German Photographer, Felix Kleymann posed as refugee to be smuggled from Turkey across the Mediterranean sea to Europe.
In his project, Escaping Death: Syrian Refugees, German photographer, Felix Kleymann documented the current refugee crisis by posing as a refugee, and being smuggled from Izmir in Turkey into Europe.
His journey started in northern Iraq, where he photographed “still-life” in the refugee camps. Many displaced people sheltered in makeshift facilities received basic assistance. It was not always adequate, and almost all refugees hoped to return to Syria one day.
From there, Felix explored the hardship scenes of Syrian refugees in Southern Turkey–the biggest refugee influx since Syrian war broke out in 2011. They revealed to him the horrors of war, and why they had to escape death from their home country. Here in Turkey-Syrian border areas, hundreds of thousands of refugees planned and began their Europe-bound journeys (for better or worse).
To get the truest angle on their hardships, Felix rode with one group of refugees while crossing the Mediterranean in a rubber dinghy operated by an illegal human smuggling network. All of the rubber boats used by the smugglers, as observed by Felix, were never fit for the 15-km trip across frequently rough waters to the Greek islands of Lesvos and Chios. They weren’t meant for transportation by any humane standard–never had enough life-jackets for the number of passengers in over-crowded boats. Many Syrian refugees were reported to be drowned here.
Through the interviews, which Felix Kleymann conducted up and down the human smuggling chain, he discovered the fatal truth: so many displaced people had no other options but to pay expensive fees (in some cases over 3 thousands dollars) to the smugglers, hoping to make it to the other side of the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, not every refugee completed the journey safely– so often, their lifeless bodies were washed ashore where they began. (Earth International Foundation’s interviews with the Turkish coastguards reveal another shocking information: that the deflated rubber boats taken by the refugees washed to the Turkish shore were found with punctured marks on them.)
After crossing into Greece, Felix followed the refugees to Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Austria, and finally to his home country in Germany. It is Germany where the open-arms immigration policy at the time was appealing to the refugees the most.
The boat in which Felix had ridden was fortunate to survive the weather. But for the refugees, the journey thereafter could be just as challenging that they would need more than luck to survive in a flight from desperation.