Author Archive for burn magazine

Page 2 of 62

Caed x Fern.

Caed x Fern. Quezon City, 2014. Day 2 of my Instagram take over. Follow me as I take over the @burndiary Instagram feed this week. – @vjvillafranca #son #caeden #fern #doublex #monochrome #contrast

max cabello orcasitas – chungui’s grief (the wedding of grief and carnival)

Emerging Photographer Fund – 2014 Finalist


Hover over the image for navigation and full screen controls
EPF 2014 – finalist

Max Cabello Orcasitas

Chungui’s Grief (The Wedding of Grief and Carnival)

play this essay


In the district of Chungui, Ayacucho, Peru, there’s a foundational myth that strikes people’s imagination the most. From the countless versions that exist, this is one of them: when Dominican monks arrived to the district during the first part of the Spanish Conquest, there was a drunken and insolent local chief ‘a curaca’ who irrupted into the church and threw down the chalice and the world descended into darkness. The curaca transformed into a jaguar and started chasing and devouring people. Only when the saints resurrected, the jaguar was dominated with lashes and fire. When peace was restored, survivors resettled.
Thirty years ago this myth adjoined reality.
Chungui is a distant district located in the region of Ayacucho, which was ‘according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?’ one of the most affected Peruvian villages during the political violence and armed conflict time, between 1980 and 1995. Chungi’s territory, of around 1000 square kilometers, was the scenario of multiple slaughters caused by both subversive organization Shining Path and Peruvian Policing Agencies (Army and Police forces). Currently, that same area contains 320 mass graves with the remains of more than 1,384 victims, waiting to be acknowledged by their families, mostly orphans and survivors of such harsh time.
Today, most of Chungui’s population lives in extreme poverty, and also trying to recover from the trauma that meant so violent in years past decades.
The restoration of celebratory expressions and life-death rituals is interrupted by the still slow exhumation process of the victims and disappeared people of those brutal years. Along with this restoration, Chungui’s population is concerned with recovering their relatives’ bodies.
Many of Chungui’s small hamlets do not have electricity or water supply, not even highways or healthcare centers. Since there are not highways, people have to make long walks of around 6 to 12 hours to move their products to a sales point.




Max Cabello Orcasitas. Born in Lima, Peru, 1974. Founding member of the group of documentary photography Supayfotos. Since 1999 he has worked asa freelance photographer for newspapers and agencies. In 2004 he received The Eugene Courret National Photography Award. In 2011 he received the first place in Latin America POYi Award for the series “Girls want to be singers” in the category Identity Nuestra Mirada. In 2013, his series “Happy Days” (still under construction) reached the honorable mention in the 2013 PHOTOGRAPHIC MUSEUM GRANT OF HUMANITY.









jordi pizarro – disappearing lands: the “human face” of climate change in the sundarbans, india

Emerging Photographer Fund – 2014 Finalist


Hover over the image for navigation and full screen controls
EPF 2014 – finalist

Jordi Pizarro

Disappearing Lands: the “Human Face” of Climate Change in the Sundarbans, India.

play this essay


‘Disappearing Lands’ sets out to capture the ‘human face’ of climate change. The delicate balance that has for many centuries existed in the Sundarbans between land, air, and sea, is today under threat, and in certain areas, the effects have been disastrous.
‘Disappearing Lands’ is an attempt to explain how the Sundarbans is changing through the voices and images of the people who live there. It is also a call for urgent action to all, to address the very issue of survival of the landscape we call the Sundarbans, the animals and people who live within it, and the preservation of the worlds largest mangrove forest.
Within the space of the last 25 years, 6000 families have been rendered homeless with 4 Sundarban islands sinking into the sea.
As ominous predictions by climate change experts begin to unfold, the seas around the islands in the Bay of Bengal that support the world’s largest mangrove ecosystem are rising faster than anywhere else on Earth, placing the lives and livelihoods of those who live in the Sundarbans at risk.
Every year during the monsoon season, the waters of the rivers Ganges and Brahmaputra, which empty into the heavily populated and low lying delta region constituting the Bay of Bengal, inundate and erode the riverbanks and islands which millions of subsistent farmers call home.
Professors at Kolkata’s Jadavpur University estimate that as much as 15% of the UNESCO-protected Indian Sundarbans region will be submerged in the next six years. Sites of cultural heritage and farmlands relied on by peasant farmers, has been irrevocably lost in both India and Bangladesh.
Indeed, the riverbank erosion has caused more human and economic disasters in these areas than most wars. Sadly, only limited efforts have been made by the Bangladeshi and Indian governments for effective erosion control measures. There is limited political will to either help the displaced, or to prevent future climate-related disasters.



