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Welcome to Refugeestan

Welcome to Refugeestan

A Burundian man steps off a bus in Tanzania and waits to be processed at a refugee camp. Two of his brothers are dead, and his parents have disappeared. He is about to become one of the 17 million people the same number of people as the population of Holland around the world who are refugees.

WELCOME TO REFUGEESTAN imagines refugees in camps as residents of their own country: a country with no freedom of movement, where working is illegal, and dehumanizing security checks are frequent, all ruled by a distant, colonial-style bureaucracy. The average length of stay in this 'country'? 17 years.

The film takes us into camps including the world's largest at Dadaab, Kenya (population: 350,000) and the brand-new Azraq camp in Jordan, where evenly spaced identical white buildings stretch out in a grid under the hot desert sun, a place so dispiriting and soulless many refugees refuse to live there.

WELCOME TO REFUGEESTAN also takes us inside the troubled UNHCR, where well-meaning humanitarians struggle to improve lives within a system filled with contradiction and absurdity. And it reveals how the world's refugees are also becoming an important market as camps become places for companies to test out new technologies ranging from cardless ATMs to solar-powered lights, and retail outlets cater to a captive population prevented by barbed wire from shopping elsewhere.

In an era in which refugees both dominate headlines and are deeply misunderstood, REFUGEESTAN is an essential exploration of both the refugee experience and the failures of a system that keeps people trapped and stateless for decades at a time.