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July 2015 Featured Photographer of the Month

Urban Asylum-Seekers

Brian Driscoll | Bangkok, Thailand

Organization: Independent

Rashid, age 25, a Christian from Karachi, Pakistan, is seeking asylum in a low income building occupied by asylum-seekers on the outskirts of Bangkok. He suffered a machete attack to the head by extremists targeting Christians and almost died, and his family was receiving daily death threats by local groups. They decided to sell everything they owned and leave Pakistan. Rashid, his mother and two sisters have been seeking asylum in Bangkok for almost a year and a half. Mar. 2015

This series is a photographic record of people who strive to live a life of freedom, but who are currently in a statelessness chapter of time in their lives.

Cities and towns across the world have become home to millions of people trying to escape violence and persecution. People are targeted for their religious beliefs, social status, race, gender, nationality, and on-going conflict.

 

In the city of Bangkok, the ongoing surge of asylum-seekers has increased significantly in the last few years. Most people have to wait three years or more for their application interview and most likely it will be pushed ahead a number of times and then they may have to wait up to 12 months after that to be resettled in a different country. This work explores identity, their passion for a new life, and their ultimate drive to survive persecution from their homeland, along with human rights issues. The individuals I photographed come from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sri Lanka. My recent experience in Bangkok, in the spring of 2015, with asylum-seekers has provided me with a higher level of sensitivity of what it means to be in a statelessness chapter of time in a country that has no internal mechanism for support of refugees. The challenges these asylum-seekers face by the immigration security and lack of acceptance by much of the local population within the community they are living in is beyond dismal.

After tourist visas expire, most individuals are not prepared for the long grim process of dealing with the challenging conditions, little financial or medical support, uncertainty, and day to day fear of being discovered. Furthermore, urban asylum-seekers may have more freedom than those in camps, but they are more exposed and vulnerable to arrest and imprisonment. Many people are forced to live together in a small one room apartment, sharing a mattress and using a propane burner to cook whatever food they have.

The idea of stepping out from the shadows and entering into the light of day without fear becomes almost an unrealistic hope for many people who are seeking asylum in Bangkok. Ultimately, it is my hope that this body of work spark at some level, a profound engagement and resonate with viewers around the world.

C - 646.285.1761

bjd.driscoll@gmail.com

brianjdriscoll.com

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