Barcelona, 1985.
I am a freelance documentary photographer currently based in India.  I’m covering breaking news and stories in  South East Asia, the emphasis of my work is largely focussed on current social and environmental concerns that affect different communities, most of them unadvertised by the big media. In addition to this, I have my long term project entitled “Believers” which looks at traditions, cultures and religions from a more anthropological perspective in many different regions globally.

My main goal is to aid and increase awareness of issues affecting people and their environments in the world we live in. I hope that with my photographs to contribute in some small way towards creating a critical reflexion of this world and also to try to understand us better as humans beings.

My work has been published in many international magazines around the world including Time, Sunday Times, Le Monde, Spiegel, Forbes, El Pais among others.


Related links

Jordi Pizarro


meeri koutaniemi – taken

Emerging Photographer Fund – 2014 Finalist


Hover over the image for navigation and full screen controls
EPF 2014 – finalist

Meeri Koutaniemi


play this essay


Taken is a long term work aiming to a book, which has a diversity of stories from circumcised women who share their struggles in daily life resulting from an incident that caused irreversible mental and physical consequences for the rest of their lives.

Female genital cutting has been widely judged as a procedure against human rights and as a serious violation against women’s sexual independence. It reflects deep-rooted inequality between the sexes, and constitutes an extreme form of discrimination against women.

The World Health Organization estimates that there are more than 140 million mutilated women in the world. Female genital mutilation is a tradition practiced worldwide in 28 countries. As a project Taken aims to offer information about the dangers and horror of female genital mutilation and will be done together with female activists around the world for seeking a concrete change to stop the tradition of FGM.

The causes of female genital mutilation include a mix of cultural, religious and social factors within families and communities. The tradition stems from the belief that woman’s sexual organs are considered to be impure. FGM is often motivated by beliefs about what is considered proper sexual behavior, linking procedures to premarital virginity and marital fidelity.

The project includes stories of FGM survivors from 10 different countries. As a book Taken works as a platform to bring the tabu of mutilation and female sexuality into a more deep public discussion.




Meeri Koutaniemi, 26-old freelance photographer, was born in Lapland and lives currently around the world. Koutaniemi started as a photojournalist through her independent projects abroad. Koutaniemi does documentary photojournalism on issues concerning human rights and minorities, and combines her work with political activism.

Koutaniemi has worked as a photographer and a journalist in over 30 countries and filmed documentary movies in Bolivia and Mexico.

In 2014 Koutaniemi won the FreeLens Award in Lumix photo festival in Hannover with her exhibited documentary work Taken. Koutaniemi was selected as a participant to Joop Swart and VII Masterclass in 2014.

Koutaniemi is a founder member in an Italian Photo Agency Echo and belongs to Finnish Collective 11. In 2012 Koutaniemi received the Memorial Award of Tim Hetherington in United States and the Memorial Award of Carina Appel in Finland 2013. In 2012 and 2013 Koutaniemi was selected in Finland as the Photographer of the Year.


Related links

Meeri Koutaniemi

kiana hayeri – jense degar (the other sex)

Emerging Photographer Fund

Honorable Mention – under 30 EPF 2014 Talent


Hover over the image for navigation and full screen controls
Honorable Mention – under 30 EPF talent

Kiana Hayeri

“Jense Degar” (The Other Sex)

play this essay


Under Islamic laws, homosexuality is not recognized and is considered to be a sin. Contrary to what is often reported in the media about the Iranian government stand, the LGBT community in Iran live without harassment, threat or persecution. It is mainly the cultural taboos that forces them to remain closed and mainly underground.

