26 June 2015

“The smugglers lied to us; they said we would arrive in Italy in four hours. We stayed two days sitting and waiting for Italy, the sky was dark and a storm was approaching, and we kept asking ourselves “where are we?”.”

This is one of the quotes featured in the exhibition “Siriani in Transito – Syrians in Transit” that ECRE and the Italian Cultural Institute have brought to Brussels this week. The exhibition invites the viewer to get to know the journey of some Syrians, who after arriving by boat to Italy, continue their trip to Sweden where they claim asylum. 

At the opening reception MEPs Cécile Kyenge (S&D) and Jean Lambert (Greens) stressed that the response of EU Member States to the Syrian crisis has been inadequate and emphasised that some countries, including the UK, must step up their commitment to creating safer legal channels for Syrians to reach Europe.

“The exhibition Syrians in Transit clearly shows how Syrians and other asylum seekers have no other option but to take unseaworthy boats, as EU countries provide almost no safe and legal routes to Europe. Humanitarian visas, family reunification and sponsorships are barely used by EU Member States, allowing smugglers’ business to thrive and putting lives at risk”, said ECRE Secretary General Michael Diedring at the opening of the exhibition. “I invite you to look at the photographs and imagine yourself in this situation – what would you do? You, like me, would do your best to bring your family to safety.”

“Syrians in Transit is a photographic project that aims to tell the experiences of Syrians forced to flee the war, but at the same time it tells the story of many other war refugees,” MEP Cécile Kyenge stated. “Thanks to the testimonies gathered by [the team of Syrians in Transit] many people that took this journey have today a voice and are sharing their experiences with us.”

“We believe it is important to frequently raise these issues instead of caring only about them when there is a shipwreck and people die in the Mediterranean Sea,” stated Siriani in Transito team Marta Mantegazza, Anna Pasotti, and Alessandra Pezza. “We believe that everyone should have the right to choose which country to live in and that freedom of movement should be secured in a safe and legal way. In this sense we believe that new national and European policies are needed.”

The photo exhibition was presented in Brussels thanks to the support of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and will run at the Italian Cultural Institute until the 30 June.


This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 26 June 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.