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Refugee Drawings Reveal Past Traumas and Future Hopes

An imaginative project has been collecting drawings from thousands of refugees and migrants across Europe and North Africa, in which they sketch their lives before, now and in the future.

A team behind the Paris-based Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow, YTT, research and educational project has collaborated with thousands of refugees in over 30 camps and squats across Europe and North Africa, collecting their voices.

‘Today’ by a 13-year-old Iraqi-Kurd boy currently living in Kara Tepe Refugee Camp, Lesbos Island, Greece. Photo: courtesy of YTT

The YTT team aims to “develop educational and communication tools to facilitate global refugee and immigrant integration”.

‘Yesterday’ by an 18-year-old Syrian boy currently living in Kara Tepe Refugee Camp, Lesbos Island, Greece. Photo: courtesy of YTT

Since 2016, when it was launched by a contemporary artist and activist Bryan McCormack, the team has collaborated with thousands of people from more than 50 nationalities, aged three to 70 in over 30 camps and squats across Europe and North Africa.

‘Yesterday’ by a 28-year-old Syrian woman currently living in Estia Refugee Shelter, Athens, Greece. Photo: courtesy of YTT

“Each refugee/immigrant receives three sheets of paper and coloured pens and is invited to draw three sketches: one of their life before: Yesterday. One of their current life: Today. And one of their life imagined in the future: Tomorrow,” the YTT team explained BIRN.

‘Yesterday’ by a 9-year-old Iraqi girl, currently living in Belgrade, Serbia. Photo: courtesy of YTT

The resulting images are, it added, vivid, powerful and transmit “quite distinctly the individual voice, as people living and existing in extreme conditions produce drawings that are intense, brutal but exceptionally coherent and clear”.

‘Today’ by a 9-year-old Iraqi girl, currently living in Belgrade, Serbia. Photo: courtesy of YTT

“These drawings define the YTT visual language, a raw, emotional and explicative language that speaks logically and directly to the audience, independently of dialect, nationality or education,” it said.

‘Tomorrow’ by a 9-year-old Iraqi girl currently living in Belgrade, Serbia. Photo: courtesy of YTT

All of the drawings, along with some basic information containing age, gender, nationality and current location, have been collected and scanned.

A 21-year-old Ukrainian woman’s drawing of ‘tomorrow’. She is currently living in Beziers Refugee Shelter, France. Photo: courtesy of YTT

The YTT team explained that gathered drawings will be a foundation to develop the YTT Educational App and online support platform, in partnership with a number of different universities and academic institutions, that can be used and adapted to almost every national educational system in the world.

‘Tomorrow’ by a 15-year-old Afghan boy currently living in Kara Tepe Refugee Camp, Lesbos Island, Greece. Photo: courtesy of YTT

Latest data show that thousands of people continued to try to reach Europe in search of international protection and family reunification in the first seven months of 2018, escaping persecution, conflicts and human rights violations.

‘Tomorrow’ by a 33-year-old Filipino woman currently living in Estia Refugee Shelter, Athens, Greece. Photo: courtesy of YTT

According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, in the first half of this year, most refugees and migrants arrived in Europe via Greece, where some 22,000 arrivals by land and sea were recorded up to the end of June.

In the Western Balkans, a report published by the UNHCR, Bosnia and Herzegovina noted a significant increase in refugees and migrants arriving in and transiting through the country, with over 10,100 arrivals recorded by the end of July this year.

UNHCR data also show that those entering the country have travelled onward irregularly from Greece through Albania and Montenegro or are trying to move onwards from Serbia, including people who were previously waiting to try to enter Hungary via the two official “transit zones”, access to which has been further reduced.

Similarly, it added, more refugees and migrants have been arriving in Serbia this year compared to the same period last year.

“Of those who make it to Europe, many report having been subjected to multiple forms of abuse along the route,” the UNHCR underlined.

Read more:

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Migrants in Bosnia ‘Taking Wrong Path’: EU Official

Migrants, Refugees Block Bosnia-Croatia Border Crossing

Maja Zivanovic