Amir is 19 year old. He is a bold Iranian homosexual. He has been accepted and supported by his family and has survived in a society where his existence as a homosexual is denied. In April 2013, Amir, just a term away from finishing his degree in fashion design, leaves to seek asylum and becomes a refugee. In Turkey, he joins his ex-partner, where the couple share a two bedroom apartment with other members of their community in Denizli. Seeking a better future, over the next year, Amir’s close friends join him in Turkey. Few last through the hardship of the process and a few choose to return to Iran and live in comfort with their families and close friends.

Jense Degar is an ongoing documentation of those who identify with and explore ‘the other sex’ in Iran, a country where on principles and culture, their sexuality is not accepted by the majority, making it difficult to obtain a job or maintain a normal life. Jense Degar looks at the transformation, sexual exploration and the journey of these young men in both Iran and as refugees in the neighbouring country, Turkey.



Kiana was born in Iran in 1988. Moving to Canada while she was still a teenager, photography soon became her preferred way to bridge the communication gap faced in a new country with a new language and culture. Half way through her last year of university, Kiana put her life in a backpack and in search of her ‘home,’ started a nomad life. With a keen interest in documentary projects, she aims to use her camera to tell stories, with a social message. She is presently pursuing projects that illuminate her cultural background. Focusing on young women, Kiana continues to document challenges Iranian people face, both in Iran and abroad.


Related links

Kiana Hayeri






birte kaufmann – the travellers – ireland`s biggest minority group

Emerging Photographer Fund – 2014 Runner Up


Hover over the image for navigation and full screen controls
EPF 2014 runner up

Birte Kaufmann

The Travellers – Ireland`s Biggest Minority Group

play this essay


My ongoing photography project “The Travellers”, gives insight into the everyday life of Ireland’s largest minority group. This group has a nomadic origin, stemming from the tradition of migrant workers. As this tradition no longer exists, the travellers are looking for a new identity within the Western European society of the 21st century. Both the travellers’ traditions and their way of life are so different that they are met with little acceptance by the rest of the Irish society. The travellers live in a kind of parallel world with rules all of its own and traditional gender roles, a world to which outsiders have little access.
To this day, some traveller families live by the roadside illegally – mostly without electricity, running water or sanitation, even though the government has provided halting sites for the travellers where they can stay with their caravans.
In the summer of 2011, I travelled the first time to Ireland with a VW bus in order to photograph the travellers. I wanted to capture the travellers’ way of life and their values in pictures. In doing so, I did not want to romanticize them, but rather show their everyday life. A life where people still hunt rabbits and where horses play a vital role. But it is also a life that contains hardship and boredom from an early age.
Since my first encounter with the travellers, I have been in touch with one large family. Over time, I have gained their trust. Consequently, I was allowed to live with them so that I and my camera became part of their daily lives.



Birte Kaufmann is born 1981 in Germany. She lives and works as a freelance photographer in Berlin/ Germany.
She focuses on photojournalism and documentary photography related to social and society relevant issues.
From 2009 to 2012 she studied photography at Ostkreuzschule fur Fotografie und Gestaltung in Berlin/ Germany. Graduation October 2012.
From 2003 to 2006 she studied socialwork with the focus on media pedagogics at Fachhochschule Cologne/ Germany. Gratuation August 2006.
So far her work were shown in several solo and group shows and festivals in Germany and around the world.
She won several awards like the CNN Journalist Award 2014 in the category Photo or the PDN annual 2013 and recieved in 2012  the VG Bildkunst artist`s grant and in 2013 the Wuestenrot documentary photography sponsorship award.


