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Refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia cross the sea between Turkey and Greece by means of inflatable pontoon rafts to the island of Lesbos as the first step in making their way across Europe.by James Nachtwey
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A man signals to arriving boats from the beach in Lesbos, Greece. Refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia cross the sea between Turkey and to the island of Lesbos, as the first step in making their way across Europe, Sept. 26, 2015.James Nachtwey for TIME
Refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia cross the sea between Turkey and Greece by means of inflatable pontoon rafts to the island of Lesbos as the first step in making their way across Europe.by James Nachtwey
Refugees celebrate after arriving on the beach in Lesbos, Greece. Thousands of migrants each day set out from nearby Turkey for the Greek island, riding in barely seaworthy rubber boats. Some don’t make it, September 26, 2015.James Nachtwey for TIME
Refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia cross the sea between Turkey and Greece by means of inflatable pontoon rafts to the island of Lesbos as the first step in making their way across Europe.by James Nachtwey
Migrants arrive on the beach in Lesbos, Greece after traveling from Turkey on inflatable pontoon rafts, September 27, 2015. James Nachtwey for TIME
Two women help a third scramble ashore after arriving on the beach in Lesbos, Greece, September 23, 2015. James Nachtwey for TIME
Leaving behind everything they've ever known, migrants arrive on the beach in Lesbos, Greece with little or no possessions. A woman sits on the beach recovering from the sea journey in an inflatable boat, September 27, 2015.James Nachtwey for TIME
A man is helped from an inflatable boat after arriving on the beach in Lesbos, Greece, September 23, 2015. James Nachtwey for TIME
A man helps a child reach shore in Lesbos, Greece, where refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia cross the sea from Turkey by means of inflatable pontoon rafts, September 23, 2015. James Nachtwey for TIME
A man walks with crutches on the beach in Lesbos, Greece after arriving on an inflatable boat from Turkey, September 25, 2015. James Nachtwey for TIME
A veiled muslim woman carries both a handbag and garbage bag while getting off an inflatable boat after arriving on the beach in Lesbos, Greece, September 26, 2015. James Nachtwey for TIME
After arriving on the beach in Lesbos, Greece, a woman washes clothes in the sea, September 24, 2015.by James Nachtwey
Nacthwey refugees Lesbos Greece
Refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia cross the sea between Turkey and Greece by means of inflatable pontoon rafts to the island of Lesbos as the first step in making their way across Europe, September 26, 2015. James Nachtwey for TIME
refugees lesbos greece
Refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia cross the sea between Turkey and Greece by means of inflatable pontoon rafts to the island of Lesbos as the first step in making their way across Europe.by James Nachtwey
Refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia cross the sea between Turkey and Greece by means of inflatable pontoon rafts to the island of Lesbos as the first step in making their way across Europe.by James Nachtwey
A man walks with his son behind him as they make their way to the train station in Tovarnik, Croatia, on the border with Serbia. In the Balkans, many migrants began traveling by foot, echoing more ancient journeys, September 17, 2015 James Nachtwey for TIME
refugees tovarnik croatia
Refugees mainly from Syria, but also Afghanistan, Iraq and parts of Africa making their way across Europe. Walking from Serbia across border to Croatia, where they gathered at Tovarnik to board trains and buses to be transported to either Hungary or Slovenia, then to be taken to border with Austria and onward, September 18, 2015.James Nachtwey for TIME
Refugees mainly from Syria, but also Afghanistan, Iraq and parts of Africa making their way across Europe. Walking from Serbia across border to Croatia, where they gathered at Tovarnik to board trains and buses to be transported to either Hungary or Slovenia, then to be taken to border with Austria and onward. by James Nachtwey
Refugees mainly from Syria, but also Afghanistan, Iraq and parts of Africa making their way across Europe. Walking from Serbia across border to Croatia, where they gathered at Tovarnik to board trains and buses to be transported to either Hungary or Slovenia, then to be taken to border with Austria and onward. by James Nachtwey
A family of migrants waits at night at the Tovarnik, Croatia train station. As borders opened and closed, asylum seekers struggled to find a safe route through Europe. September 17, 2015 James Nachtwey for TIME
Refugees mainly from Syria, but also Afghanistan, Iraq and parts of Africa making their way across Europe. Walking from Serbia across border to Croatia, where they gathered at Tovarnik to board trains and buses to be transported to either Hungary or Slovenia, then to be taken to border with Austria and onward. by James Nachtwey
refugees tovarnik croatia
Refugees mainly from Syria, but also Afghanistan, Iraq and parts of Africa making their way across Europe. Walking from Serbia across border to Croatia, where they gathered at Tovarnik to board trains and buses to be transported to either Hungary or Slovenia, then to be taken to border with Austria and onward. by James Nachtwey
Refugees mainly from Syria, but also Afghanistan, Iraq and parts of Africa making their way across Europe. Walking from Serbia across border to Croatia, where they gathered at Tovarnik to board trains and buses to be transported to either Hungary or Slovenia, then to be taken to border with Austria and onward. by James Nachtwey
Refugees on board a train in Tovarnik, Croatia, Sept. 18, 2015.
Refugees mainly from Syria, but also Afghanistan, Iraq and parts of Africa make their way north on a train. Two children sleep under a blanket, at right, Sept. 21, 2015
At the train station in  Tovarnik, Croatia refugees camped on the train tracks leaving debris behind, Sept. 21, 2015.
A man signals to arriving boats from the beach in Lesbos, Greece. Refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia cr
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James Nachtwey for TIME
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James Nachtwey: The Journey of Hope

Oct 08, 2015

Their journey began in war, poverty and oppression. They are fleeing, by the hundreds of thousands, from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, from Somalia, Iran, Pakistan and Eritrea, a ceaseless flow of humanity driven by fear, insecurity and lack of opportunity, their desperation matched only by their fortitude and sense of hope.

Somehow they make it to Turkey, within sight of the Greek island of Lesbos, and embark in a flotilla of frail rubber rafts to the refuge of Europe. Entire families, old folks, young children and infants brave the perilous crossing outfitted with flimsy “life preservers” or inflated inner tubes. Most of them make it across, but some have perished at sea.

Exodus Migration to Europe CoverRefugees, mainly Syrian, cross from Serbia into Croatia. They are among an estimated 60 million migrants on the move worldwide. Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME 

Once they set foot ashore, their past lives are no more than a memory, their futures uncertain. Now they must begin walking, with whatever possessions they can carry, but they’re not sure in which direction or even where they are going. They only seem to follow those who have gone before. Eventually a system of sorts, established by various NGOs, comes into play and they begin the next leg of the journey across Europe, by boat, by train, by bus and on foot, from border to border, with a vague notion of reaching Germany or Sweden or Norway.

In the Croatian town of Tovarnik, on the border with Serbia, thousands huddled at a train station and thousands more along a roadside, waiting to board trains or buses for unknown destinations. Many have no idea which country they are in. The early stages of this transition were chaotic, barely controlled, not by NGOs, but by riot police, trained to deal with civil unrest or football hooligans. Families are separated, but the police remain oblivious to their pleas, arrogant in their power over the powerless, betraying the hope of the desperate who had made it that far, against all odds, only to suffer the cruelest fate of all.

James Nachtwey is a TIME contract photographer, documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues.

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