Tags / Illegal Immigration
According to the UNHCR, there are more than 60 million refugees worldwide, who had to flee their homes because of prosecution, wars and human rights violations. This is the highest figure since the end of World War II.
Once again, the number of people who managed to seek asylum in Spain has been very low: only 5,947, which just represents 0.95% of the total in 28 countries from the European Union. And among all those asylum seekers, only 384 got the refugee status by the Spanish government.
Barcelona is the second city in Spain with the highest number of asylum requests (690). Only Madrid shows a higher figure (1,861). This photo collection shows the story of 6 migrants, most of them asylum seekers and refugees who live and survive in Barcelona.
World Refugee Day is held every year on June 20.
Libyan coast guard vessels intercept a boat carrying 120 African migrants in the Mediterranean Sea and force it to return to the port of Tripoli.
A triple wire fence, motion sensors and cameras protect the city of Melilla, a Spanish enclave on the coast of Morocco, against illegal immigration. Hundreds of Sub-Saharan African migrants are living in terrible conditions in the nearby Gourougou Mountain as they wait to attempt an illegal crossing into the enclave.
They live in shaky, makeshift tents where they remain exposed to the harsh winds and cold of the coastal area. The migrants allege the Moroccan security forces make regular raids on the camp, beating them and stealing the few possessions they have.
The goal of the migrants living in the camp is to make it into Spain and eventually travel to other European countries, where they hope to find a better life.
Text by Jenny Gustafsson and Photos by Karim Mostafa
A crowd has gathered on the grass outside Guatemala City’s airport. They wait patiently, wander back and forth outside the gates. Suddenly a plane appears in the sky, sinks down behind the wall. This is what everyone has been waiting for – one of several daily flights arriving with men and women deported from the United States. “I’m here to meet my brother. He called us yesterday saying that he was coming back today,” says Azucely, a young woman with one child resting on her hip and another playing at her feet. Her brother had been in the US for five years, she says, when he got caught without papers. Azucely herself went through the same thing only a year before. “I had been in the US for nine years when I was deported, all the time without papers. I have three kids born over there. I left Guatemala when I was young, only 14. My mum took a bank loan to send me. She did the same with my brothers too.” Azucely relates a common narrative among young people from the region, who are migrating in ever-growing numbers. The Central American immigrant population in the U.S. has nearly tripled since the 1990s, and now makes up the fastest-growing segment of its Latino population. But the story for many ends suddenly. Over 2 million people have been deported during Obama’s years in power – more than any other period in the past. “Each week, between nine and 14 flights land here, full with people. Most come with nothing at all,” says Mario Hernández at Guatemala City’s airport.
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A chartered flight with deported migrants lands at San Pedro Sula's airport. Lidia de Souza, who works with receiving the migrants, says the numbers today are 10 to 20 times higher than when she started working in the 1990s.
Four men just arrived to Guatemala City on a flight from the U.S. are reflected in the airport window. They are given juice and tortillas, and the NGO Asociación de Apoyo Integral al Migrante help them with one phone call and advice – but once they step outside the airport gates they are on their own.
A man walks out from Guatemala City's airport, carrying only a small bag in his hand. The number of Central American migrants arriving in the U.S. informally is on the rise, including that of unaccompanied children. The reasons for leaving the region are many – not least the high levels of violence and lack of social and economical security.
Two security personnel waiting outside the airport in San Pedro Sula, the second largest city in Honduras. Every day, one flight in the morning and one in the afternoon arrive with deported migrants from the U.S..
Adrian Peña Carratero, a father of two, on the free bus taking arriving migrants from San Pedro Sula's airport to the bus station. He has everything in the U.S., he says, as he has lived there all his life.
Julio Torres, who was born in the U.S., lived all his life undocumented. Three years ago, he was deported. He now works at a call center in San Pedro Sula, dubbed for several years in the row 'the most dangerous city in the world', with extremely high homicide rates. All across Central American cities, these call centers are set up, and young people deported from the U.S. are recruited straight from the airport – their language skills and intercultural backgrounds make them ideal employees.
A man and a boy waiting for a flight with deported migrants to land at the airport in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The country has among the highest homicide rates in the world – San Pedro Sula has topped the list several years in a row – and widespread poverty, currently at 65% of the population.
Sister Valdete Wilemann and her colleagues, working at the non-civilian part of San Pedro Sula's airport where two daily flights land with deported migrants from the U.S.. Many have been caught at the border trying to enter, others have lived their entire lives in the country.
The young daughter of Azucely, who was deported in 2013, looks underneath the gate to the airport in Guatemala City. They are waiting outside for Azucely's brother, who was also deported and is arriving with the next flight.
