Monday 1 August 2016

Refugee routes - Athens Photo Festival

Refugee Routes -  Athens Photo Festival, 2016,

at the Benaki Museum, Pireos, Athens.
Sofie Amalie Klougart:

Klougart's photographs tell the story of refugees who have arrived in the Italian coastal town of Pozzollo, where they are locked up in the city's reception center, a temporary camp built to hold refugees for a maximum of three days. The system having broken down however, people are detained here for much longer: they stay in one large room where they sleep, eat and wait. There is no privacy except for the bathroom.



Aida Silvestri:

Silvestri's photographs depict the journeys and experiences of Eritrean refugees in the United Kingdom. Each photograph is accompanied by the testimony of the person photographed.

Bereket's testimony:

'I am told I have to behave and contribute more because I am an academic.
I am witnessing atrocities and ill treatment.
I am being chased, chased for several days.
I need to hide.
I am hiding.
I am moving. I am moving from one house to the other house.
I am betrayed.
I am unique, different than them.
I cannot blend in.
I am being spotted easily: I am dirty.
I am sleeping rough.
I cannot speak their language.
I need to find someone who can speak my language.
He wants money. 'I already gave you what I had'.
He thinks I have more. 'I am not a millionaire'.
He is asking questions.
I am smuggling myself into a lorry. Checkpoint after checkpoint.
I am still here.
I don't know who to trust. Everyone wants money, even people like me.
They always want more'.

Dawit's testimony:

'I am hiding as they are looking for me.
I am walking and walking for days. I am tired.
I stupidly fall into the wrong hands.
Into the hands of bad people.
I am blindfolded.
The bad people are taking me somewhere, somewhere far.
I am in someone's house. I am not alone.
I can feel and hear lots of people breathing.
I am hot... very hot, hungry and thirsty.
I hear lots of bad things.... bad things done to people.
I am scared.
I am tortured and burned.
They want money.
I don't have money.
I am in a different house now.
I am a slave. I am building someone's house.
Someone who became rich by inflicting pain.
That someone is my new owner...
I have to escape.
I escape'.

Biniam's testimony:

'I am persecuted there.
I am persecuted here.
I lose my job.
My landlord kicks me out.
I live in the forest with animals as an animal.
I expect a better life in a so-called 'civilised world' not worse.
One will keep a watch. One will buy food.
The police are like dogs. They can sniff a migrant instantly.
They caught my friend before I had a chance to warn him.
My poor friend is arrested and the food is in a bin.
I run.
After hours of walking, I hear loud screams.
The screams get louder.
The screams are amplified by the mountain's echo.
My hiding place is discovered.
They are beating my friends.
They are beating them with sticks.
'We don't want you here'.
'Go back to your country'.
Within a few hours, I have lost everything.
Everything... my friends, my hiding place and my food.
Why the world is ignoring our cry?
Why the world is ignoring us?
Are we not humans?'

Rehsom's testimony:

'I am experiencing a lot of atrocities.
I am imprisoned under harsh conditions.
In a hot place...
It is very hot... hotter than hot...
I don't understand what they are saying.
I don't speak their language.
I only know how to ask for food and drink.
I am naïve.
I am leaving.
I am travelling on top of a lorry which has a full load of goods.
I am not alone... some look like me and are from my country.
I am learning to share my personal space with others.
Some people are not strong enough.
They are dropping from the lorry... they drop like flies.
Seven in total.
They don't get the burial that they deserved.
I am smuggling myself into a container.
I am detained.
I am free'.

Kidan's testimony:

'I am sentenced for two months for not obeying orders and for reporting someone for rape.
I am carrying the innocent fruit of the rape.
I have money, plenty of money. I can buy my way there.
The journey is overwhelming.
Very harsh weather conditions.
Very harsh leaving conditions.
I am dehydrated and not eating well.
I am worried and scared for the baby.
I can feel it...
I am losing the baby.
I lose the baby; maybe it is best this way even though I never blamed the baby.
The journey doesn't get easier. I am not feeling well.
I think I have an infection.
I do have an infection, a very bad infection.
I cannot have another baby.
But I am healthy now.'
Andrea Gjestvang:

Gjestvgang's photographs tell the story of young refugees who have settled in Norway while their parents' asylum applications are being processed. After four to nine years, the applications of many are rejected and they are sent back to their country of origin where they find it very difficult to settle. In a lot of cases, the journey for a better life begins all over again.  Gjestvang has visited the youths after their deportations back in their home countries. She has also photographed what was left behind in Norway - best friends, schools, bedrooms.




Sam Ivin:
Scratched portraits that attempt to convey the loss of identity that many asylum seekers experience whilst waiting to know whether they will be granted refugee status in the U.K.


Samuel Gratacap:

Choucha, a refugee camp located in Tunisia, where several hundred thousand refugees were in transit in 2011 during the Libyan civil war and the NATO attacks.



Giorgos Moutafis:
' I see refugees reaching the Greek shores and kissing the ground.

Unaware of what comes next in a crisis-ridden country with no functioning reception system, most of them believe they have reached their Promised Land. Having just survived an enormously dangerous sea crossing, the refugees must immediately make one of the most difficult choices: where to go next.

The absence of a common European asylum system forces them to seek out those EU countries with the strongest asylum systems, where they also have a greater chance of integrating. Thus, after reaching Greece, most embark on a new journey to the north.

Along the Greece-FYROM border the situation is even more chaotic. Many refugees remain stranded in between the two countries, their passage subject to daily negotiation. It was here that, a few months ago, police officers attacked refugees as they held their babies in their arms. I have documented violence, despair and helplessness more times than I can possibly remember. But I have honestly never seen anything like that before: terrified and beleaguered people trying to cross the borders, children screaming and crying and families being separated between the two countries.

Hell by the border'.




  1. Some of these are really powerful. Somehow Greece, maybe because of geography, has seen several waves of refugees over the years, and perhaps the people understand better what it means to be forced to leave your possessions, your area and country, habits and culture and language - certainties, and journey taking life risks towards who knows what. Increasingly from those who have comfort and certainty there is less sympathy, and vanishing empathy.

    1. There is so much compassion for the refugees here, Olga, it's very touching: people who have nothing, somehow find ways to give and to help. But, it's always the way - it's the poor who are generous, while the rich try to keep to what they have by any possible means.