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In his On the Border reportage, Ciril Jazbec (*1987) documented the encounters between refugees and Slovenian villagers, in the Catholic community of Rigonce. At that point, the village of 180 souls had already seen over 70,000 refugees pass through. Hungary had very recently closed its frontier with Serbia and Croatia, which had forced the so-called Balkan route to make a detour through Slovenia. The refugees found charity in Rigonce, but they were also faced with the fact that residents were afraid and felt overwhelmed.

Read the full article in LFI 2/2016.

Up until now you have mainly focussed on traditional societies that have been obliged to deal with the consequences of climate or economic change. Why have you now turned to refugees?

Last year I started to follow the tragedy unfolding in the Mediterranean, the mounting casualties of people’s desire to find a better and safer world. Last autumn, the flow of migrants changed direction and started crossing the Balkans. I myself am based in Slovenia and I became increasingly interested in the events, both as a citizen of Europe and as a documentary photographer looking to record the personal stories of the refugees. I took off to Serbia where I followed the thousands of refugees and migrants that arrived and are still arriving from various countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, etc. I was very upset by what I saw, by the stories of war, the suffering of innocent children who had somehow found themselves in a very difficult situation.

What difficulties arose during the photographic work on this project?

The language barrier often made it hard to obtain the refugees’ and migrants’ statements and personal data. Sometimes we asked somebody who knew English to translate their statements. Eventually, reporter crews started arriving in numbers, resulting in the police and even the army increasingly limiting our access to the refugees and migrants. Sometimes, one had to be very persistent and explain our intentions to document the situation at length.

What chances do you see in the photographic coverage of the European migrant crisis?

I think the media with its reporters and photojournalists plays a very important role, as the migrant crisis is the critical story of our times. Europe is changing, and there’s no end in sight to the stream of migrants. I see a lot of fearfulness towards the newcomers, that stems from ignorance and the manipulation by extreme parties that claim the refugees and migrants are dangerous. The media has to act responsibly and also bring us the personal stories of individual refugees and migrants. We have to approach them and listen to their side of the story, despite this usually requiring some additional effort. We photographers have to document the refugee and migrant crisis responsibly and to think about new ways of telling the story.

What’s your next project, where does your journey go?

I’ll probably continue my story in Greece, as I’d like to know what’s going on with the migrants unable to continue their journey to Northern Europe because of quotas and closed borders. I’m also starting on a new, extensive project for National Geographic Magazine, that will take me to a number of African countries. I’m interested in Africa as a developing continent that runs counter to the stereotypes and is developing at an increasingly rapid pace.
On the Border © Ciril Jazbec
On the Border © Ciril Jazbec
On the Border © Ciril Jazbec
On the Border © Ciril Jazbec
On the Border © Ciril Jazbec
On the Border © Ciril Jazbec
On the Border © Ciril Jazbec

Ciril Jazbec

Born in Slovenia in 1987, Jazbec began in com- mercial photography before turning to photo journalism, documenting primarily the effects of climate change, and the societal interplay between tradition and modernism. He was the winner of the 2013 Leica Oskar Barnack Newco- mer Award, endowed with a Leica M.

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