Nathalie and Manal Issa as Yusra and Sara Mardini in The Swimmers

Sometimes even the hardest heart can be melted by a big budget commercial film with a thumping soundtrack and a partially happy ending.

Arguably capitalism’s so-called refugee crisis became real for so many people when the body of two year old refugee Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach. The Swimmers may have the same impact.

It could go a long way to undermining successive Tory governments’ tales that people smugglers are the heart of the problem. The Swimmers tells the story of Syrian refugee turned Olympic swimmer Yusra Mardini—who swam for the Refugee team in the Rio Olympics— and her sister Sara.

The two, played by real-life ­sisters Nathalie and Manal Issa, find their life in Syrian capital Damascus upturned by dictator Bashar al‑Assad’s civil war. As the bombing and killing encroaches, they are forced to invest all their family savings and attempt to escape to Germany with their cousin.

They leave their parents and younger sister behind. Getting to Turkey by plane is easy.

But then comes the voyage to Greece in a horribly overcrowded dinghy, and an onward journey across international borders. The sisters leap overboard and swim alongside to avoid catastrophe.

Reaching Germany, the pair are housed in a busy, noisy refugee centre while hopes to bring their remaining family over are dashed by immigration rules.

The second part of The Swimmers tells of how Ysura overcomes all this to achieve her long-held dream of becoming an Olympic swimmer. But the first part of the film—though horrifying—is not an extraordinary story.

So many refugees endure the challenges and tragedies that the sisters faced. The Swimmers presents us with the torture and uncertainty of being a refugee in Europe today.

The Swimmers is available on Netflix

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