Related links

Birte Kaufmann





alessandro penso – Lost Generation : this is the story of young, unaccompanied migrants in greece

Emerging Photographer Fund – 2014 Winner


Hover over the image for navigation and full screen controls

EPF 2014 winner

Alessandro Penso

Lost Generation : This is the Story of Young, Unaccompanied Migrants in Greece

play this essay


Hundreds, thousands, hidden in the abandoned industrial areas that surround the port of Patras or in the old disused train station in the centre of Corinth.
I found them in the “urban holes” that dot the landscape of an Athens wounded by the crisis. They are the kids I followed for this project, some of whom are very young. After desperate journeys, they arrive from the wars which have tormented their countries in recent years. But war, for them, was only the beginning of the tragedy.
Those who come from the Middle East and Central Asia are trying to reach Europe, the land I am lucky enough to call home, through its eastern door, Greece. They then get stuck there, amidst increasingly harsh security checks and racism which tragically often degenerates into neo-Nazi violence. For many, there is the hope of being able to rebuild the sort of life that would be impossible in their countries.
The young Afghans I met are mainly fleeing the forced militarization practiced by the Taliban in Afghanistan, subsequent to the war that affected the country in 2001. For many others who are fleeing a scorching North Africa in revolt, the hope is to have recognized the rights denied by the radicalization of the violence in their country of origin. Persecution for religious and ethnic reasons, or due to political opinion, could allow them to obtain refugee status in other European Union countries, but certainly not in Greece.
For this reason, they are forced to hide, because having a Greek police record would mean the end of the dream of safe reception in Europe. I learned that this is set out by the Dublin Regulation, the EU law with responsibility for granting asylum. According to the regulation, the country where a person is first identified is the country that has the duty and right to decide whether to grant refugee status or not, irrespective of where the application for asylum is made.



Alessandro Penso studied clinical psychology at Rome’s La Sapienza University. In 2007, he received a scholarship to study photojournalism at the “Scuola Romana di Fotografia”. Since completing his studies, his work has won several awards, including the PDN Photo Student Award, the PDN Photo Annual Award, Px3, the Project Launch Award in Santa Fe 2011, and the Terry O’ Neill TAG Award 2012, Sofa Global Award 2013, 1st General News of World press Photo and Magnum Foundation Emergency Found. Alessandro is deeply committed to social issues, and in recent years he has been focusing on the issue of immigration in the Mediterranean. Mediterranean countries are providing an outlet for the phenomena of cultural closure, xenophobia and violence, which represent, for migrants, an insurmountable obstacle to their enjoyment of even the most basic human rights.


Related links

Alessandro Penso




EPF 2014 – the winners







Alessandro Penso, winner – $10,000

Birte Kaufmann, runner-up – $3,000

Kiana Hayeri, honorable mention





(in alphabetical order – out of a total of 1135 entries)
Laia Abril
Dominic Bracco II
Max Cabello Orcasitas
Marco Casino
Alejandro Cegarra
Stephen Dock
Ditte Haarlov Johnsen
Meeri Koutaniemi
Justin Maxon
Annalisa Natali Murri
Jordi Pizarro
Valerio Polici



The full essays of the winners and finalists will be published here on BURN over the next few days and weeks,
as well as the list of the shortlisted selection. Stay tuned!





(in alphabetical order)

Mauro Bedoni | Photo Editor, COLORS Magazine

Jim Estrin | Editor, New York Times LENS blog

Donna Ferrato | Photographer

Erik Vroons | Editor-in-Chief, GUP Magazine



Judge’s statement:


The amount of excellent work that we viewed made this an extremely difficult judging process.
Many entrants were worthy of recognition, but our job was to pick only a few.

Alessandro Penso brought new insight, and a sense of intimacy, to an important topic.
His story goes beyond what others have done on migration. The well composed images
reflect his commitment and the time that he has put into the story.

Birte Kaufmann gives us a look into the daily life of The Travelers,
an indigenous Irish nomadic group. The images are lyrical, yet also direct.
Her vision is pure and tender.  We hope this beautiful body of work will be developed further.

Kiana Hayeri was born in Iran but went to high school and college in Canada.
Her work has focused on  Iranians both in her home country and her adopted one.
She goes well past the stereotypical representations of Iran and brings us both an insider and outsider perspective.



Previous EPF Winners


The 2008 Emerging Photographer Fund grant was awarded to
Sean Gallagher for his essay on the environmental Desertification of China.

