The Nice city train station looks like any other busy station, no obvious signs of migrants seems to exist. On the departure screen, two itineraries shows up for Ventimiglia, only 35 minutes apart from each-other, that’s how frequently the trains run during the day. Less than an hour away over the French border into Italy, for the cost of 7,70 euros, both countries are accessible for a weekend getaway for tourists or locals on each side of the border. On the other side of the border, mostly migrants from Sudan, Tchad and Eritrea hang outside the Ventimiglia train station. Constantly guarded by the Italian police & military, most people being perceived as a potential migrant by the color of their skin are directly controlled as soon as a few steps have been made into the station. The train maybe the most direct way into France but due to its restriction to enter it many migrants choose a longer and more physical route through the mountains. From the Ventimiglia parking lot, a 25 km journey by foot up in higher altitude. Even though, the borders up in the mountains are also guarded by the police, some take their chances on the northern route to cross into La Vallée de la Roya. It is a Sunday around 17h00, in one of the first French villages after the Italian border. Cédric Herrou, has currently twenty-five migrants temporarily living on his property up from "route de Vintimille" in Breil-sur-Roya. At the entrance, tents are lined up in a row leading to a hang out spot with a long white drape covering a few outdoor couches and a couple of trailer homes. Further in, a wooden deck with a couple of long tables and a outdoor kitchen that seem to have been specially built for the temporary guests that come in and out of Cédric´s property regularly. Since October 2016, The French Farmer became active in obtaining migrant´s legal right to apply for asylum once on French ground.
The sun has rose on Freetown Gambia, an hour has past since the first call for the morning prayer was made from the local mosque. The temperature is already over 20 degrees but it is cold for the locals. 28 years old Abdou Manjang steps out of his compound to go teach, freshly dressed after his 14 years old sister Fatou has hand washed his clothes. Abdou´s eyes are red, the night has not been enough rest to compensate for his previous long day educating a class of 48 children at the Freetown pre-school until mid-afternoon. His days usually do not end then, unable to afford cement so his house stays intact during the raining season, with the help of his three brothers, the young men have to make compact dry blocks out of soil and water. In the back of their land, this harsh physical daily labor under a beating sun usually goes on until evening. There is no other choice but to create new blocks to fix the house walls that will be damaged during the next raining season. As Abdou cleans off his feet covered by thick dry dirt with a small wooden stick, he expresses “ If we don´t do this, we ´ll sleep outside in the water”. For the younger generation following Abdou, born in the mid 90´s, it is the first time that they experience a new president other than Yahya Jammeh. With the former dictator's step down this past January 19th 2017 and the transfer of the new elected democratic president Adama Barrow, great hope for many can be felt around the village despite their difficult living conditions. Abdou has not only taken the responsibility to provide for his family but to also educate children at Freetown pre-school in the hope to elevate his community.
Since shelling from the Ukraine & Russia conflict started in the summer of 2014, the number of IDPs have grown considerably. As of May 2016, The Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine has registered over 1.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). Spread out through Ukraine, the majority of IDPs come from Donetsk, a city known for it´s coal mine with a population of 2,000,000 including its metropolitan areas. Further south, on the northern coast of the Azov sea, lays a town named Berdyans´k. With a population of about 116,000, the small city is officially outside the conflict zone and is under full control of the Ukrainian government. In this small city, 16000 IDPs have been officially registered who are coming for safety, rehousing and some financial support . The Ukrainian government has taken part of the responsibility by providing social IDP support of 884 Hryvnia (34 euros) per month to children and elderly only. While the Hryvnia is currently extremely weak 28.70 to the euro, this social support barely pays for monthly food expense and housing. The rest of the living costs are supported by charity and international organisations. Many IDPs can also feel discriminated against from locals and have a hard time to fully integrate. As a result, IDP Women in Berdyans´k came together and created a public organisation named Balto. The main Balto team is composed of several mothers, each of them who helps local IDPs . While having no current economical support, Balto is responsible for registering IDPs in order to lead them to appropriate sponsors, plans, to properly inform of rights and to provide some basic needs.
When it comes to faith, still today, one could ask two questions which directly comes to mind. Is faith a product of our own consciousness? or is there an external spiritual force, traditionally known as “god” guiding us? One thing for sure, faith is a support within American society that is critical for the ones who are in need. While New York is considered one of the most liberal states in America, the federal poverty line affects more than 50 percent of children across it. For a family of four, the poverty rate is less than $24,250 a year. From Churches such as St. Adalbert in the Bronx, Beth-El in Poughkeepsie and the Armory Unity Center in Newburgh (upstate NY) plays an essential part for the social health of New York´s poor population. For the low income class, faith is not only a question of hope but also a way of life.
