As I sat in Vienna's St. Stephan's cathedral, I felt the rich, hollow expanse weigh in on me. My eyes wander over the extravagance– ornate stained glass, detailed stone figures, chandeliers dripping with crystal. Every visible surface is adorned in some excessive fashion. The ostentatious space seemed ironically juxtaposed with the crisis happening just on the other side of the stained glass windows. While tourists traveled to take pictures with the pulpit in front of me, victims fleeing violence were being stopped at those same borders.

In Vienna, I was four weeks into a three-month study aboard program during which I visited 16 countries. Across the vast spectrum of places I visited, one unifying factor bound the countries together–the 911,000 refugees in Europe seeking protection from war and persecution. Their presence is accompanied by quickly intensifying anti-refugee movements calling for the closure of borders against asylum-seekers.

As I sat in the Cathedral, I wondered how the hollowness was so filled with religion, yet void of the bodies stranded at borders, in detention centers and in camps, waiting to find refuge in this modern exodus. The following series of photos and statistics explores this exclusionary irony.

After receiving 90,000 applications for asylum in 2016, Austria instituted a cap of 37,500 for 2016, equivalent to 1.5% of the population.
In 2015, France received 50,840 applications for refugee status. It accepted 11,945, at a rejection rate of 74.1%.
171,000 asylum seekers arrived in Italy by boat in 2016, surpassing a record set in 2014.
The Czech Republic routinely detains asylum seekers for "administrative offenses" and strips them naked to retrieve cash to pay for their involuntary detention.
Hungary has erected barbed-wire fences on its borders with Serbia and Croatia, and has deployed water cannons and tear gas against asylum seekers attempting to cross its borders. Only 146 of the 177, 135 applicants were granted asylum in Hungary in 2015.
890,000 asylum seekers arrived in Germany in 2015; only 476,649 of those could apply for asylum by the end of December due to bureaucratic delays.

The United States is the latest addition in a worldwide trend of closed borders and anti-refugee sentiment. The shockwaves of this anti-refugee affirmation have already begun to inspire harsher approaches. This January, Hungary cited Donald Trump as its exemplar for a policy to detain all asylum seekers. In a world of governments that refuse to acknowledge the rights of refugees, and international laws that fail to enforce them, we must turn to innovation. Humanitarian efforts to relieve refugee suffering have proven unable to solve the intrinsically political problem of displacement and statelessness. So, we must move beyond humanitarian thinking– beyond aid, beyond camps, beyond hospitality. To find a solution, we must think outside the existing framework of failure.

Created By
Julia-Grace Sanders

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.