‘Status: Undocumented’ - part one. From photographer Dirk-Jan Visser: Fakhredinne is a 28-year-old migrant from Morocco who lives illegally in Brussels. His story runs counter to the popular idea of why people leave home for a better future in another country. In many ways Fakhredinne fits the stereotyped image of an illegal immigrant: a young Moroccan who has come to Europe to build a new life and earn money for his family back home. Nevertheless I do not consider the story of Fakhredinne as only an immigration story. It is a universal story about the consequences of a traumatic childhood, the impact of a family history, which can take place at any time in all cultures. Each individual has his or her own way of coping.

When I met him, he and 650 other migrants were occupying a building and on hunger strike to pressurize the Belgium authorities to push through their cases, but Fakhredinne had been ejected from the building after an episode of uncontrolled behaviour. For a time he lived in a tiny room in a basement near the city center. Lacking any income, he was sometimes forced to steal for food. It was a big question mark for me why he ever left Morocco.

Fakhredinne’s family say he was unable to cope with the realities at home, traumatized by the divorce of his mother and alcoholic father, and that he even attempted to commit suicide. His mother’s new husband considers him a dropout and a junk, and apparently does not want him to return. Medicines for Crohn’s disease are hard to find in Morocco and prohibitively expensive. One year after our first meeting nothing has changed regarding his status. His living conditions got worse and his addictions increased.

The story of Fakhredinne is part of the ‘Status: Undocumented’ project, which I started for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass. In this project I am photographing the everyday life of five illegal migrants living in different European capitals. I am researching the personal motivations of illegal migration in Europe. By showing their everyday struggle in Europe, combined with images of the country of origin and the beloved ones who are left behind.

The current debate in many countries in the European Union on issues of migration and integration makes the individual person disappear in statistics and figures. By trouble shooting policy the illegal migrant as a person is reduced to a pinball in the search for a sustainable solution in a Union that is totally divided regarding this matter. The debate focuses exclusively on the situation here within the Union, and leaves out the people it concerns: the migrants. This project will lift the veil from the unknown migrant stories, and will reveal the diversity of reasons why people choose to live a life in illegality in Europe from a personal perspective. Meanwhile it will also be a mirror showing how we - Western Europeans - relate ourselves to these migrants. - Dirk-Jan Visser


About Dirk-Jan Visser: I am a news and documentary photographer based in The Netherlands, focusing on social, economic and political issues around the world. In my projects I aim to raise awareness for contemporary social issues in which I am particularly sensitive for the consequences of large political decisions on regular individuals. Through my photography I focus on small personal stories, giving the individual a face and voice as a metaphor for larger and complex issues. Engaging with society from grassroots perspectives I use my camera to communicate and aspire to create understanding on contemporary issues in relation to political and economic transformations.

Collaborator: Michelle Q Hamers is a photo-historian and allround producer and organisor in the photography field. She creates multimedia productions and initiates in depth photographic research.


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