Rashid, age 25, a Christian from Karachi, Pakistan, is seeking asylum in a low income building occupied by asylum-seekers on the outskirts of Bangkok. He suffered a head injury from a machete attack in Pakistan by extremists and nearly died, his family was receiving daily death threats by local extremist groups targeting Christians. They decided to sell everything they owned and leave Pakistan. Rashid, his mother and two sisters have been seeking asylum in Bangkok for almost a year and a half. Mar. 2015
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A young asylum-seeker stands behind a curtain at the entrance of a one room apartment inside a low income building on the outskirts of Bangkok. Mar. 2015
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Sabah, age 27, an asylum-seeker from Somalia, living in a low income building in Bangkok, occupied by people seeking asylum. She arrived in Bangkok by herself in March 2015. Sabah was recently living in another building in the area, when immigration stormed into the building to make arrests. She panicked and fell down a flight of stairs, knocking out her front teeth and breaking her arm. Sabah was forced to leave her village in Somalia after on-going violence in her village has taken many of her family members and friends. Her mother lives in Yemen and her father was killed. Her visa application interview is not for another 18 months. Apr. 2015.
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An asylum-seeker uses the elevator in a low income building on the out skirts of Bangkok. The most common struggle is that people can't support themselves financially due to an expired visa. Apr. 2015
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Abdul, from Parwan Province, Afghanistan, sits for a portrait in his one room apartment in a dilapidated building in Bangkok. He has been seeking asylum for six months. He was forced to leave his homeland after his father and brother were gunned down by the Taliban, because they had a successful family business. His visa application interview is in October 2016. Mar. 2015
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An asylum-seeker from Sri Lanka prepares dinner for her husband and her two small children. They all sleep together in one bed. They have about a year long wait until their visa application interview. Apr. 2015
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A father and his two sons from Islamabad, Pakistan, seeking asylum on the outskirts of Bangkok, practice their faith inside their one room apartment. They are Ahmadi Muslims, a religious minority, who is often targeted and discriminated against by other Muslims in Pakistan. Apr. 2015
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A view of the city of Bangkok from a low income building that houses many different people who are seeking asylum from their country. The rooms have very little air flow which makes it extremely hot all day. Apr. 2015
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Donia, and her younger sister Azeeka, from Karachi Pakistan sit in their room. After receiving constant death threats by local extremist groups targeting Christians in Karachi, their family decided to sell everything and leave. They have been seeking asylum in Bangkok for almost a year and a half. They stay in their room most of the day and usually don't leave the premises in fear of being arrested by immigration police and detained inside the IDC for not having a valid visa. They wait for their visa application interview. Mar. 2015
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An asylum-seeker from Lahorre, Pakistan, holds a wedding photo of herself when she was younger. She and her two sons have been living in the same room since late 2013. Her brother is currently detained inside the Immigration Detention Center in Bangkok for having an expired visa. They wait for their next visa application interview. Mar. 2015
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An asylum-seeker from Pakistan, living in a low income building occupied by asylum-seekers, on the outskirts of Bangkok city, searches a tree in front of his room for a fruit called "imli," which is a sweet snack that is known to cool the stomach when it's mixed with water. April 17, 2015.
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A young boy stands in the hallway of the building where he lives. Most people don't go far, unless they are footsteps away from the premises, in fear of being arrested and detained inside the Immigration Detention Center in Bangkok. Apr. 2015
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Asylum-seekers sleep in their one room apartment as there is very little socializing or entertainment going on. They mostly stay inside the building in fear of being arrested on the streets by immigration police for not having legal status in Thailand. Apr. 2015
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Shaheen, a Pakistani asylum-seeker from Lahore, Pakistan. She has been living in the building for almost three years. Shaheen works from her room stitching fabrics all day for a nearby factory. She makes about twenty six US dollars in a 40 hour work week. She is able to buy wheat flow, beans and rice for her family. Some people work in factories, but the challenge is getting there and back using public transportation without getting arrested by immigration police for not having legal status in Thailand. She waits for her next visa application interview. Apr. 2015
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A group of Christians from Pakistan celebrate Easter Sunday, at a low income building occupied by asylum-seekers on the outskirts of Bangkok. Christians and Ahmadi Muslims, and other religious groups seeking asylum in the building usually get along with eachother. April 5, 2015
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Dawood, an asylum-seeker from Lahore, Pakistan. He arrived to Bangkok in December 2013. He is Ahmadi Muslim. After receiving constant death threats, he and his family was forced sell everything they owened and leave his homeland. Ahmadi Muslims are a religious minority who is often targeted and discriminated against by other Muslims living in Pakistan. His visa application interview is December 2016. Mar. 2015
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Somalian asylum-seekers eat food in their one room apartment in a low income building occupied by asylum-seekers. They have been seeking asylum in Bangkok for almost 2 years. They live together not far from one of the main buildings. They can't work due to their expired visas, so food and medical assistance is often very difficult to find. Many Somalian people who are seeking asylum in Bangkok, have been forced to leave their homeland because their tribe was often targeted as the minority and their lives were threatened. Many of them have lost all of their family members due to the on-going violence. Apr. 2015
