Scenes from the refugee highway

There are many reasons why a person might climb into a rubber boat in the dead of night.

Ask Jamal Hashem why he did it and he will tell you the story of the Aleppo afternoon when his wife and four kids were wiped out by a jet plane. Ask Adnan Fawakhirjy and he will point to his paralysed legs. Ask Fatma Hussein and she will tell you about her twelve-year-old son, waiting for her in Denmark.

Anyone will stay at home if home feels safe, but everyone who leaves has a different reason for doing so. There’s little point in trying to distinguish between refugees and economic migrants because most of the time the line is blurred – the people I’ve met on the highway to Europe are usually a bit of both. That doesn’t make them any less desperate. Some are desperate to find schools for their children, others to find healthcare that might save their lives. Some just want to forget the place they’ve come from, and who can blame them for that?

The reports in the European media tend to focus on the parts of the refugee highway that are crowded, frantic, and dramatic – the bottlenecks where police hold back crowds at borders and train stations. These pictures show the other side of the journey – the terrifying, lonely stretches that few people but the refugees themselves ever see

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