A photo-essay book shedding light on the lives of refugees and asylum-seekers in Cyprus has just been launched by the UNHCR Office in Cyprus. Through the photos of Sebastian Rich, who has worked with utmost respect and empathy towards the individuals portrayed, “Untold Stories: Refugees and Asylum-seekers in Cyprus” creates space for their personal stories – as well as for the global refugee story – to be seen and read.
Refugees and asylum-seekers in Cyprus originating from countries of the Middle East and Africa are featured in the photo-essay book. What forced them to flee; their hopes and dreams; the challenges they’re faced with in Cyprus along with their potential to integrate in Cyprus, if given the chance, are some of the issues highlighted in this publication.
Telling the refugee story can bring refugee and hosting communities together and enable refugees’ inclusion in the hosting society. “Individual dreams, hopes and challenges are often lost in the discourse that presents refugees mainly in terms of numbers and cost, or as a burden and a threat. By supporting refugees to integrate in the country of asylum, we enable them to stand on their own feet and to contribute to their host society economically, socially and culturally,” says UNHCR Representative, Katja Saha in the publication’s preface.
“I see my mission as to portray refugees, from wherever they come from, as people like you and I – because that’s exactly who they are. They are you and I. The only difference is that they have lost everything in a heartbeat. …These people deserve our utmost compassion not our suspicion,” underscores the photographer, Sebastian Rich in his foreword.
The publication is the result of a collaboration between UNHCR Cyprus and Sebastian Rich that started at the beginning of the year. The photographer and UNHCR visited and interviewed refugees and asylum-seekers who were willing to share their stories, which were also published on UNHCR Cyprus’ website from March until July. The photo-essay book is bilingual – English and Greek – and compiles those portraits and stories. It aims to reach a wider audience and is available for digital viewing on the UNHCR Cyprus website, while several copies will be distributed to governmental counterparts, local authorities, NGOs, media and schools, among others.