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Sakeena, an asylum-seeker from Lahore, Pakistan, and mother of Asad, 22, who was arrested for having an expired visa at a nearby seven eleven store on the outskirts of Bangkok. He has been detained for 5 months inside the Immigration Detention Center. Sakeena and her husband wait patiently inside their room, hoping to receive any news regarding their son. They were recently scheduled for their visa application interview, but it was pushed ahead another six months. Mar. 2015
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A window of a one room apartment covered by magazine pages inside one of the main buildings that house hundreds of asylum-seekers, mostly from Pakistan, Somalia and Sri Lanka. Mar. 2015
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The bed of an asylum-seeker from Pakistan, who has been living inside this room since Dec 2013. Mar. 2015
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A young Pakistani boy hangs out in front of one of the main buildings that houses many asylum-seekers from Pakistan, Somalia, and Sri Lanka. Mar. 2015
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A group of asylum-seekers enjoy a day of water festivities in front of their building during Songkran, Thai New Year. Apr. 2015
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Two men from Sri Lanka stand near a window in the hallway of one of the main buildings, that house hundreds of asylum-seekers. Apr. 2015
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Vallipuram and Chandramala, are asylum-seekers from Sri Lanka. They have been living in Bangkok for 2 years, surviving on very little. They left their country due to the on going conflict there. In Sri Lanka, they were both threatened and beaten by the ruling government and detained inside Boossa Detention Centre in the Galle District and New Magazine prison in Colombo in 2009 and was released in 2011. They wait for their next visa application interview. Apr. 2015
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Young Pakistani children search around a tree in front of one of the main buildings that houses asylum-seekers from Pakistan, Somalia, and Sri Lanka, for a fruit called "imli," which is a sweet snack that is known to cool the stomach when it's mixed with water. Apr. 2015
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Sakeena, an asylum-seeker from Lahore, Pakistan, holds a note with information of where her son is being held at the Immigration Detention Center in Bangkok. Asad, 22, was arrested for having an expired visa outside of a nearby seven eleven store on the outskirts of Bangkok. He has been detained for 5 months inside the Immigration Detention Center. Sakeena and her husband wait patiently inside their room hoping to receive any news regarding their son. They were recently scheduled for their visa application interview but it was pushed ahead another six months. Mar. 2015
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Shamba, age 21, an asylum-seeker from Somalia, has been seeking asylum in Bangkok for 18 months. He lives with his two other people inside a very small room not far from one of the main buildings. He can't work due to his expired visa, so food and medical assistance is often very difficult to find. Shamba was forced to leave Somalia after he was targeted as a minority and he was receiving constant death threats from other tribes in the region. Apr. 2015
For this project, I felt inspired, but more so compelled, to create a visual photographic record of people who strive to live a life of freedom but who are currently in a statelessness chapter of time in their lives residing in low income buildings on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, during the spring of 2015.
The work explores identity, solitude, their passion for a new life, and their ultimate drive to survive persecution from their homeland, along with human rights issues. The individuals I photographed are multi-layered races and have different religious backgrounds that come from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sri Lanka. My recent experience in Bangkok with asylum-seekers has provided me with a higher level of sensitivity of what it means to be in a statelessness chapter of time in a country that has no internal mechanism for support of refugees. The challenges these asylum-seekers face by the immigration security and lack of acceptance by much of the local population within the community they are living in is beyond dismal. People can only recall memories of when things were good in their homeland and how life use to be. My goal is to continue this on-going work, and zero in on personal stories engaging more closely with families in their living spaces, with the hope of exposing some of the untold back stories and its impact on a human scale, as well as documenting the positive moments they are experiencing.
Cities and towns across the world have become home to millions of people trying to escape violence and persecution. People are targeted for their religious beliefs, social status, race, gender, nationality or on-going conflict. Today, there are more refugees than ever, found on every continent and almost every country. Refugees are a reflection of our unsettled time. The common drive that pushes people to leave their homes is fear. The challenges faced by the world's refugees need to be addressed in short order and continue to be addressed even after the mainstream media moves on to the next newsworthy topic.
In the city of Bangkok, the ongoing surge of asylum-seekers has increased significantly in the last few years. Most people have to wait three years or more for their application interview and most likely it will be pushed ahead a number of times and then they may have to wait up to 12 months after that to be resettled in a different country. After tourist visas expire, most people are not prepared for the long grim process of dealing with the challenging conditions, little financial or medical support, uncertainty, and day to day fear of being discovered. The majority of people are forced to live together in a small one room apartment, sharing a mattress and using a propane burner to cook whatever food they have. Furthermore, urban asylum-seekers may have more freedom than those in camps, but they are more exposed and vulnerable to arrest and imprisonment. The idea of stepping out from the shadows and entering into the light of day without fear becomes almost an unrealistic hope for many people who are seeking asylum in Bangkok.
Ultimately, it would be my aim that this body of work spark at some level, a profound engagement and resonate with viewers around the world.