Refugees and Asylum Seekers have been making the front pages for decades. Particularly in recent years, refugees crossing the Mediterranean into Southern Europe, the Indian Ocean and Arafura Sea into Australia, and the Rio Grande into the United States (etc.), have sold newspapers and topped political discussion. Even this morning, papers around the world carried the story of an Asylum Seeker vessel capsizing off the coast of Tripoli, taking more than two hundred people with it. What all these media events have in common is that the refugees are trying to seek refuge in developed nations. As a result, their trials and travails receive a lot of attention. Not least because it is easy to paint those dwelling in the recipient countries as the real victims. In this climate, it's unfortunately easy to forget the millions who have fled their homes but remain captive within their own countries.
A new conflict that is drawing much attention is the crisis in the Ukraine. Not least since a plane carrying many people of other nationalities was shot down while flying overhead. But as aid convoys and plane crashes dominate the headlines, another crisis is going all but unnoticed.The blog at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) has the story of the two large blocs of internally displaced people (IDPs) currently seeing refuge within the Ukraine:
“In total, there are over 139,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) in the country, and our analysis has found that there are two distinct groups emerging – with 125,000 having fled from eastern Ukraine, and 14,000 from Crimea, mainly to the eastern regions that border Donetsk and Kiev.”
IDMC focuses mainly on the differing futures of these two groups. But another interesting point is the onus of IDPs, and where it falls. While the IDPs in the Ukraine may be faring better than many IDPs – the government of the Ukraine is funding some of the cost of accommodation as well as providing other resources, much of the burden still falls elsewhere:
“Largely it has been the local NGOs, volunteer, and international organisations that have stepped up to assist IDPs in terms of helping them to find employment, finance and housing, as well as providing immediate humanitarian assistance. Local citizens also opened up their own apartments and houses for the displaced.”
Another ongoing conflict churning out IDPs is the one between Israel and Hamas. There are hundreds of thousands – with some estimates going well north of half a million – of IDPs seeking refuge within this tiny enclave. Some who have lost all their possessions to air raids, others who have fled before Israeli warnings. 972Mag and ActiveStills teamed up to bring some heart wrenching pictures and stories of the innocents caught in between:
“Nahed Daoud, age 41, has been staying in an UNRWA school for four days since his family evacuated after Israeli warnings that their neighbours would be bombed, July 16, 2014. Since fleeing, according to Nahed, the Israeli air force bombed their neighbour’s house, badly damaging his house.”
“Palestinians collect their belongings in Shujaiyeh, a neighbourhood in the east of Gaza City, during a ceasefire, July 27, 2014. During the ceasefire on July 26, many Palestinians went back to Shujaiyeh to inspect the damages together with medics who attempted to rescue the injured or collect bodies. Dozens of bodies were collected but many remain as Palestinians do not have all the necessary equipment to dig. Israeli attacks turned the neighbourhood into a scene of utter devastation, with entire buildings flattened and thousands forced to flee.”
But it isn't just the crop of current conflicts who need our attention. Azerbaijan is host to roughly 600,000 Internally Displaced People. Some who have been “displaced” for more than twenty years. In a photoessay entitled “Unresolved Dreams”, Photographer Ed Kashi reveals the lives of those living in limbo, waiting to rebuild:
“Mr. Kashi said his subjects desired to return home once the conflict was resolved, especially the elderly. “They cried of returning to their towns and villages to be free to die in the land they cherish and miss so much. While the kids only know this current situation and seem to be adapting as best as possible in an abject situation, I did not speak to a single one among them wishing to stay if given the choice. They all see these settlements as a temporary situation before they can finally end their refugee life and rebuild their lives in their own lands.”
Much of the media are not equipped to tell the tales of those waiting to rebuild or go home. It is more lucrative to show the fireworks over Gaza or speculate about aid convoys, than show those still waiting for the conflict to end in Azerbaijan. But through photo essays like Ed Kashi's or the research of those at the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, we can see that the wounds of war extend much further and survive much longer than is commonly portrayed. And maybe it explains why so many are prepared to risk the perilous waters to start again in other countries.