Azucely and her youngest daughter waiting for Azucely's brother to arrive at the airport in Guatemala City. Their mother had taken bank loans to pay for the siblings' trip with coyotes, organised smugglers, to cross the border to the United States. But eventually, both of them were deported back to Guatemala.
Azucely from San Marcos, nearby Guatemala's border with Mexico, waiting for a flight with deported migrants arriving at the airport in Guatemala City. Every day, families gather outside to pick up returning relatives, as do taxis and buses bringing people back to rural parts of Guatemala where most migrants come from.
The mother of Azucely, who sees her son for the first time in five years. Many people in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, called the 'Northern Triangle', are separated from family members who have left in search of better opportunities and safety in the United States.
Three friends who just arrived at the airport in Guatemala City. Most people arrive with nothing or very little – they carry plastic bags with whatever belongings they brought with them.
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By: Tomaso Clavarino
Mamadou sits on a rock, his eyes turned towards the sea, the hood on his head to protect him from the wind: here on mount Gurugu, the wind blows all day long. He is seventeen years old and comes from Mali, and since two months ago he has been one of about four-thousand inhabitants of what is a veritable tent city on the slopes of an impervious mountain, exposed to every kind of hardship. They survive with tents made of plastic bags and branches, blankets retrieved from garbage cans, small bonfires to keep warm, and nothing more. There’s no water on Gurugu.
Fleeing from war, poverty, violence and starvation, Mamadou had crossed Mauritania and Algeria before reaching this mountain that stands behind the Moroccan city of Nador and overlooking the Spanish enclave of Melilla, Europe’s back door into Africa. This is a real village nestled among the trees and clouds, a sea of makeshift tents, packed with migrants from nearly every corner of Sub Saharan Africa. There are Malians, Senegalese, Nigerians, Cameroonians, Liberians, Ghanaians, and all have arrived on Gurugu with a single goal: to jump the wall that divides Morocco from Melilla.
The wall is a triple barrier, 12 kilometers long and controlled by dozens of cameras. It is constantly patrolled both by the Moroccan police and the Spanish Guardia Civil, a seemingly impregnable fortress, but not for these people, on the run from a harsh life and dreaming of a better future. Three or four times a week migrants living on Gurugu descend the mountain in waves, trying to climb over the fence to reach Europe. Those who make it end up at the CETI (Centro de Estancia Temporal de Inmigrantes), a first aid center on the verge of exploding with over two thousand people, crammed into a space conceived for four hundred and eighty, waiting to know their fate, while the others are hunted down by the Guardia Civil and returned immediately to Morocco where they are left in the hands of the Moroccan soldiers.
Returning these men to Morocco is “a clear violation of international law” according to José Palazon, an activist from Melilla. “[This] exposes migrants to violence in a country that doesn’t respect human rights,” he says. “Whenever there is an attempt to jump the wall hundreds of migrants are injured, not by the iron fences, but from the gunbarrels of the Moroccan police.”
Indeed the Moroccan police are one of the biggest fears of the migrants: both for those dwelling on Gurugu, and for countless others hiding in the forests and in the suburbs of Moroccan cities, all waiting to reach Europe. According to one estimate, there are around eighty-thousand sub-Saharan migrants in Morocco.
“Almost every day at dawn the Moroccan soldiers leave their base at the foot of Gurugu, come to our camp and destroy everything,” says Idriss, who can barely walk after being severely beaten. “They pull down the tents, set fire to them, throw away the food, steal the little money we have, our phones. If they can catch anyone, they arrest him and beat him, and then take him to Rabat. We fall over the cliffs, many of us fracture arms and legs, we are hurt and we have no medicine to treat us. Over the years we have stopped counting the dead.”
Mamadou bears the signs of his last beating on his left forearm, a large wound that has recently healed.
Only three or four girls have the courage to live on the mountain instead of joining the women and children hidden in the woods near Selouane, at the foot of the other side of the mountain. There, they wait to board small boats to reach Melilla’s beach. Not all migrants try to enter Melilla by jumping the wall. Those who do so are the most desperate, the ones who have spent all the money they had for the trip, money that was stolen by the police, by the mafias that here control the smuggling of migrants. Those who can afford to try to pass by sea, or by buying false passports. Others pay two thousand euros for a car ride. Not in the passenger seat, but In the false bottom of a car, near the engine, near the exhaust pipe.
“A huge risk,” Juan Antonio Martin Rivera, a lieutenant of the Guardia Civil, says. “These people remain without air and in a high temperature for hours. As far as we know, it is only here that migrants are trying to cross the border in this way.”
All these migrants have a dream: Europe. A Europe which, however, doesn’t want them, and turns a blind eye to the – both Moroccan and Spanish – violence as many NGOs point out. It was only two months ago that the Civil Guard, under pressure from NGOs, local associations and the press, decided to abandon the rubber bullets that over the years have seriously injured hundreds of migrants.
