How photos can humanize Berlin's refugee children
Berlin photographer Daniel Sonnentag set out to change the media's anonymous portrayal of refugees. The result is a moving photo series called "They Have Names."
The people behind the photos
Shahed is living at the Internationales Congress Centrum in Berlin, where Daniel Sonnentag photographed refugee children for his series "They Have Names." "I want to introduce the people behind the abstract term of the refugee because I believe that when humans start talking to each other and getting to know each other, they'll recognize that we all have more in common that the opposite," he says.
The burden of memories
Elham, around eight years old, is a Kurdish Syrian. Photographer Daniel Sonnentag noticed that she always seemed to have a deep sadness in her eyes, but there are other times when she is just like other kids her age, laughing and playing. Sonnentag says, "When she is happy, through the combination of her melancholy and the happiness of the moment, something very special happens."
The waiting game
Ali, around four years old, is from Iraq. His family's asylum application was recently denied and they are now in the process of finding a lawyer to have the decision overturned. Many others at the Internationales Congress Centrum camp in Berlin have been waiting for as long as a year on a decision regarding their legal status.
"You can only get so far"
Zainab, 8, and Ruqaya, 6 are from Iraq. Sonnentag describes the administration of the refugee situation in the city as "chaotic" and that organizations like Malteser Hilfsdienst are doing the best they can. "But you can only come so far, sitting in a nutshell with only a spoon in an ocean of problems, administrative failure, growing xenophobia and lots and lots of personal tragedies," he says.
Learning the language
Sonnentag, pictured with Zainab, describes her as "smart, witty and very grown up for her age." Like many of the children in the camps, she has picked up the German language very quickly. But it can be harder for the adults to learn, so projects like tandem language exchange projects prove very useful.
We are more similar than different
Pictured is Alma, 6, and her 33-year-old father Ahmed. Sonnentag says the best way to support people is by going to the camps and helping out. "We all eat, drink and sleep and all we want to do is raise our families in a safe place. When humans start talking to each other and getting to know each other, they'll recognize that we all have more in common that the opposite," says the photographer.
The children behind the headlines
Sonnentag describes Zahraa as "silly, dreamy, tender with a huge heart." The seven-year-old is from Iraq.
Family life in Germany
Aya, 6, and her seven-year-old brother Hamsa are from Syria. They are in Germany with their younger sister Alma and six-month old brother Rayan. Sonnentag describes Hamsa as a "wonderful, sensitive boy" and says that since he has "two great, loving and strong parents he will become a strong and honest man."
From conference center to refugee camp
The Internationales Congress Centrum (ICC) was once one of the biggest conference centers in the world. In 2014, it was closed in order to remove asbestos contamination, but was reopened earlier this year to provide accommodation for the many refugees arriving in Germany. Today, some 600 people live in the center, including refugees from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Eritrea, and the Balkans.