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Lesvos: Crossing to safety


Lesvos: Crossing to safety

As thousands of refugees land daily on the Greek island of Lesvos, world-renowned photographer Giles Duley documents the relief and suffering of reaching dry land.
19 November 2015
A boy from Afghanistan tries to keep warm.

It is hard to describe the scenes I saw in my first few hours on Lesvos. I have covered conflict and humanitarian disasters around the world, but I have rarely witnessed such scenes.

I am on assignment for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, documenting the refugee crisis across the Middle East and Europe. The events that have unfolded in the past few years are unprecedented in scale and scope. Not since the Second World War have so many people been forced to flee their homes. UNHCR estimates there are some 60 million displaced worldwide, with over 4 million Syrians alone leaving their war-torn country to seek safety in neighbouring countries and Europe.

My project is focused on telling the individual stories of those caught up in this crisis. These are not statistics, these are not numbers – these are individuals fighting for survival and the safety of their families.

In the coming months I want to share the stories of those I meet, but first I want to show you what I have seen on the beaches of Greece. Boat after boat landing on the shores of the island of Lesvos, each one filled with desperate people seeking safety.

After over a decade doing this work, I have never been so emotionally overwhelmed and bewildered as I am today. I will let the photographs speak for themselves.

– Lesvos, Greece
October 2015