The Unhcr office in Cyprus announced on Wednesday the launch of a photo-essay book on the lives of refugees and asylum seekers in Cyprus, to create space for their personal stories “with utmost respect and empathy”.
Untold Stories: Refugees and Asylum-seekers in Cyprus is a collaboration between Unhcr Cyprus and photographer Sebastian Rich, which started at the beginning of the year.
Together they 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 book features portraits of refugees and asylum seekers from Middle Eastern and African countries, alongside the stories of what forced them to flee, their hopes and dreams and the challenges they face attempting to integrate in Cyprus.
“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,” Unhcr representative Katja Saha writes in the preface.
“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”.
In his foreword, Rich said that his mission when compiling the book was to portray refugees “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,” he said.
The photo-essay book is available in digital form in both Greek and English, while several copies will be distributed to governmental counterparts, local authorities, NGOs, media and schools, among others.