“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.” — Warsan Shire
The migrant crisis in Europe has already reached critical levels with new arrivals from war torn Syria and Afghanistan (not to mention others) now having surpassed half a million in number over the last nine months. While the flow of potential refugees into Europe is affecting the entirety of the continent, Athens, Greece is now bearing the brunt as chartered ferries swell with new arrivals from eastern Aegean islands such as Lesbos, Samos, Kos and Chios. A kind of makeshift camp now sits in the heart of the city, Victoria Square, site of where Theseus forever courts poor Hippodamia.
Coming in the wake of Greece’s own economic downturn and political upheaval, tension with locals is mounting as Athenians race to help in any way they can before winter sets in, potentially stranding the thousands of refugees there for the winter. Huddled, hungry and homesick orphans, heartsick mothers and others with an uncertain future regroup before the big push towards Germany begins again, despite the lack of basic facilities.
As the migrants await money from relatives to make the trek through even more uncertain border crossings, miles of highways and muddy fields, other obstacles still unknown, Giorgos Legakis reports from Victoria Square with his insightful photographs that depict a dire humanitarian situation. But not one without hope, says the artist. Only a few steps from his studio, Legakis spent a week in September trying to make sense of what he was seeing. It is amidst this backdrop of urban economic decline that Legakis finds beauty among the ruins. “There is nothing else to do, other than to testify, eyes open, with tenderness and understanding.”