Where The West Sets | Dove Tramonta l'Occidente (2017)

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In the past few years, international governments, institutions, and media have used the expression “refugee crisis” to describe rising numbers of undocumented individuals and families fleeing to Europe from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, where they face harsh challenges, including war, poverty, persecution, and human rights violations. Hoping to start a new life in Europe and looking for a new identity, thousands of refugees have braved the Mediterranean Sea on board of inflatable boats and makeshift vessels, driven by an idea of Europe as the land where their dreams will be realized. Some of these people decide to cross the sea illegally only to become refugees and to enjoy the benefits of this status.

 

Where the West Sets is a documentary project that attempts to chronicle this crisis as it plays out on the northern Aegean Islands and in mainland Greece – the same territories where Western Culture and its system of values were born. The aesthetics of my work lies on an approach that had me go to those places not as a reporter looking for facts but as a documentarist trying to verify facts. The series of photographs reflects the consequences that the refugee crisis is having on the cradle of civilization, whereas the traditional value of respecting other human beings is meeting feelings of hostility, fear, and xenophobia among the Greeks.

 

In the same country that gave birth to philosophy, science and anthropology, people are living among refugees in an uncertain and disordered way, holding tightly to their self-referential and contradictory values, belonging to a Europe that is now diminished but that is frantically trying to redefine its own identity.

 

Mytilene, Agrilia Kratigou’s beach. The photograph shows the thermal image of the coast of Turkey, near Cesme. Thermal devices are used for the patrol and the identification of refugee boats that arrive clandestinely from Turkey.

 

Mytilene. Tamin Fakti is a 19 years old Pakistan refugee. Many refuges escape from official hotspots to live as squatters inside destroyed building and in crumbling palaces.

Mithymna, Lesbos Island, Greece. Outside the urban areas there is a dump containing thousands of life jackets and the wrecks of the boats used by refugees.

Eftalou, Lesbos. Manuel is the owner of the Taverna Eftalou. «Every morning I look outside the window the beach before my restaurant and I hope not to see boats of migrants».  Many traders and local people have called the emergency of the arrivals with the term “invasion”, a word that best tells the interstitial discomfort and the trauma they have experienced.

Mytilene, Lesbos. Kenan, 27 years old Senegalese refuge, looks outside the window in the help centre of the Swiss Cross. «I hope to get a document as soon as possible, in order to go to Northern Europe and begin a new life».

Lesbos, Moni Mirsinidiou. View of the coast.

Mytilene. A rescue boat of Erci NGO during a patrol at sea. From 2015 many non-governmental organizations have received the mandate and the funds from Greece and the EU to help the incoming refugee boats. To date, hundreds of NGOs working throughout Greece are contending the areas of their operations.

Port of Chios. Read, 19 year old from Aleppo, dives from a pier.

Lesbos, Eftalou’s beach. In 2016 along this beach many bodies of refugees died during the travel were found. It is now a deserted beach. During a walk in search of the marks of the migration left on the coastal landscape, I ran into this carcass of a dog, who died several months before and was left to rot.

Athens, Pedion Areos’ park. A homosexual Arab refugee performs his body to attract customers and to prostitution for a few Euros.

Mytilene, Agrilia Kratigou’s beach. A refugee bathing. «I envy you! The water is beautiful and crystalline. Isn’t it cold?» I ask him, during the photoshoot. «Yes. But I have nothing else to do». We laugh together. «What is your name», I ask him. He replies: «That’s not important».

Athens, Elliniko refugee camp. Safir, 23 years old.

Lesbos, Moria refugee camp. A refugee returns to his tent after taking a shower.

 

Mytilene. Tamer al-Hamri, a 68 years old Palestinian refugee, lighting a fire in an abandoned house along the Makris Gialos’ shoreline to warm up and to cook the fish caught during the day.

 

Mytilene. Movida on Saturday evening in a nightclub on the city along the sea.

Chios, Chios Island. The refugee camp "Souda" is located inside the archaeological site of the Castle od Chios, built in during the Byzantine era around the 9th century a.C. This installation has damaged the local economy, which lived on tourism.

Chios, Agios’ family house. Nanà helps her son during homework: «Until two years ago, here in Chios, everybody slept with the open door. Nothing happened because we all know each other. Now everyone has an alarm system, home insurance and property because we are afraid of what we see and what we cannot control. In recent months we have had theft and attacks by refugees who do not escape from any war. Chios was a beautiful place to live and do the holidays. This game between Turkey and Europe has transformed our islands in a buffer-islands».

Eftalou, Molovos. Eric Kempson is a sculpture that works in support to refugees. In 2015 he founded with his wife Philippa “Ellenic Workshop”, a factory for volunteers who want to offer help to refugees of Lesbos, outside institutional circuits and the NGO domain.

Aegean Sea, on the ferry of Ellenic Seaways. Ratina (31 years) and Zouttir (26 years) from Algeria move from Lesbos to Chios. «If your girlfriend or your wife is pregnant you are entitled to better assistance and not go in refugee camps. They provide you a hotel or a house».

Lesbos, Moria refugee camp.

Mytilene, near the refugee camp of Moria. Eirene F. is the owner of a small restaurant: «I've never had trouble to fulfil my restaurant. We are a family, we are happy with few things. Today, however, I turn on the fireplace and prepare the coals to cook the fish only when a person enters the room».

Port of Chios. Falah, a 26 year Pakistani refugee, pray on the harbour. In the background the Turkish coast.

Mytilene. Lutfi, 21-year old from Algeria, lives as squatter on the outskirt of the city.

Moria Refugee Camp.

 

Mytilene. The Agrilia Kratigou’s beach is a strategic place to patrol the territory, from which you can monitor the maritime border and the Turkish coast. Erik, a young volunteer from Stockholm, are patrolling the area during the night.

 

Mytilene. The squatters live in illegal conditions. A lookout system checks the buildings and inform the whole community when the police is going to break in the occupied areas. In this photograph, Faruk, a 24 years refugee from Syria, covers his daily shift.

Mytilene. Fatahi Hamid shows me an x-ray of his ribs, after being beaten by the Hellenic Police. «They were suspicious of me because I was alone aboard. They interviewed me three times making me the same questions. I felt teased and I lost my temper. They beat me because they thought I was a terrorist. I escaped from the camp and I came here».

Moria refugees camp. Faktur, 38 years old, has a document that certifies his status as refugees. There are few to have one. «I do not want to go away from here. What will I do outside here? I will be alone, and here I have all my friends».

Chios, Orthodox cemetery of Agia Markella. The tomb of an anonymous refugee found dead in the bay below.

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