“Fleeing to Safety” – A Photographic Exhibition

Sponsored by UNHCR and Universitas Foundation


“In June 2022, the number of people in the world displaced by war and persecution has risen to a staggering one hundred million!” Sebastian Rich


The plight of the refugees and their struggles in fleeing to safety was the theme of a photographic exhibition co-sponsored by UNHCR (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Cyprus) and the Universitas Foundation, on the occasion of International Refugee day 20th of June.


The photos were the work of Sebastian Rich, a world renowned photographer who has travelled around the world. The public had the opportunity to see photos of refugees, asylum seekers and other forcibly displaced people in Cyprus and around the world.


“How did we get here?” Rich wonders. “At this exhibition I urge you to forget about the so-called art of photography or the photographer but to look into the eyes of the people in these photos and try to imagine the pain and anguish they have been through, and are in most cases still going through”, he added.


The exhibition was divided into two sections. In the first section, the photos (black and white) depicted the long journey of the displaced people who packed their belongings to embark upon an uncertain journey for their salvation. In the second section (color photos), the refugees and asylum seekers have settled in their host country. The faces are smiling due to the growing realization that they have finally found safety and care in the host country. But even when they are safe, they are still in pain, psychologically. Nevertheless, they often manage to contribute to their host communities as doctors, teachers, scientists, athletes or shopkeepers – in fact just about every walk of life one can think of.


Dr Peristianis, Chairman of Universitas Foundation, focused on the great number of refugees who are forced, for various reasons (wars, natural disasters, climate change), to leave their homes and everything valuable they have, to flee to safety. Furthermore, he stressed the need of supporting each other and of staying united to overcome the many problems that displacement causes to our fellow human beings and to find solutions to the pressures exerted on the host countries.

“Each photo”, Dr Peristianis said, “reminds us of how we humans are each unique, each valuable, each fragile. And that is precisely why we need to support each other, remembering our common humanity. As the well-known rock band U2 put it:

‘We’re One, but we are not the same.

We get to carry each other,

carry each other,

One!’»


“We all share responsibility to protect people seeking safety and to ensure that the following five principles laid out in international law, are never violated”, Ms Katja Saha, UNCHR representative in Cyprus, said in her own speech.


1. “Everyone has the right to asylum, or to seek protection from violence or persecution in a country other than their own”.


2. “Countries must not block access to those seeking refuge”.


3. “No one must ever be forced back to the country where their life or freedom would be at risk”.


4. “People must not face discrimination at the border or during the asylum process. All applications for refugee status must be treated fairly, no matter the race, ethnicity, gender or country of origin of the applicant”.


5. “And like all human beings, people forced to flee must be treated with dignity and respect”.


Thanking the organizers of the exhibition and especially the photographer Sebastian Rich, the curator of the exhibition, Stefanos Kouratzis, used some words of Ronald Barthes’ book, Camera Lucida:

“The Photograph is violent. Not because it shows violent things but because on each occasion it fills the sight by force and because in it nothing can be refused or transformed”.


The opening of the photographic exhibition was followed by a reception in the yard of the host building “Kastelliotissa”, in the old town of Nicosia.