Kai Löffelbein was born in Germany in 1981 and studied documentary photography in Hanover. He has since worked in South America, Asia, Africa and EasternEurope, devoting himself to long-term projects that capture the impacts on common people and the environment left by socio-political and economic phenomena. Löffelbein has exhibited internationally and his awards include the Henri Nannen Prize, the UNICEF Photo of the Year Award, The New York Photo Award, the DAYS JAPAN International Photojournalism Award, the FotoVisura Photography Grant and the Px3 Prix de la Photographie. He is one of the Critical Mass Top 50 Selected Artists and recently received a grant from the Magnum Foundation.
The current refugee crisis is the biggest challenge the European Union has faced in the last 60 years of European integration policy. Some describe it as the task of the century.
“We are eyewitnesses of Europe’s disintegration,” famous Austrian writer Josef Haslinger recently stated. “Not once or twice but three times this year there has been reason to wonder whether Europe can continue to exist; not culturally or geographically but as a historic experiment in ambitious statecraft,” writes Time Magazine.
My pictures are taken on the island of Lesbos. Lesbos is currently the focus of the European refugee crisis in the Mediterranean region. On busy days, up to 4,000 refugees land on the island. The moment the refugees arrive in Europe is dramatic; there is crying, laughing, singing, praying and taking selfies. Shortly afterwards, when they realize what lies ahead, their faces are transformed, as sorrow, disappointment and fear creep in.
“Lesbos has become a kind of limbo; a burning hot and filthy cauldron where refugees wait endlessly to be registered so as to leave the island and continue their onward journey. With refugees now arriving in record numbers, there are not enough ferries to get them to Athens, so their time in purgatory extends and the island becomes increasingly chaotic.”