Home is often a thing of heart and mind. Just as reality is subjective, so is home. So ultimately, we can take with us ‘home’ anywhere we go.

But on a more practical scale, home is where we live with those we love. It’s where we have a job, a flat, a sense of navigation, of culture and language. So it is not so easy to leave behind this home to return to the place we were born. Are we expected to remain bound to the soil above which we took our first breath? Are we not obliged to grow out of one national identity to adopt another?

Place of birth vs. country of residency are drawn out in Fernand Melgar’s latest documentary Special Flight, which opened the 54th International DOX Leipzig festival in October. This film gains full access to the Frambois Detention Center in Geneva, one of 28 in Switzerland, where a couple dozen undocumented men, mostly from Africa and Eastern Europe, are detained to await an update on their status.

Only three fates can be bestowed upon them: one, they are released to resume life as a Swiss; two, they are offered a police-escorted flight back to their country of origin with no penalty; or three, if they refuse option two they must take a ‘special flight’ back home, which is chartered by the Federal Office for Migration. A special flight involves the prisoner being handcuffed, chained to his chair and equipped with a helmet and diapers for what can often amount to a 40-hour journey. According to the film’s official website, even the Swiss Medical Association opposes special flights for medical and ethical reasons.

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