As Coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world, it is increasing social injustices and bringing inequalities to the forefront. In this sixth edition, documentary photographer Chiara Fabbro shares a story of refugees seeking asylum in the city of Trieste, Italy. A powerful reminder of the plight of refugees whose journey to safety is often interrupted by violence and unwelcoming measures, increasingly impacted by the current pandemic with the tightening of borders and further securitisation.
These are issues we need to see, reflect upon and action.

Seeking refuge in the time of Coronavirus

By Chiara Fabbro

Faces and feet telling the story of a long journey. Walking for hundreds of kilometers, across mountains and rivers. The fear of getting caught. The appalling, repeated, pushbacks at the borders, often violent and degrading. The disrespect for human life. The relief of having made it to Italy, mixed with the uncertainty of what to expect, in a country that is forgetting how to welcome people and learning ho to keep them out instead.
The commitment of those who every night take care of the people in transit from Trieste. Every night on the street to treat the feet, fill the stomachs and change the old shoes for a new pair, to walk on the next road.

I met these young men in Trieste, at the end of the Balkan route, during their journey in search of
asylum in Europe. Access to temporary shelters here, like elsewhere, has been limited due to COVID-19 measures. This means that people in transit, like them, have been left with no other choice than to sleep rough. The impact of the pandemic has been, and still is, very hard on those seeking asylum. Borders have been further tightened, with increasing reports of pushbacks. Alongside this, the pandemic has fuelled negative feelings towards migrants, accused by some of spreading the virus. This has worsened the unwelcoming climate that people seeking refuge are often faced with.

In this small corner of humanity, I met the volunteers from Linea d’Ombra and Strada Si.Cura. Helping the people in transit from Trieste with the basic necessities after such a journey, but most importantly showing them that there is someone who cares. An asylum seeker in Calais once told me, about the NGOs, that even more than the practical help, what is really important is being there, offering a friendly smile…creating a little corner of humanity, as a place for healing, however temporary. For Lorena Fornasir, co-founder of Linea d’Ombra, in fact, “the hardest part every night is walking away, turning your back and going home…”.

All photo ©Chiara Fabbro

Chiara Fabbro

Photo editor: Cinzia D’Ambrosi

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