Greece has become the first main country into Europe for thousands of refugees. From Turkey, many of the Greek islands such as Lesvos have become an illegal route but a desperate hope for safety. According to UNHCR a little under 159, 000 refugees and migrants ( families and individuals) arrived by sea in 2016. Greece has not only become a key for further passage into Europe but paradoxically, it has also become a dead end since the border closed in March 2016. With bare minimum economic support from the rest of Europe, many refugees camps have bloomed on their own while the Greek authority handled the situation by entering most refugees into military camps.
After a first visit to the Calais jungle in late September 2015, where 3500 migrants were living in deplorable conditions while attempting to reach England illegally; I became deeply concerned by the social injustice these migrants were enduring. Due to the Touquet agreements in 2003 (making Calais an official English border) England refuses any legal entries for the Calais migrants or to take full responsibility for this situation. France becoming primarily responsible for the migrants trying to cross over illegally. From fences being put up around the Calais highway, the French authority restraining migrants with teargas while forcefully demolishing the south part of the camp; the Jungle has gone through several changes up until it's official evacuation late November 2016. Some succeeded to reach England illegally but for the most part of the jungle population most were spread all over France in the hope to eventually obtain Asylum.
In September 2015 Europe´s refugee crisis became more acute, middle eastern nations coming all at once for safety. Among these different countries, Syrian were the most prominent running away from the current war. Being held in Hungary for almost two weeks, more than 5000 asylum seekers arrived in Sweden and registered during that third week of the month after being released. Sweden along with Germany being a destination of choice due to the strong economy, housing & food support while asylum request are being processed.
After their arrival to Sweden, most refugees are placed in different asylboende (accommodation centers) around the country while waiting for their residency to be processed. As Sweden welcomed more than 190 000 people who have applied for asylum this past year (2015), this processed can take several months up to years. In the asylboende of Filipstad, a small town located in the middle of Sweden, more than 200 refugees are waiting in the unknown. Men, Women and Children without much else to do but to be patient and wait for their future to come while their basic needs are met. What are those families and individuals are currently experiencing and feeling? What are their daily life like inside these accommodation centers?
For centuries Tory & Arranmore Islands have kept their Irish cultural heritage alive. Located in county Donegal in the north of Ireland, each island is about 20 to 45 min boat ride off the main land. Until twenty years ago, the islanders had to fight to keep their islands going and make it sustainable for living. In the mid 80´s, a priest of the name of Diarmud O Pécin came to Tory island, shocked by the state of the place, he went on to fight the main land and its local goverment who wanted the islanders to move out so there would be no further monetary investments. Being one of the few places where people still spoke Gaelic, Diarmud saw the great importance of the place which needed to be kept alive. For several years, he went on making campaigns all over Ireland and America. Finally, he created an organization whose purposed was to enhance the quality of living on all islands of Ireland. As of today both Islands are freqeuntly visited by Irish people from all over the country and even by people from all over the world. Many have summer houses where they spend their holidays. Both Tory & Arranmore are finally seen as great Irish cultural heritage.
Chauny is a town where my family is from and where I spend a good part of my childhood before moving to America. Located in the North East of France in the region of Picardie (between Champagne and Calais) with approximately 12 000 habitants. Chauny was a prominent workers town post world war II in the northen region, from textile to chemicals and metal making; the city bloomed for several decades known as the "glorious years" with high demand for factory work. For the past 20 years, due the delocalisation and the economic crisis in France, factories have been closing or moving for cheaper labor in foreign countries. Little by little the town is left with a fewer factories and job opportunities while taxes are going up every year. What is left today is a town who is deeply affected by the economic crisis in France, with few plans for career opportunities and where more living spaces and supermarkets are being created instead. Despite of this, there are still a lot of "savoir-faire" in the region. These following photos are an hommage to these workers who remains, citizens and my family who touched me in their sense of responsibilty by having no other choices but to work hard to make a modest living.
On the 5th of August 2014 as a last hope to obtain asylum, thirty three men originally from Palestine came together to hunger strike in Järntorget, Göteborg. All who have been in Sweden from two to eight years living with minimum resources while waiting to be granted residence. Some of them doctors, engineers & dentists which Sweden is in great need of. Until late 2014, Sweden did not recognise Palestine as a country, as a result the immigration board refused their application for permanent stay in Sweden & denied to recognise any of them as war refugees. Ending up in limbo, stateless with no homes. Unfortunately, at that time, being sent back home was not a possible option due to the 2014 Israel/Gaza conflict. No nutrition intake besides salt & water became their last hope for a free life, several times in the process, many of them were sent to the hospital for losing consciousness. After 27 days of starvation, the Swedish immigration board finally agreed to cooperate by promising to reopen each case for further examination and stated that none of them will receive a negative answer. The strike continued with food at the Järntorget square until December 2014, when they city of Göteborg had to remove the tents. After 5 months of striking, by spring 2015, 28 out of 33 individuals received they permanent right to stay in Sweden.