place to live

  • on planet Earth.

  • They've been bombed by the military, they've been besieged,

  • they've been stormed by ISIS

  • and they've been cut off from supplies for years.

  • There was a UN official who visited last year,

  • and he said, "They ate all the grass so there was no grass left."

  • Out of a population of 150,000,

  • only 18,000 are believed to still be left in Yarmouk.

  • Shadi and his sisters got out.

  • The parents are still stuck inside.

  • So Shadi and one of his sisters, they fled to Libya.

  • This was after the fall of Gaddafi,

  • but before Libya turned into full-blown civil war.

  • And in this last remaining sort of stability in Libya,

  • Shadi took up scuba diving, and he seemed to spend most of his time underwater.

  • He fell completely in love with the ocean,

  • so when he finally decided that he could no longer be in Libya,

  • late August 2014,

  • he hoped to find work as a diver when he reached Italy.

  • Reality was not that easy.

  • We don't know much about his travels

  • because he had a hard time communicating with his family,

  • but we do know that he struggled.

  • And by the end of September,

  • he was living on the streets somewhere in France.

  • On October 7, he calls his cousin in Belgium,

  • and explains his situation.

  • He said, "I'm in Calais. I need you to come get my backpack and my laptop.

  • I can't afford to pay the people smugglers to help me with the crossing to Britain,

  • but I will go buy a wetsuit and I will swim."

  • His cousin, of course, tried to warn him not to,

  • but Shadi's battery on the phone went flat,

  • and his phone was never switched on again.

  • What was left of Shadi was found nearly three months later,

  • 800 kilometers away

  • in a wetsuit on a beach in Norway.

  • He's still waiting for his funeral in Norway,

  • and none of his family will be able to attend.

  • Many may think that the story about Shadi and Mouaz

  • is a story about death,

  • but I don't agree.

  • To me, this is a story about two questions that I think we all share:

  • what is a better life,

  • and what am I willing to do to achieve it?

  • And to me, and probably a lot of you,

  • a better life would mean

  • being able to do more of what we think of as meaningful,

  • whether that be spending more time with your family and friends,

  • travel to an exotic place,

  • or just getting money to buy that cool new device

  • or a pair of new sneakers.

  • And this is all within our reach pretty easily.

  • But if you are fleeing a war zone,

  • the answers to those two questions are dramatically different.

  • A better life is a life in safety.

  • It's a life in dignity.

  • A better life means not having your house bombed,

  • not fearing being kidnapped.

  • It means being able to send your children to school,

  • go to university,

  • or just find work to be able to provide for yourself and the ones you love.

  • A better life would be a future of some possibilities

  • compared to nearly none,

  • and that's a strong motivation.

  • And I have no trouble imagining

  • that after spending weeks or even months

  • as a second-grade citizen