The 2009 Emerging Photographer Fund grant was awarded to
Alejandro Chaskielberg for his 8×10 format essay on the Parana River Delta ‘The High Tide’.

The 2010 Emerging Photographer Fund grant was awarded to
Davide Monteleone for his essay ‘Northern Caucasus’.

The 2011 Emerging Photographer Fund grant was awarded to
Irina Werning for her essay ‘Back to the Future’.

In 2012 three Emerging Photographer Fund grants were awarded:
one major to Matt Lutton for his essay ‘Only Unity’ and
two minors to Giovanni Cocco for his essay ‘Monia’ and to Simona Ghizzoni for her essay ‘Afterdark’.

In 2013 four Emerging Photographer Fund grants were awarded:
one major to Diana Markosian for her essay ‘My Father The Stranger’ and
three minors to: Iveta Vaivode for her essay ‘Somewhere on Disappearing Path’,
Oksana Yushko for her essay ‘Balklava: The Lost History’ and
Maciej Pisuk for his essay ‘Under The Skin; Photographs From Brzeska Street’.



Editor’s note:


I cannot express my thanks enough to Donna, Jim, Erik and Mauro.
This very fine EPF jury worked collectively so hard and so thoroughly to finely tune their choices…
They thought this through very carefully from every angle to award this grant to the photographers most deserving.
Of course once it gets down to the finalists, the choices become extremely difficult. This is where they really went to work.
Lots of back and forth discussion and yet consensus reached.


Burn Magazine revolves around the EPF. Our most important curatorial contribution
to the oftentimes chaotic landscape of photography today. By choosing a jury whose lifetimes have been spent in looking
at photographs and making photographs, we try to give our Burn readers a distilled version of the best work of all that
flows before their eyes everyday.


Most importantly our mission is to give recognition to the finest emerging authors out there and to provide some funding to at least
a few to keep going and to continue making a mark. Our previous winners prove this is not in vain.


Many thanks especially to my EPF Burn team of Anton Kusters, Diego Orlando, and Kaya Berne.
First off , they must deal with me!! Never easy. In all seriousness, they all show amazing dedication to the spirit of
doing something which just feels good. To provide a platform for the up and coming.


Special thanks to Susan Meiselas of the Magnum Foundation. Nobody on the planet is more dedicated to allowing new talent to develop.



The Emerging Photographer Fund was created and is directed by David Alan Harvey,
and curated by Anton Kusters & Diego Orlando, with Kaya Lee Berne.




Thank You

@miho_kajioka My week of BurnDiary is ending and this is the last post. It was my first time to use Instagram, so my first task was to open my account and learn how it works. Also it is very rare for me to use colors. I usually do black and white, and they are all gelatin silver prints, which are hand printed in a darkroom. Very different process. So everything was new to me, to take photos and upload them without taking a long time to edit them or figure out the best compositions and densities… I usually need a lot of time to complete one piece, and doing something quickly is not what I am good at. So I am not sure if those images are good enough to show others… I feel a bit shy and vulnerable about sharing those casual snap shots with casual text. However I am very happy that @diegorlando gave me this opportunity. Playing with colors and different techniques was fun. I could disconnect myself from my usual style of making photographs, and yet I learned a lot of things that I can use for my black and white works.It was also very funny to see which images are popular and which are not. My favorite one is the third one, although I like all of them. Which one did you like the best? Thanks you very much for your support and warm comments! I am sorry that I couldn’t reply to you all. I still don’t really know how to use Instagram… to be honest. Well I will be posting my update information such as upcoming exhibitions, publishings or etc. on my Facebook page ( but also will try to post to my new Instagram account @miho_kajioka. Wish me luck. Thank you!!! Arigato! Miho–Miho Kajioka

Are you Japanese?

About 15 years ago when I was visiting Berlin, I met a Japanese girl who was born and raised in Berlin. It was at our mutual friend’s flat. She asked me “Are you Japanese?” in Japanese. I said “Yes.”. “Where in Japan?” she asked. “Okayama.” I answered. “Where in Okayama?” she asked. “Tsuyama” I answered. “Nooooooooooooooo!!!!!” she shouted. She told me that her father was born and raised in Tsuyama. So strange to meet someone, who’s family is from your hometown, 8718.850 km away. Two days ago, I visited her father’s house for the first time. I took pictures and sent them to her. We are still friends. –Miho Kajioka

Visited my friend’s house. –Miho Kajioka

Hello October.

