BY: CONNOR BRIAN
Currently, we are experiencing what the European Commission has dubbed the world’s worst refugee crisis since the Second World War. More than 50 million people were displaced in 2014 and floods more are cramming into tiny rubber dinghies to escape abroad each day.
Forced to leave their homelands due to war, many refugees must compress their entire lives into a single bag and leave under the cover of nightfall, as the echo of rifles fires madly somewhere far off in the distance.
“Most have no option but to shed whatever meager belongings they may have salvaged from their journeys. Those allowed to bring extra baggage aboard often toss it overboard, frantically dumping extra weight as the leaky boats take on water.” the IRC writes on Medium
Photographer Tyler Jump, in collaboration with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), opened up the bags of Syrian and Afghan refugees to find out what each person believed they could not live without.
“Few arrive at their destinations with anything but the necessities of life,” the IRC writes. “Their possessions tell stories about their past and their hopes for the future.”
The photos offer us a glimpse into the world of each individual, showing us what people leave behind and refuse to let go of in times of war.
From: Damascus, Syria
When gunfire erupted in Yarmouk, the unofficial camp for Palestinians, Aboessa and her husband narrowly escaped with her 10-month old daughter, Doua. While crossing into Turkey on a rubber dinghy, police detached the boat’s motor hoping they would turn back. The refugees carried onward toward shore, navigating the powerful ocean waves with makeshift paddles.
Hat for the baby
An assortment of medication, a bottle of sterile water, and a jar of baby food
A small supply of napkins for diaper changes
A hat and a pair of socks for the baby
Assortment of pain relievers, sunscreen and sunburn ointment, toothpaste
Personal documents (including the baby’s vaccination history)
Wallet (with photo ID and money)
Cell phone charger
From: Damascus, Syria
Young Omran is travelling with his extended family to Germany. Since his parents knew they would be hiking through rocky terrain and thick underbrush, they made sure to pack bandages for knee scrapes and blisters.
1 pair of pants, 1 shirt
A syringe for emergencies
Marshmallows and sweet cream (Omran’s favorite snacks)
Soap, toothbrush, toothpaste
From: Kunduz, Afghanistan
Iqbal travelled hundreds of miles by foot to escape from the violence that plagues Northern Afghanistan. He packed his bag with with items that he thought might help him fit in.
“I want my skin to be white and hair to be spiked,” he told the IRC. “I don’t want them to know I’m a refugee. I think that someone will spot me and call the police because I’m illegal.”
1 pair of pants, 1 shirt, 1 pair of shoes and 1 pair of socks
Shampoo and hair gel, toothbrush and toothpaste, face whitening cream
Comb, nail clipper
100 U.S. dollars
130 Turkish liras
Smart phone and back-up cell phone
SIM cards for Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey
When his 8-year career in medicine was interrupted by the war in Syria, he remembered his father’s fond stories of Germany. He met smugglers who arranged for him to travel to Greece in an overloaded dinghy. They were met by the coast guard, who shouted for them to stop.
“We didn’t realize it was the police. We were told by friends not to stop because they will take you back to Turkey. We didn’t know the Greek language. We couldn’t understand what they were saying. We held the children. I thought to myself, ‘Let me reach the beach and anything you say I will do.’ he told the IRC
Their boat was punctured, and he along with 53 others were forced to tread water for 45 minutes before being rescued.
Money (wrapped to protect it from water)
Old phone (wet and unusable) and new smart phone
Phone chargers and headphones (plus extra battery charger)
16GB flash drive (containing family photos)
Nour, a budding artist, played guitar and painted before the bombs went off. He left with two bags, but the smugglers told him he could only take one. He ditched his clothes in order to keep the personal items that reminded him of home.
Small bag of personal documents
A rosary (gift from his friend; Nour doesn’t let it touch the floor)
A watch (from his girlfriend; it broke during the journey)
Syrian flag, Palestinian charm, silver and wooden bracelets (gifts from friends)
Guitar picks (one also a gift from a friend)
Cell phone and Syrian SIM card
From: Aleppo, Syria
The family of 31 people, (7 men, 4 women, and 20 children) lost everything when their boat began to sink. They only managed to cling to and save one bag between all them.
1 shirt, 1 pair of jeans,
1 pair of shoes
1 diaper, 2 small cartons of milk and some biscuits
Personal documents and money