Tales of Migratory Birds with Broken Wings
- Editorial Photographer / Photojournalist
- Creative Director
- Senior Producer / Project Manager
- Portrait Photographer
- Social Media Producer
- Content Strategist
The year 2015 has seen an unprecedented amount of forcibly displaced persons, including those newly forcibly displaced by conflict, violence and human rights violations, and those in situations of protracted displacement, who experience long periods of exile and separation from home. The hundreds of thousands of people crossing through the Balkans from the Middle East and across the Mediterranean from Africa in search of protection have revealed a latent moral crisis that has been brewing for several decades, beginning with the decay of the 1951 Refugee Convention’s ideals.
The agreement reached between the EU and Turkey on the 18th of March 2016 marks the collapse of the principles adopted in 1951. It provides that all asylum seekers, whatever their citizenship, who reach the Greek coast will be forcefully returned to Turkey, a country whose entry into the EU had been refused a few years ago because of its violations of human rights, and whose government has since then become much more authoritarian. Additionally, for every potential Syrian asylum seeker deported from Greece, another one currently housed in a Turkish camp will be relocated in Europe. The resettlements cannot exceed 72,000 people, which factors out to approximately one-fifth of the 363,000 Syrians who have applied for asylum in the EU in 2015. Although already practiced elsewhere—Australia, for instance—this externalization of the asylum procedure is unprecedented in Europe. By preempting the possibility of refugee status being claimed by people from the Middle East fleeing persecution, the joint-action plan counts as the ultimate renunciation of the international right to protection established after World War II. With the increasing militarization of national borders along the so called “Balkan Route”, Serbia and Bosnia have become the main transit countries for people on the move towards Western and Northern Europe. However, what was for a brief timespan an open “Balkan Corridor” has now turned into a “Balkan Prison”, dangerous and without exit for those trapped inside
Today, the systematic fortification of borders is still continuing across South-Eastern Europe, increasingly exacerbating the situation for people on the move. The southern borders of Hungary and Slovenia are completely fenced off now. The same applies to the Turkish-Bulgarian border, part of the Bulgarian-Greek border, the Greek-Macedonian and parts of the Serbian-Bulgarian border. Where borders are not yet physically sealed, they are heavily controlled by police who often use violence as a deterrent. This policy of closed borders does not reduce migration flows, nor does it close the route. Instead, people on the move are forced to seek more and more dangerous paths towards Central Europe.
Since there remain very few, if any, legal possibilities to cross the border, many people see themselves forced to go “to the game”. This is the expression commonly used for trying to cross the border irregularly, either alone or with the help of a smuggler, often including long walks in the dark, hiding in lorries or clinging to freight trains. In these “games”, chances for success are dim, and in some cases they end deadly. Those unable to play the game become trapped behind closed borders infinitely waiting. These are their stories.