By Bunmi Adigun @Bunmi_Adigun
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The heartbreaking pictures reveal the abject loneliness that plagues many refugees ‘lucky’ enough to make it to camps in Europe.
Photographer Davide Degano set out to tell the story of refugees fleeing war torn Syria and the hardships that follow when they leave the battle zone.
Davide, 26, visited a refugee camp in ’s-Gravendeel, Netherlands, it was here that he met Rajab El-Aswad, 54, a loving father who had fled Syria three years ago in search of his son in the Netherlands.
He said: “I met him during one of my first visits to the refugee camp in 's-Grevendeel, I believe he was one of the first people who wanted to talk to me.
“Rajab comes from the city of Raqqua. He first fled to Turkey after having walked for four days through the mountains. After that, he paid around $600 to travel from Turkey to Greece by sea, however shortly after that he came to find out that all assurances on the the quality and safety of the trip proved to be lies.
“During the journey many died,” he added.
Rajab eventually made it to the Slovenian coast and trekked to Germany where he was told by police to register his fingerprints.
However, it was not explained to him that he legally now had to stay in Germany as he was registered in their system, making it impossible for him to see his son in the Netherlands.
The doting father eventually took the brave decision to leave the camp and continue his journey to the Netherlands and was forced out of sheer desperation to sell his home for a mere $2000 to help pay for the rest of his family in Syria to move to Turkey.
Alone and haunted by the memories of the brutality he had witnessed in Raqqa - an ISIL stronghold - Rajab finally made it to the refugee camp in s'Grevendeel where he has spent the last two years after leaving Syria in 2014.
Since being at the camp Rajab has been able to make contact with his son, however he is still waiting on his application to be processed so he can legally move freely around the country.
Bureaucracy and the lack of a job has made it difficult for Rajab to be reunited with his son and the pair have only met up a couple of times.
Stories such as Rajab’s are common, particularly among refugees fleeing Syria, which has been in a state of war since March 2011 and has seen more than 400,000 casualties according to estimates by the UN and the Arab League.
Reflecting on his own personal experience of emigrating to the Netherlands from Italy, Davide said: “Being an immigrant myself I really wanted to point out the differences between leaving home as a personal decision in order to have different experiences and to be forced overnight to leave your country due to war.
“I would like to make people feel more empathy toward this topic as I wish I could not hear statements such as ‘the government makes them sleep in hotels and pays their phone and internet, so why are they complaining for?’
“The reason I made the project is to try to move the viewer to think that material aids should be given regardless, as nobody wants to flee due to war and that the real struggle is in their feeling and mental conditions, as most of the time they live with the awareness that they won't see their family anymore.”
Davide perfectly depicts Rajab’s daily routine and isolation from the outside world as he struggles to get used to a foreign land and language by himself as well as feeling blessed and guilty as a result of his survivor remorse.
He said: “What the project is about, is the fact that the real struggle is not whether he has received a free wifi or a shelter where to stay, but being alone. The struggle is the movie that keeps on going in your head of bombs, death of friends, loss of family yet feeling blessed for being still alive.”