Brian Driscoll

Photographer
 
Urban Asylum-Seekers
Location: New York
Nationality: USA
Biography:         I am a photographer, a native New Yorker, currently based in New York City. My humanistic interest in documenting stories began after exploring and working in Central America. Soon after I enrolled in... read on
Public Story
Urban Asylum-Seekers
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.

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