Search
After arriving at the shore in Lesbos, Greece, migrants and refugees are helped off a wooden boat.  62, 193 migrants and refugees entered Europe through Greece in January 2016. Surveys by the Greek authorities indicate that 91% of them came from three countries: Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
VIEW GALLERY | 8 PHOTOS
After arriving at the shore in Lesbos, Greece, migrants and refugees are helped off a wooden boat. 62,193 migrants and refugees entered Europe through Greece in Jan. 2016. Surveys by the Greek authorities indicate that 91% of them came from three countries: Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.James Nachtwey for TIME
After arriving at the shore in Lesbos, Greece, migrants and refugees are helped off a wooden boat.  62, 193 migrants and refugees entered Europe through Greece in January 2016. Surveys by the Greek authorities indicate that 91% of them came from three countries: Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
A man and woman carry their belongings to Lesbos after their inflatable boat became stuck on the rocks about 160 feet from the Greek shore.
Refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Iran 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.
A woman cries after her boat arrives on the island of Lesbos, Greece.
Refugees and migrants from Morocco, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Somalia, who are not permitted to cross from Greece into Macedonia, watch as those from war-torn countries of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, pass into Macedonia.
Iranian migrants shout during a demonstration at the Macedonian border in the Greek village of Idomeni after crossing was restricted only to migrants and refugees from the war torn countries of   Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
A man spreads his arms in a  bid to defuse tensions between asylum seekers and police at a demonstration at the Macedonian border.
Two men attempt to stop rock-throwing between migrants and police at the Greek-Macedonian border.  Refugees and migrants from many countries, including Morocco, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia  are camped on the Greek-Macedonian border in the village of Idomeni because Macedonia closed its borders to many migrants who are not from the war-torn countries of Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria.
After arriving at the shore in Lesbos, Greece, migrants and refugees are helped off a wooden boat. 62,193 migrants and r
... VIEW MORE

James Nachtwey for TIME
1 of 8

James Nachtwey: The Refugees' Lonely Journey

Feb 11, 2016

It was the story of 2015, but the historic migration into Europe didn’t end when the year did. About 2,000 people a day crossed the Mediterranean into Greece last month—more than the number for all of January 2015. Despite an increasingly cool reception from Europeans, they keep migrating through the rough winter months. They put their trust in conniving smugglers and unreliable boats. Thousands have died so far, and more will still.

TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey, who traveled to the Greek island of Lesbos and the country’s border with Macedonia late last year, has documented the movement of those displaced by war and other disasters for more than three decades. But the sheer size and disruption of this latest wave eclipsed anything he had previously covered. “I’ve never seen this before,” he says.

Read next: The Journey of Hope

Nachtwey’s pictures tell the story. The woman in tears after her arrival on European soil, the man standing between migrants and a row of police shields, the refugees shouting to be let through the border crossing. In each image, Nachtwey captures his subjects’ individuality amid the chaos. “The complexity,” he says, “is in their emotions.”

That focus on individual experience is the theme of his life’s work. As the migrant crisis has lingered, compassion for the Middle East’s refugees has given way to fear and loathing of an undifferentiated mass of invaders. But Nachtwey’s photos give back the only thing these refugees may have left: their stories.

Andrew Katz is TIME’s international multimedia editor.

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

All products and services featured are based solely on editorial selection. TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.