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The Direction of Hope by Gordon Sutherland (UK)

The imbalance in media reporting of the plight of refugees drove me to explore the refugees situation through a photo-documentary of a different perspective.

How would you feel if home was no longer a safe place to be? What would you do?

Around 1 million refugees made their way across the Mediterranean to Europe in 2015. Not all of them make it through their journey. In 2015 more than 3,600 migrants are reported to have died or are missing from trying to make the passage.

The conflict in Syria continues to be by far the biggest driver of the migration, but violence and persecution in Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea, as wel l as in Iraq, also push people to their limits. In 2015, the Eastern Mediterranean route was the most commonly used migration path.

Most of those heading for Greece take the relatively short voyage from Turkey to the Greek islands, before arriving in mainland Europe via Athens or Thessalonika.

As governments fail to agree on solutions, across Europe, government bodies, non-governmental organisations and voluntary citizen support groups struggle, in an uneasy alliance, to manage the situation Volunteers strive to fill the gap where other services can’t cope, providing refugees with food, shelter, clothing and some respite from strife as they follow ‘the direction of hope’.

Driven by the absence of a unified approach in Europe to the humanitarian crisis and the lack of empathy in global media channels towards the plight of refugees, it was this support network and the safe haven provided by volunteers in the city of Brussels that formed the starting point of my exploration.

With refugees being presented in the media as unwanted arrivals in the European Union and as a series of migration statistics, I sought to reveal the human aspect of this story, together with the true humanitarian response of society: a vast number of volunteers supporting refugees where national and international political response is failing them.

‘The Direction of Hope’ was inspired as much by an interactive map showing the migration routes to Europe 1 as it was by the underpinning fact that, independent of race or religion, we all look upwards when seeking faith and hope, when searching for a light to support us in times of difficulty.

With these thoughts in heart and mind, I attempted to capture images of the fragile hopes and dreams of refugees who, having passed the worst moments of their despair, were now faced with the reality of their plight in a new country. The loss of life in the sea crossings to Europe acts as a plaintive backdrop to the refugees quest for a safe place to live.


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