According to Abdelmalik El Barkawi, delegate of the Spanish Government in Melilla, “the enclave is facing an unprecedented migratory pressure” and perhaps this is why the Government of Mariano Rajoy has said nothing about the new barrier that the Moroccan government has begun building around Melilla. According to Spanish newspapers, the dug-out barbed-wire-filled trench has been financed with part of the fifty-million euros that Spain requested from the EU in order to strengthen its borders.
“These reports were first confirmed and then denied by the government in Madrid,” said Father Esteban Velazquez, a Jesuit priest who is among the few to provide assistance to migrants on the Moroccan side.
Left to themselves, trapped at the gates of Europe, and helpless victims of ongoing violence, sub-Saharan migrants who do finally make it to Spain are deported illegally, according to Tereza Vazquez Del Rey, a lawyer at CEAR, the Spanish Commission for Aid to Refugees.
“When a migrant is able to pass the first barrier, he is formally in Spanish territory and therefore can’t be brought back to Morocco,” she said. “He has the right to have a lawyer and a translator. He can apply for asylum and can’t be deported to a country where his life is endangered.”
A hundred kilometers from Nador and Melilla is the city of Oujda, a transit area for many migrants on the Algerian border. Here, life for sub-Saharan Africans appears to have improved since September 2013 when the Moroccan government decided to move migrants arrested in Nador to Rabat, rather than to Oujda.
“Previously violence by the police used to be [a daily occurrence]” said Abdullah, a 35 year-old from Burkina Faso. “Many people are starting to realize, after several failed attempts, that going to Europe is really too dangerous, and that it is not worth risking your life. So a hundred of us have applied for a residence permit in Morocco. We want to try to live and work here.”
The majority of the migrants in Oujda live at the FAC, a small sort of camp made up of tents set up in the Mohamed I University. They are helped by the students and the climate is quite calm. However journalists are not welcome here, as there the Nigerian mafia that controls the smuggling of migrants and women has a strong presence in the camp.
So why is the situation for migrants so different between Oujda and Nador?
Father Esteban Velazquez has no doubt: “Because in Nador, and in nearby Beni Ensar, there is the frontier, and the Spanish government has delegated the role of the sheriff to the Moroccan police,” he said.
Violence, mafia, arrests, nothing seems to be able to blunt the will power of these people, of these migrants who have spent five years of their lives hiding in Morocco and trying to pass the wall of Melilla.
“A friend of mine, Moussa, was here on Gurugu for five years, and has tried sixty-seven times to jump over the wall,” Ibrahim said while playing cards in a tent used as a casino on the slopes of Gurugu. “The sixty-eighth he made it. They can treat us like animals, beat us, steal everything from us, hurt us, even kill us, but they don’t know what we are running away from, and they don’t know how strong our desire is to reach Europe. Everyone here dreams of having a pair of wings, but if God wills it, sooner or later, even without them, we will make it.”
Yop's life (random name), a Christian woman aged 45, changed when she refused the marriage proposal from a Muslim man working with her. Since that moment, he started threatening her and her family and he turned their lives into hell when she decided to marry another man. Thanks to his contacts, her harasser made her and her husband to be imprisoned and her nephew killed. The whole family left the country in December 2011 and traveled to Bangkok where they got the refugee status.
The iconic image of refugees that we usually have in mind is a row of tents in a sprawling emergency camp. But reality tells us that refugees are increasingly moving to large towns and cities. More than over half the world’s refugees live in large towns and cities where they suffer from harsh living conditions, with a lack of security and an increasing poverty.
Thailand is a hot spot for urban refugees. One of the reasons why the number keeps increasing is the relative easinness to enter the country. But the conditions of life awaiting them are far from the idilic idea that some displaced people may build in their minds. Urban refugees in Thailand face a harsh reality, without any legal right to work and a lack of access to basic services, such as healthcare and education.
Bangkok hosts around 2,600 refugees and asylum seekers from more than 40 countries. They hope to find a sense of community, safety and economic independence, but what they find is fear of detention and deportation, exploitation and abuse.
Among them, we find a specially vulnerable group: single-mother refugees who came to Thailand either with their family or alone. They are often denied the necessary legal rights to participate in the mainstream economy and are thus pushed underground, into informal jobs. There, they face extortion, exploitation, abuse (risk of sexual and gender-based violence) and arrest.
Sania (random name), 33, left Pakistan in 2012, one year after the escape of her husband, a member of an opposition organization. She lives with her three children in Bangkok, while her husband is hold in an Immigration Detention Center located in the same city. Both have been recognized as refugees.da, where she will be resettled.
