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Image credit: David Dare Parker

International Refugee week started yesterday, Sunday, 20 June, and runs until Saturday, 26 June.  It aims to raise awareness of refugees’ issues whilst celebrating the contributions that refugees make to Australian society. To mark this Week, we are delving into our photo archives to share amazing images that highlight the plight of refugees around the world. 

In 2019, David Dare Parker had an exhibition entitled Exodus: Rohingya Refugee Crisis Bangladesh, consisting of powerful images.  He explained he aimed to “keep this story in the news” because the people he photographed – “want the world to know what they have been through.” Head to our website to read about this work and see more of his incredible and heartbreaking images.

Photography about refugees has become sadly common in many Photo Awards, initially undoubtedly due to the devasting, ongoing Syrian refugee crisis.  The Aegean, indeed the Mediterranean became particularly problematic hotspots as thousands of refugees took to the water, many needing rescuing from inadequate vessels in dangerous seas.

Image credit: Demetris Koilalous

2017 had two such astonishing photos, both of which won. The first, the image above, was The Tempest by Demetris Koilalous, the Mobile Award winner that year.  It depicted: The sea passage between Greece and Turkey – usually referred to by migrants and refugees as the ‘death passage ‘ – during a tempest that caused a temporary halt in the arrival of dinghies from the Turkish coast.”


Image Credit: Cesar Dezfuli

The second was Cesar Dezfuli’s striking image entitled Passenger (Mediterranean Sea, 1 August 2016), the Portrait winner in 2017. Dezfuli explains, “Amadou Sumaila (16), from Mali, poses for a portrait after being rescued on the Mediterranean Sea, 20 nautical miles off the Libyan coast by a rescue vessel provided by the NGO Jugend Rettet. The rubber boat in which he travelled carried 118 people on board, who were transferred by the Italian Coast Guard to Lampedusa.”

Image credit: Olga Stefatou

Greece was revisited in 2019 by Olga Stefatou, a finalist in that year’s Portrait Awards, with this image entitled, Mahboubeh, an Iranian Female Refugee in Athens.  Stefatou tells us, “Mahboubeh (33) arrived in Greece with her husband from Iran in 2015 and lives in Athens under asylum. The closure of the Balkan borders under a deal between EU and Turkey trapped some 60,000 refugees in Greece. Driven by the symbolism of the colour gold, in collaboration with a designer, I repurposed the foil emergency blanket transforming a material that has become synonymous with the refugee journey into a garment.”

Image credit: Turjoy Chowdhury

2020 was another year when we saw the recurring theme of refugees come up.  Born Refugee by Turjoy Chowdhury was a finalist in the Portrait Award: “This unnamed, eighteen-day old, Rohingya baby was in his mother’s womb while crossing the Myanmar-Bangladesh border was born in Balukhali Rohingya refugee camp, Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh. Every day nearly sixty babies are born stateless in the Bangladeshi refugee camps of Bangladesh. The future of these babies is called into doubt. Neither Myanmar nor Bangladesh considers these newborns as their citizens.”

Image credit: Matteo de Mayda

Matteo de Mayda’s Sahrawi Refugee Camps (Algeria, 26 January 2020) was also a finalist in the 2020 Portrait Award. De Mayda explains, “Tarva, 27, prays in the Wilaya district of Awserd. The pastry workshop stops twice a day – at 2pm and 5pm – for prayers. Sahrawis are stateless people; no country recognises them as their citizens. Since 1975, about 300,000 Sahrawis have lived in the refugee camps near Tindouf, in Western Algeria. Their refugee crisis is among the most protracted in the world.”


This year’s Refugee Week theme is unity, something we strive for in our photo community. We urge you to head over to the Refugee Council of Australia’s website and check out what’s on in your area and how you can get involved.  






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Image detail: Gary Ramage