I was 17 when I first came face to face with refugees. It was 1995 in Melbourne, Australia, and it was a Saturday. As usual I was out taking pictures of my friends skateboarding. We rolled up to a spot near the state Parliament. Across the street a protest was taking place — Cypriot women calling for the government to help them find their sons who had disappeared during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974. I left my friends and took a photograph of the protesters.
I’ve seen people displaced by sub-Saharan African wars that dragged on for so long that their children and grandchildren were born in enormous, forgotten refugee camps. I’ve photographed the Kurds, who have known only persecution — an entire ethnic group that remains stateless. I’ve followed Syrian refugee families into the tumultuous Aegean Sea. I’ve witnessed people trapped at borders and beaten by the police; children separated from their parents, wandering on busy, unfamiliar roads; families literally running for their lives. Sometimes, when they were not fast enough, I’ve seen people murdered.
And yet, in all that time, I have not seen the level of cruelty toward these vulnerable people that the Australian government is perpetrating against the refugees on Manus Island.