“The siblings in the photo are looking at the port and the boats hoping that one day they will leave this island.” Samaneh, 16 years old. (Samaneh)

“Barbed wire is horrible but its geometry is fascinating.” Mahdi, 15 years old. (Mahdi)

More than 4,100 refugees live in the Samos Reception and Identification Center in Greece, a compound built for 650, awaiting their fate. Some have been here for years, and they include people from dozens of nations across the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. They also include some 1,200 children, many of them unaccompanied minors.

Refugee students are not given a place in Greek schools, so nongovernmental organizations provide informal education. Still I Rise, a nonprofit, runs a school for teenagers called Mazì, which means “together” in Greek — focused not just on teaching curriculum but also on furnishing a safe space and psychosocial support. One program is my photography class, which 35 students have attended. At the end of our instruction, I gave them disposable cameras to document their lives on this island.

Reporters and photographers have visited camps such as this one before (locals call it “the hot spot”), but here the people behind the lens are adolescents who’ve lived in the camp for months, if not years. Their pictures show us destitution and disarray, the squalid rooms that the students try to make habitable by adding a few colored lights. They almost let us taste the terrible food served here and the endless hours spent queuing to pick up that food. They show women waiting up to 14 hours for medical appointments. But they also show hope and normalcy: images of a beautiful sea, of the hills and trees on the island, which they are permitted to explore.

A version of this story will appear in the Sept. 22 Outlook section of The Washington Post.


“How people build their house in the jungle.” Mahdi, 15 years old. (Mahdi/Mahdi)

"Little brother." Sadegh, 14 years old. (Sadegh)

“I hate this line. The line for the doctor. The last time I had to wait for 14 hours.” Samaneh, 16 years old. (Samaneh)

“I put this light here to make my container more beautiful.” Zeynab, 16 years old. (Zeynab)

“This is the portrait of a little girl. We live in the same level of the camp.” Mobina, 13 years old. (Mobina)

“Women in Iran can't drive scooters, and I like that here we can.” Samaneh, 16 years old. (Samaneh)

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

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