Searching for the human in the refugee crisis.
Words by Sara Furlanetto & photos by Sara Furlanetto
The refugee crisis is, at the moment, one of the hottest topics in the international news. Everyday we receive a consistent amount of news and information about numbers, percentages, the journeys: we read it all. Boats keep on sinking and turning the Mediterranean sea into a cemetery for too many desperate people fleeing from war, poverty and the impossibility of living a peaceful life.
Almost daily, we see and hear speeches full of hatred, denial and a complete shutdown towards the thousands of refugees seeking shelter in our countries. The idea of dehumanizing the outsider, often using inflammatory words, has a long story. Despite having been researched, talked about and largely seen before, every time it happens we seem to have forgotten it all.
I felt extremely disappointed by passively getting all these stories about people crossing borders from the news. I wanted to know for myself, get the chance of meeting these people, looking into their eyes, reconnect with them and try to make up my mind around this increasingly problematic refugee crisis. So I embarked on a journey to discover who are these refugees and what kind of future opens up to them.
At the end of August 2015, I set off for Sicily and started my project. I traveled around the island meeting mainly young African refugees, most of them living in temporary shelters (Cara, Cpa) or more settled hostels (Sprar). Despite managing to arrive to Europe, their journey it’s just halfway through. Almost all of them are in the bureaucratic process of having their documents sorted and their asylum application checked: suspended in a state of half-life.
After Sicily, I felt the urge to visit Calais to understand the reality of the Jungle – the self-organised refugees’ camp on the border between France and UK.
The simple of fact of calling it Jungle projects a totally twisted perception and the media is largely playing on this. The name was actually spontaneously chosen by the migrants, who bitterly referred to its neglected conditions. However, over the years, there was an increasing pressure of the media to build up a scary vision of refugees as people out of control, ready to embrace violence to cross UK’s borders. The name became something else and people with it: savages.
Being inside the Jungle has been an intense and overwhelming experience: a chaotic storm of lives, stories, emotions.
Through the eyes of Kurdish young lovers, Sudanese boys, or Syrian families, what I’ve encountered the most, though, was a profound hope and will to live.
My aim was to portray the faces of migration, leaving space to my subjects to truly express themselves. So I began collecting sketches and writings from whom I photographed. I felt it was necessary to represent them as Persons, with a story and a personality, rather than flattening and reducing them to the cause of this crisis.
I wish this project can shine a different light on the subject, and do justice to what has been an honest human encounter.
Europe is naturally and dramatically changing, it would be completely foolish to dismiss it.
I can’t see any good coming from fighting against this process.
Luckily we are social being, though it seems we might have forgotten it. We should give credit to one of our finest instinct and reach out to others.