We’ve all seen the images on the news. Parents, desperate to escape civil war, poverty and violence, fleeing with their children to neighbouring countries in a seemingly endless parade of human misery and despair.
While they risk their lives – and while many die – in the quest to reach safety, debate rages on in countries like Australia with people firmly on either side of the fence. Some lobby the government to open our shores to refugees and give them a chance at a happier life; while others are firm that our borders should remain closed.
But wherever you stand, these poignant images of Syrian children affected by the refugee crisis can’t help but touch even the coldest heart.
Swedish photographer Magnus Wennman took photos both in refugee camps and also of the thousands of children fleeing the war in Syria for Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. His collection is called Where The Children Sleep.
The war has forced 10.6 million Syrians from their homes since 2011. Many are seeking asylum in Europe and others are living in refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
“I was struck by the children there; they are the most innocent,” Wennman tells CNN.
“But there is nothing hard to understand about how children need a safe place to sleep,” he says.
“They have lost some hope. It takes very much for a child to stop being a child and to stop having fun, even in really bad places.”
In a caption on one of his photos, Wennman says Walaa, pictured below, wants to go home. In the refugee camp the five-year-old cries every night.
“Resting her head on the pillow is horrible, she says, because night time is horrible. That was when the attacks happened. By day, Walaa’s mother often builds a little house out of pillows, to teach her that they are nothing to be afraid of,” he writes.
Wennman was there the day after Hungary closed its borders.
“They put up a four-metre-high metal fence,” he says.
“To see the ones who arrived too late, who were stuck behind the gate and so desperate, it was heartbreaking. Children were sleeping outside the gates of Hungary.”
Wennman photgraphed a girl sleeping in the forest near the border.
“The refugees I talked to say they can’t go any other way. They don’t understand why they can’t pass through Hungary,” Wennman says.
“Most of them want to go to Germany. At the border gates people are shouting ‘Open the gate!'”
In Australia, the government announced it would take in 12,000 Syrian refugees after the world reacted with shock and grief to the drowning death of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi. These refugees, many with children in tow, have slowly begun arriving with more expected in December, according to news reports.
(via CNN, images via Magnus Wennman’s Instagram)