Rachel (random name) fled Sri Lanka in 2009 after being arrested by the authorities of her country for belonging to the Tamil community. She arrived first in Malaysia and traveled after to Bangkok, where she is waiting to get the refugee status. She has a 9 months old daughter who was born in Thailand.
Chechen Refugees in Warsaw
Every day dozens of Chechens try to escape the Putin-proclaimed happy paradise in Chechnya by entering the European Union illegally via the border with Ukraine or Belarus. Despite the news of general peace and prosperity widely circulated by the news media in the Chechen Republic, more and more people dream of leaving the allegedly problem-free Chechnya.
Each time I returned to the rundown refugee centre on the edge of Warsaw that house nearly 300 mainly Chechen refugees to Poland, I found it harder and harder to get a grip both ethically and photographically on their situation.
Some of the residents had moved out into Warsaw apartments, some had been repatriated home; others had just disappeared into the E.U, especially if their asylum claims had been rejected. Some may have even returned to Chechnya voluntary, even perhaps to fight in the insurgence. Often if they had been refused status to stay in Poland or elsewhere the militant young felt they were left with little choice, but to return back to Chechnya to face violent reprisals or join the Islamic insurgence in the Caucasus Mountains.
It became a confusing place but with so many kind and courageous people letting me into their lives to photograph them I felt I needed to continue document the transient and desperate nature of their existence on the four floors of Bielany, the reasons they fled their homeland, in an original way at least.
So how could I transpose these notes and photographs into a viable project? The stories they told me ranged from horrific tales of torture to ones of simply trying to rejoin family members who had left Chechnya years before, during the two wars.
So I began to present the images with my written notes, thoughts and also the pictures the children made for me whilst wandering the cold corridors waiting to interview and photograph their parents.
I often felt like a useless recorder of tragedy and after one visit I felt despair at being only able being able to record these courageous peoples images and voices with a view to just using the work for my MA and not to implement any real change for their situation in Poland. I destroyed my first notebook in a Warsaw youth hostel in anger one night but later I fished its torn remains back from the kitchen bin.
A Bielany resident who I had spoken to about my frustrations had told me the next day even though it may sound clichéd that “It didn’t matter, at least you are listening to us, at least you are here trying to understand us, to document us” this helped waive my doubts about continuing the project, but I still feel that a photojournalist without empathy or ethics is only taking, often not helping; I hope I can give something back even if its only a testament to the fact that the Chechen people were here, in a small part of Warsaw waiting in a bureaucratic limbo as to whether they could continue there journey or travel back to a bleeding homeland.
I plan to make this project into a multimedia piece including all the notebooks, text and audio as well as a finished book and exhibition
Si Thun Khant, 6, plays by the main entrance path at Mae Sot garbage dump.
Along the Thai-Burmese border, the town of Mae Sot has become a refuge for many Burmese immigrant families. Thousands of citizens of Myanmar (formerly Burma) cross the border to escape from the still ongoing conflict between Burmese armed forces and ethnic minorities. They also look for a better economic condition.
According to government statistics, there are at least two million Burmese nationals working in Thailand; at least three quarters of them are illegal. This status and the lack of connection forces many people to live at a large garbage dump just outside of Mae Sot.
By collecting recyclable materials, people can make about 100 baht (2.5 euros) per day. At present, approximately fifty families are living in bamboo huts built on mountains of waste. The children begin to work in the dump even at the age of 6 or 7, but it is around 11 or 12 when they get more involved with the landfill. They have to help their parents to collect trash or care for the whole household. Despite the terrible condition, children have to survive at the dump site as their parents feel Thailand is much more safe than the Burmese jungle where they would be killed or die of malnourishment
A Burmese child runs by the dump while people burn pieces of metal covered by plastic to recycle the steel.
A local child at the garbage dump prepares his bed at his family's hut.
A mother feeds her child. In the garbage dump, every family has a minimum of three children.
Burmese child at the local recycling plant which is under surveillance all the night.
A child walks on the garbage dump.The rest of the garbage already sorted by the local recycling plant arrives at the dump site six to ten times a day.
Children living in the dump study at night with a candlelight.
A son of a Burmese illegal migrant is recycling plastic at the local garbage dump at Mae Sot, Thailand.
A Thai dealer comes to buy recycled plastic and aluminum from the Burmese migrants living at the dump.
Khin Khin Thwe is a 12 year old girl from Karen state that has been living in the garbage dump with her mother and three other sisters for 4 years.
A Burmese child with her mother living just in front of a big garbage pile.
Burmese kids, who live in a hut by the trash, have their breakfast as machinery moves the dusty garbage.
Sien Let Wai, 11, washes himself in the contaminated water pound at the garbage dump.