Hello October. Today, I found a lot of Higanbana on the riverside, its English name is Lycoris radiata or a red spider lily, a wild flower we see from August to the beginning of autumn. When the bright red color starts to fade we know that autumn has arrived. Those brown leaves under the flowers are from cherry trees, they lost almost all of their leaves and will be bold soon until next April, when they will be covered with pinkish white flowers.– Miho Kajioka

Sometimes, we all need a hero.

Miho Kajioka: Sometimes, we all need a hero.

Traditional Japanese Frames

I visited a small factory in Kyoto where they make the traditional Japanese frames with special silk. The making of these frames are a delicate and beautiful process. In the future, I hope to use them for my photographic works.— Photo by Miho Kajioka

Sushi Restaurant

My friend from Kyoto took me to a sushi restaurant. The chef is his friend and all the customers are locals. The chef told us that so many good restaurants have lost their soul by advertising in guidebooks. Tourists occupy the seats and locals can’t go there anymore. That restaurant (I was forbidden to mention it’s name) has never put an advert in a guidebook so that locals can still come without making a reservation in advance. The food was very good, served in a relaxing atmosphere. After the meal, we just left the restaurant without paying. My friend told me that they know each other so well that they will just send the bill to his office. Still jet lagged (just came back from Europe) and the book I bought makes it more difficult to sleep…Photo by Miho Kajioka

eric gottesman – sudden flowers

Hover over the image for navigation and full screen controls

Eric Gottesmen

Sudden Flowers

play this essay


“If given just a bit of water and light, we will suddenly blossom.”
Over the past fifteen years in a neighborhood in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a group of young people that came to call themselves Sudden Flowers worked with me to make photographs that represented the experiences they endured in their short lives. These often included various forms of trauma: the loss of parents, physical abuse, life on the street, psychological distress, the impact of poverty and disease. Though their lives were connected by proximity and common experiences, each of them had unique stories to tell and unique ways of telling them.

Together we made images that attempt to recreate these experiences for the viewer and to fantasize about the unknown future. The pictures do not really document, very few of them explain what was transpiring while the shutter was open. Rather, the camera became a tool for the members of Sudden Flowers to reflect on what happened to them, to heal and to reshape the world they wanted to live in.

For many years, we showed the pictures only in local venues so viewers would understand the context and visual subtleties of the images. Now, many years later, we have assembled these pictures into a book for a wider audience.

We photographers often believe it is our job to represent a larger section of humanity of which the subject is one example: here is a picture of a child (on behalf of all children) or a refugee (on behalf of all refugees) or a Haitian (on behalf of all Haitians). In this project, each subject represents himself or herself, often with unexpected results. Sudden Flowers has become a persistent question mark at the end of a central tenet of documentary photography: the possibility of photographic representation.


Eric Gottesman is a photographic artist and organizer. Central to his practice is collaboration. He has received a Fulbright Fellowship, a Light Work Artist Residency, an Aaron Siskind Foundation Artist Fellowship, the apexart Franchise Award and grants from the Magnum Foundation, LEF Foundation, Artadia and the Open Society Foundation among others. His work was featured in Aperture and Contact Sheet in 2014 and is in various collections including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He is currently a Faculty Fellow at Colby College and an advisor to the Prince Claus Fund/Arab Fund for Arts and Culture Documentary Photography Program. His first book, Sudden Flowers, will be published in October 2014 by Fishbar.

Related links

Eric Gottesman

FISHBAR - Sudden Flowers


malin fezehai – a kind of purgatory

Hover over the image for navigation and full screen controls

Malin Fezehai

A Kind of Purgatory: African Refugees in Israel

play this essay


By some estimates, 60,000 African asylum-seekers — mainly from Sudan and Eritrea — reside in Israel. For these men, women and children, the journey to the country is perilous: traversing hostile countries, often encountering bandits and facing the Egyptian and Sinai deserts before they even reach the border. Many who start the journey don’t make it. For those who do, they face a kind of purgatory rather than a home.

