This Is What Life Is Like For Refugee Mothers Living In Greece

Photographed by Myrto Papadopoulos/Redux.
The United Nations' Refugee Agency forecast that almost 1.2 million refugeeshalf of whom are children — would need to be resettled in 2017. And now that President Trump has said he intends to sign an executive order banning refugees from Syria and six other countries from entering the U.S., the worldwide refugee crisis seems likely to get worse.
Photographer Myrto Papadopoulos has been following this issue since 2010. Her project Breaking Waters focuses on refugee women in Greece who became pregnant during their flight from war, or who gave birth in Syria, Greece, or Turkey under incredibly difficult circumstances.

"It is clear that women fleeing Syria and other conflict-ridden lands are so desperate that being pregnant, even heavily pregnant, is not holding them back from going through this journey in search of a better life," she told Refinery29.

Papadopoulos hopes her project will not only shed light on the fact that these families live in precarious circumstances, but also that for many children born "in transit" there are many legal questions. "These are kids without a passport, or born without a birth certificate," she said.

In some cases, countries don't let women pass their nationalities on to their children, which presents a huge issue if the fathers are out of the picture. As a photographer who focuses on women's issues, and in an age when anti-refugee sentiment appears to be spreading, it's important for Papadopoulos to humanize her subjects and share their stories.

"Refugee women who are pregnant or caring for infant children are rightly regarded by the UNHCR and international organisations as one the most vulnerable groups among those fleeing conflicts," she said. "Yet when seen through the prism of reactionary nationalist rhetoric and its fear of an 'invasion' of outsiders these mothers and their children can also be seen as threats and are thus at risk of further victimisation and marginalization."

Ahead, a look at the mothers and children living in some of Greece's refugee camps.

Refinery29 is committed to covering the women behind the headlines of the refugee crisis. Read the full multimedia feature, "Behind the Headlines: Daughters of Paradise," here. More coverage on the human faces of the world's refugee crisis can be found here.
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Photographed by Myrto Papadopoulos/Redux.
Fourat Aljarad, 24. Photographed outside the camp of Myrsini.
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Photographed by Myrto Papadopoulos/Redux.
"I met my husband in the camp in Turkey. We actually met each other two days before we got engaged. We were happy and relaxed together. I know that these are difficult conditions to live in, but thank God everything is good. After 15 days of engagement we got married in the camp. And after that we moved together in a tent. I was also ready to have kids. I couldn't stop living my life."

— Fidaa Rahil al Saleh, 26. Photographed in the camp of Myrsini.
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Photographed by Myrto Papadopoulos/Redux.
"Our journey from Turkey to Greece was very hard because I am afraid of the sea. I am afraid anything that is related to water. It was like watching a gangster movie. The smugglers put us in a van and told us to keep quiet. When we arrived [to the sea] they told us to blow the boat and they looked for the driver but they couldn't find him. They put us one on top of the other and I sat far away from my children, but I was holding my newborn baby. The boat was very small. The Turkish army wanted us to go back and the Greek army wanted us to go to them. I was really afraid. When we arrived on the Greek shores the army took us for registration. So now we thank God that we arrived. I got so afraid. An indescribable feeling. After this experience, I can go now near the sea and not get afraid. I can’t describe the transition from being afraid of the sea to suddenly feeling nothing. "

— Rim al Saleh, 35. Photographed outside the camp of Myrsini with her 7-month-old son.
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Photographed by Myrto Papadopoulos/Redux.
"I don't feel stronger now that I am pregnant again. I feel that it is going to be more difficult because our situation is not getting better, and I have my husband who is injured and a son to take care off. We are ten people in our room and we always have problems whether it is inside or outside. If I give birth here, my son won't have his own room, and I will not be able to provide also a room for my newborn. We also can't make an appointment with the hospital because it is full. It is not just the fact of being relaxed in a place — my son was born without knowing his own country and as for this child I believe it will be even harder [for him] because at least in Lebanon I had family to help me. Now I am on my own."

— Arιj Ismaeil, 23. Photographed outside the camp of Tsepelovo in North-West Greece.
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Photographed by Myrto Papadopoulos/Redux.
"It is really hard being pregnant while fleeing from your country. I can’t explain it. Of course in the beginning I didn’t want to become pregnant because the conditions were very bad. We discussed with my husband that only if our conditions would get better I would become pregnant, but they were actually getting worse. But I got pregnant and then I left. I am not lucky at all, neither are my children."

— Torivan Baker, 27. Photographed in the camp of Myrsini.
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Photographed by Myrto Papadopoulos/Redux.
"I didn’t want to get pregnant, but it was God’s will that made it happen. When I first got pregnant I tried to have a forced abortion by taking pills. But nothing happened. I didn’t realize that I was pregnant not until I was already three months. When I first tried to take the pills the doctor told me that what I did was wrong. I could feel its heart inside me. After that I said to myself that every baby needs a chance and since god gave it to us I decided to keep it. Then, in the boat, many children sat on my belly because I thought that my baby had died. My belly felt as hard as a rock. I even forgot that I was pregnant. So, I let them sit on my belly because I didn’t want this baby to live under these circumstances. She was not born yet so I tried not to think about her a lot. When the coastal guard finally saw us me and my son were one of the first to be rescued. Finally, when we reached the island, my baby started moving again."

— Fatma Hamido, 21. Photographed in the camp of Myrsini.
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Photographed by Myrto Papadopoulos/Redux.
"At the beginning [for our trip from Turkey to Greece], the smugglers gave us life jackets, also for my daughter. When we took them, I started imagining my daughter like this kid on the news if you’ve have seen him. I got very scared. When we got on the boat the traffickers started telling us to be quiet and to wear our safe jackets, so this frightened my daughter very much. I didn’t want to wear the jacket. I just wanted my daughter to wear the jacket so that I am certain that if something happened to us, my daughter wouldn't drown."

— Rania El-Moussa, 24. Photographed in the camp of Myrsini.
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Photographed by Myrto Papadopoulos/Redux.
"When I was in Syria I was seven months pregnant and one day an air strike hit next to my house, so I lost the baby. After that, they took me to a place to take out the baby from my belly without any anesthetics. It took the doctors about six hours to take the baby out. After that we decided to leave while being pregnant again. We basically left when I was pregnant to my son because of the many bombings."

— Amani el Mekhlef, 29. Photographed outside from the camp of Myrsini.
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