The U.S. isn’t the only nation dealing with a border crisis. Migrants from Africa and the Middle East have flooded to Europe in the past decade, and the numbers have only gotten bigger recently. In 2012, 75,000 people were detected trying to enter the EU, according to The New York Times. In 2013, that number hit 107,000.
Recently, Italian photographer Alessandro Penso sought to document the lives of these migrants with his project, “Youth, Denied.” Penso depicted the difficult lives of young migrants in Greece and Italy. Many are trapped in a political limbo, unable to return to their home country and living illegally in a new one.
Penso has taken his work on the road, filling out a truck with photos from his project and driving from Bari — one of the main landing places for migrants — to Brussels, the seat of the European Union. His project is called “The European Dream: Road to Bruxelles.” Penso hopes to engage with Europeans in cities along the way, to educate them on the plight of the often misunderstood migrants.
Penso shared a number of photos from his project here, and check out more on his website.
Most migrants to Europe come from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and other conflict zones. They arrive primarily through Greece (because of its land border with Turkey) and Italy (on boats travelling the Mediterranean).
The EU's Dublin III Regulation says the first country to find migrants must determine their asylum status. As a result, border countries disproportionately take the burden of the these asylum-seekers. Italy and Greece are not well-equipped to handle this influx, and most asylum requests are delayed or denied.
Most migrants are placed in camps or detention centres in Greece and Italy. If they get out, they live on the street or in abandoned buildings like this factory in Patras, Greece.
Most of the migrants are between 14 and 18 years old. The journey is expensive and difficult for entire families, so many send their sons to search for a better life in Europe.
The living situation is particularly bad in Greece. Migrants who land there often attempt to board boats to Italy or trucks into other European countries. Here, a group of migrants in Corinth, Greece wait for the right moment to illegally board a ship.
Those who don't leave apply for legal status. Because Greece and Italy are overwhelmed with requests, the asylum process is a nightmare.
In many cases, the process drags out for years. Penso met numerous migrants who were still attempting to get legal documents after 6 years. This leaves migrants in a legal limbo.
Some migrants will attempt to get an apartment, but with no legal status, they have to take what they can get. This usually means living in a dilapidated house with 10 other migrants, while paying an exorbitant amount in rent.
Migrants in Italy often attempt to smuggle themselves to northern European countries like Norway, where conditions are better. They often sneak onto shipping trucks. If border police find migrants in the trucks, they deport them back to Italy and often harass the driver.
Due to the difficult economic situation, Greeks and Italians are not sympathetic to migrants. Many are outright hostile, as demonstrated by the rise of the fascist Golden Dawn party in Greece. Here, Penso witnessed a car hit Mostafa on purpose. When Penso visited him in the hospital, Mostafa told him the police were deporting him in 15 days.
Abandoned rail cars are often used for shelter. Many of the migrants would leave to return home, but home (Afghanistan, Syria) is often more dangerous than Greece.
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