In Israel, these asylum-seekers are offered a temporary visa — called the 2(A)5 – that has to be renewed every three months, though they are not allowed to work. The State of Israel does not provide them with social assistance, and so many become cheap labor for various service industries, working, for example, as hotel housecleaners and groundskeepers while remaining under constant threat of arrest and detention.
Today, border crossings by asylum seekers has almost completely stopped – largely because of the 90-mile fence that Israel built on the border. (The government used African workers in its construction.) And while the exodus may have slowed to a trickle, the harsh realities of this purgatory remain.

On a sunny Saturday in Levinsky Park in Tel Aviv, I heard the hopelessness and frustration with recent government actions at a community meeting of Eritreans. The meeting was held in the wake of weeks of demonstrations by Africans against a new detention law. The mood was somber. In December 2013, the Israeli Knesset added an amendment to the Anti-Infiltration law. It requires asylum-seekers from Eritrea and Sudan to be automatically detained for at least a year and then placed, indefinitely, in an open detention center. The opening of Holot detention center at the beginning of this year followed the passage of the amendment. It currently holds more than 2,000 African asylum-seekers, with a plan in place to expand the capacity to about 8,000.

The demonstrations marked the first time this community made its presence known in Israel. Despite the demonstrations, the community remained in two minds, with some members discussing ways that they could make themselves more invisible. One speaker suggested that they shouldn’t pray in the park because it can upset Israelis, because they pay taxes for their parks and want this to be a Jewish country. The majority of the Eritrean refugees are Christians and the majority of Sudanese refugees are Muslim.

The country’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to what he sees as illegal immigrants as being “infiltrators” in Israel. Worldwide, Eritrean and Sudanese nationals have very high rates of what the UNHCR calls “refugee recognition“: 82% for Eritreans and 68% for Sudanese. Israel, however, has one of the world’s lowest rates of refugee recognition. In addition, a Sudanese national known to have even entered Israel faces a 10 year prison sentence in Sudan, whether they have entered with or without a visa.

The point of the open detention center, and the general policy towards the “infiltrators” seems to be to pressure Africans to self-deport. As former Interior Minister Eli Yishai put it, to “make their lives miserable,“until they give up and agree to let Israel deport them to a third country, often Uganda. If you are an African male that has been in Israel for more than 5 years you will receive an “invitation” to Holot detention center. Detainees can leave the facility, but must report for three roll calls in the morning, midday and at night.
Holot is located in the desert near the Egyptian border. Detainees are left wandering the desert between check-ins, and are not allowed to leave from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.  If you don’t report on time, you can be taken to the nearby closed prison of Saharonim. Many were forced to quit their jobs in Tel Aviv and are held indefinitely without trial or grounds for release. The only option they are given is to take an offered sum of $3,500 (U.S) to return to their country of origin, a third country, or to stay in Holot indefinitely.

Mutasim Ali is a 27-year old asylum-seeker from Sudan and is acknowledged by the United Nation High Commissioner as a refugee. Yet, the Israeli Ministry of Interior has not reviewed his case. He has been in Israel for 5 years, speaks fluent Hebrew and is CEO of ARDC (The African Refugee Development Center, a not-for profit organization). He was the first to appeal the administrative processes of receiving an “invitation” to Holot without having an opportunity to be heard.  “When you take someone’s life,” Ali’s lawyer Asaf Weitzen, the head of the legal department at the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants, an NGO, says, “and tear them apart from his friends, work and life, it should at the very least be done with due process and must include a hearing.”

The judge rejected Ali’s petition, and he was not allowed a hearing. He entered Holot in early May.


Malin Fezehai is a photographer and filmmaker based in New York. This series was produced in collaboration with producer Sarah Asreghan.

Related links

Malin Fezehai




Read more: ‘A Kind of Purgatory’: African Refugees in Israel – LightBox