14 images Created 1 Dec 2016
In 2015, one million people fleeing war and poverty, from Pakistan to Sub-Saharan Africa, migrated to Europe. The largest group of refugees came from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece, then moving overland through the Balkans and onto northern Europe. When I arrived In Greece in March 2016, the exodus story of 2015 had changed. Hungary, Slovenia, Serbia and Macedonia had closed their borders to migrants. The overland route was closed and thousands of refugees were stuck in Greece, the largest single group – 14,000 people - at the Macedonian border near Idomeni. Arrivals on rubber boats to Greek islands had slowed, but on March 20th, 2016, an agreement between the EU and Turkey took effect according to which refugees that arrived illegally in Europe risked deportation back to Turkey. Many boats landed on the Greek island of Lesbos that night, overloaded with terrified passengers hoping to beat the deadline. They had spent up to six hours on the cold black Aegean Sea, trying to slip past the Turkish coastguard who would take them back to Turkey. Two men died in the boats, others were suffering from severe hypothermia. In their documentation of the numbers of refugees arriving by boat to Europe, the volunteer organizations, crucial to the safety and well-being of the refugees, call the people on these boats “Arrivals.” As predicted, the deal struck between Turkey and the EU reduced the flow of migrants, but increased the level of risk they were prepared to incur to reach Europe. As a result, the number of dead at sea has since reached record levels.