(1st prize in Swedish Picture of the Year - Domestic picture story)
To the deep forests and Moheds Camping, in the middle of Sweden, people from the Bulgarian Roma community have returned for years. Here they rent small cabins or caravans while making money begging in the neighboring small towns. When the refugee situation escalated in the fall of 2015, the camping was partly turned into an accommodation for asylum seekers and two of the country’s most vulnerable groups were all of a sudden living side by side. Despite different backgrounds and dreams, they are all here for the same reason - for the sake of their children.
But the children’s future will be decided not only by their parents. Those who fled war are hoping to soon begin their new lives in Sweden. As for EU citizens, such as the Bulgarians, the day when they must leave and return to the misery in their home country is approaching.
Vanjo, from Bulgaria, looks on while the asylum-seeking children are coming back from school. Since he is from Bulgaria, another EU country, he is not allowed to go to school in (most parts of) Sweden. - I have not gone to school for eight months. Eight months feels like eight years, he says.
“For the first time we can celebrate Ivo's birthday”, says his mother Galina from Bulgaria. “Thanks to the Swedes!”
The snow has begun to fall. For Kerim from Syria, it is still a rare sight.
While their mother Nadia is making money begging in the nearby town, the children spend their days at the camping. To pass the time, Vanjo is writing poems which he gently folds and stores in a small school bag.
The past five years Boko and his friends have come to Sweden to make money begging outside of convenient stores. Belonging to the Bulgarian Roma community, life in their home country is hard and they are being looked down upon. In Bulgaria they hardly make 50 EUR a month, whilst in Sweden they can make the same amount in three days. This very day the car, that was supposed to take them to the nearby towns, did not start, leaving them stranded at the camping where they live. To pass the time, they spend most of the time at “the gym”.
Kerim, from Syria, has invited Boko and Rosalin from Bulgaria, for coffee.
– We ask our God to pray for them, says Kerim.
– And we ask our God to pray for them too, says Rosalin
– The refugees are fleeing war, the come all the way from Syria to save their children. You do anything for for your children. This is something we have in common, says Vanjo. He sits begging outside the local supermarket. On a good day he earns 150 kronor (15 EUR)
Kerim and his sons pray in the small cabin where they temporarily live. Before the war, Kerim was selling fans in a shop in Damascus. He was active in the anti-government protests that began five years earlier and was imprisoned and tortured several times.
- They tried to brainwash me in prison. My heart was turned into a stone, he says.
Winter keeps a firm grip of the area and light snow has begun to fall. This does not prevent a group of refugees from playing volleyball in the yard. They take every opportunity to pass the time while waiting for a decision of residence permit.
In 2015 over 160 000 refugees came to Sweden and the country is now struggling with its slow bureaucratic asylum process, leaving many in frustration not knowing if they get to stay or will be sent back to the country they once fled.
Nourdin falls asleep with the lights on. Tomorrow he will build a snowman with his brother. For most of the refugees, it is the first time they experience snow.