Syrians in Transit. A photographic display of desperate journeys

  • 12 Ottobre 2015
Credit: Anna Ruggieri

Credit: Anna Ruggieri

A photo exhibition of broken families. This is what the project “Siriani in Transito” has sought to be since the beginning. Because a broken family is the most common type of household a Syrian migrant can belong to these days. Relatives scattered all over Europe for a very simple reason, which goes by the name of Dublin Regulation.

Asylum Corner has talked to Marta Mantegazza, one of the three founders of the project, to discover what urged three young Italian social workers to shoot, tell and disseminate the stories that so many Syrian migrants unwittingly share.


Credit: Anna Ruggieri

Let’s say a family (or even better, a large one, with uncles, grandparents, cousins and so on) lands on the Italian southern shores and its members are lucky enough not to be forced to press their fingers on the EURODAC devices. So, they can move north. They arrive in Milan, where no one requires them to register as asylum seekers but despite this, they can still find a spot in one of the reception facilities which over recent years have been arranged to welcome refugees. Of course the Syrian family does not want to stay in Italy, but rather dreams of starting a brand new life in, let’s say, Sweden – “which is where all the Syrians I have met aim to settle down”, says Marta. However, the price of a passeur’s ride from Italy to Sweden is way higher than a Ryanair flight: every passenger is usually charged with a 750 euros fee to cross the continent by car. More or less eight times what a European citizen pays for a Milan-Stockholm round-trip ticket. As a result, families have to split up into groups which leave at different moments. But the harshest part is yet to come: what happens if during one of these trips, the family members who are trying to reach Sweden get stopped by the police in, let’s say, Germany? According to the Dublin regulation, they will be fingerprinted there and will not be able to reach their relatives who will have probably made it to Sweden.

Credit: Anna Ruggieri

Credits: Anna Ruggieri

While volunteering in a reception facility for asylum seekers in Milan, Marta, Anna and Alessandra heard these stories thousands of times, always different, always the same. So they got a photographer on board and started interviewing and shooting photos of Syrian asylum seekers travelling around Europe. “Our aim” says Marta “was not to talk about the war those people were fleeing from but rather to show the asylum seekers’ travel conditions in Europe”. The best way to do it was to follow the stream of Syrians in the three major stops of their journey: Sicily, North Italy and Sweden. And as the powerful quote of an interviewee goes: “We arrived here [Malmö] and we realized the journey had just started”. Marta explains that “despite its high-level of benefits and services, Sweden is where they finally settle down and realize that Syria is far away and that it will not be easy to go back home. They stop and rest, and all of a sudden they become aware of their desperate situation”.

The “Siriani in Transito” photo exhibition was recently displayed in Brussels with the help of ECRE and will soon be on in The Hague. Not to be missed!

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