04. May 2015

In the context of FutureLab Europe’s Fortress Europe project, FutureLabber Elias Vartio organised the launch of the photo exhibition “At the gates / In Transit”, portraying migrants and asylum seekers in Europe. The photographs, taken by photographers Erik Åhman and Harri Joensuu, can be seen in Oslo at the Deichmanske bibliotek, in Arne Garborgs plass 4. The exhibition has been funded by the Norwegian Foundation Fritt Ord and the European Alliance for Democratic Citizenship.

In recent years, the immigration debate in the EU has spiralled into a harsh controversy on the EU Dublin Regulation, which states that migrants must remain in the country in which they arrive until their status as refugees is decided. As the regulation puts a heavy burden on Member States at the EU’s southern and eastern borders, these states have been criticising the lack of financial and political solidarity they receive from northern, richer EU countries.

While policy-makers debate, migrants keep trying to reach Europe risking their lives by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. When they arrive, they have to deal with inefficient bureaucracies, unable to provide them with the necessary tools to re-build their life in Europe. The lack of efficient reception systems affects particularly young migrants, who arrive in Europe in a particularly vulnerable stage of their development and encounter many obstacles in building a new life in Europe. What is lost when youth is left to roam without a citizenship and a right to residence in Europe?

FutureLab Europe has been investigating the impact of the Dublin Regulation on youth with the project Fortress Europe from a youth perspective.

In the context of this project, FutureLabber Elias Vartio organised the launch of the photo exhibition “At the gates / In Transit”, portraying migrants and asylum seekers in Europe. The photographs, taken by photographers Erik Åhman and Harri Joensuu, can be seen in Oslo at the Deichmanske bibliotek, in Arne Garborgs plass 4. The exhibition has been funded by the Norwegian Foundation Fritt Ord and the European Alliance for Democratic Citizenship.

The exhibition is divided in two parts: At the gates and In Transit.

At the gates

Migrants and refugees seeking a better life in Europe are crossing the Mediterranean in all time high numbers. Italy, Spain and Greece have become the gatekeepers of fortress Europe.
Those “lucky” enough to reach Greece face a harsh reality. Given its geographical location it is hard to get in, but even harder to get out of the country. Meanwhile the neo Nazi Golden Dawn party have gained support, and the migrants are suffering the consequences.

Erik Åhman spent 8 weeks in the spring of 2014 photographing the daily life of migrants living in Athens, Greece. He found hatred and xenophobia, but also hope and solidarity.

fortress-europe-1

In Transit

Asylum seekers in Finland may get an initial decision quickly, but in many cases the process is long and riddled with court proceedings and appeals. Many of the families and individuals awaiting asylum may have been in the country for years, fully integrated and supporting themselves, but are still in a state of insecurity. Those granted asylum are on the contrary very hopeful and relieved of finally being able to settle down.

Harri Joensuu documented the lives of asylum seekers in Finland during 2014. Through these photographs each individual and family wanted to share their stories and reach the public discussion. Their stories are of the most humane kind.