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Limbo 21 – Refugees and uncertainty

Since 2015 Europe has been facing its biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. During 2015, more than one million refugees crossed Europe’s borders, due to several reasons including wars and conflicts, oppressive regimes, economic instability and human rights violations.

April 18, 2016 - Omar Marques - Articles and Commentary


The European refugee crisis, since the beginning of 2016, has entered into acrucial phase as some EU member states decided to close borders in order to avoid a second wave of illegal migration.  European citizens are divided in their attitudes towards the migration and possible ways to solve the crisis. Warm welcomes as well as strong refusal towards projects aimed at settling refugees down in Europe are present in all the countries and voiced by different groups. 

Since September 2015, I have been developing a long-term project covering the crisis. The first was a series of pictures published by New Eastern Europe in September 2015 which covered the refugee crisis in Budapest, Hungary.

The “LIMBO 21” project included a series of portraits and images of everyday routines during the refugees’ travels or in the shelters and refugee camps across Europe. Something important is the state of uncertainty and long waiting time refugees need in order to survive and be granted asylum status or to be deported back to Turkey.

The project is a work in progress and all of the photographs will be presented in black and white. This will allow the viewer to establish a link between the current situation and classic photography which has already documented refugee issues decades ago. The pictures made so far are the result of several visits to the Keleti train station in Budapest, Hungary, refugee shelters in Vienna, Austria and refugee camps in Athens, Greece.

I believe that black and white photography is able to portray the refugees’ emotions and state of uncertainty; the portraits are composed of lights and shadows, in order to express the refugees’ doubts about their future.

The title of this project appeared during numerous conversations with the refugees. All of them were willing to share their experience during the difficult travel; many of them survived long walks through the mountains or crossed the sea illegally in boats. Some claim having been robbed in Bulgaria, others lost contact with their relatives. But all these stories have one common conclusion – fear about the future and strong feelings of not knowing what it will bring. Most of the refugees I talked to had no idea about what their future in Europe would be like. The most common answer I received was “I don’t know”.

Omar Marques is a Portugese freelance photographer based in Kraków, Poland.









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