Refugee Crisis | Lesvos, Greece
Refugee: a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.
While reading about the ongoing migration crisis into Europe, I found out how much of the passage funnels through this one little island off the Turkish coast called Lesvos. People from all over, mostly the Middle East, are trying to make their way legally into Europe. Lesvos has only a four mile distance across the water to the Asian side of Turkey, thus making it a very good way to bypass the typical difficult borders on land. In this case they trade one obstacle for another, as a small percentage of these boats end up sinking, drowning many of the passengers. So upon gaining interest in the crisis and seeing the ease of logistics for me go and connect with the situation, I hopped over to Lesvos for a week.
On the island, hundreds of volunteers from all over the western world come together for different amount of times in many groups to aid in the arrival, registration, and departure process of these refugees. Medical teams and lifeguards on the beaches aid in safe arrival, and camps on the island keep the refugees as comfortable as possible while they wait sometimes days for their registration. One organization that stood out was Better Days for Moria, somewhat of an overflow to the UNHCR camp next to the town of Moria, to ensure the comfort of the refugees, especially during the winter months. They arrived in November when hundreds of refugees had to sleep cold and wet on the muddy hillsides. Now a full blown camp has been made with free food, large tents, dry clothes, translators, and overall friendly faces for these people who are in particularly vulnerable states. I highly recommend for anybody to pay a visit and join in to help out with these groups, it’s very easy with a couple quick searches online, and I guarantee it will be an amazing experience that benefits everyone.
I will admit that one of my main goals in this visit was for my own benefit. The news stories tell us about “thousands of refugees daily” or “fifty die from boat sinking”, which are all shocking to see the scope of the problem, but I found the numbers to be so impersonal and didn’t relate the human element to it. So I thought to make a point to go and try to have some conversations and connect with refugees who are making this journey, just so that I could directly feel empathy and better understand the experience. Of course, with my photos if I can show some portraits and make that connection to a few of my viewers as well, then my other main goal would be fulfilled. I found it necessary to get consent 100% of the time before shooting a portrait, as your subject might be in danger from their own government and any publicity could be detrimental to them or their connections back home.
All in all, these people are humans. They are very unlucky to have been born into whatever difficult situation they faced in their home countries, and they all seek a better safer life elsewhere. I can’t say I know a solution to this problem, as the countries that await them face problems in hosting this huge new number of immigrants. But one thing I can say for sure is that the life we were born into is purely based on luck, and I believe the more fortunate of us should take care of the lesser as a simple duty to humankind.