Damir Sagjol photographs illegal Karen migrants from Myanmar who live at a garbage dump near the Thai border town of Mae Sot, where they earn an average of one American dollar a day collecting plastic.
The Karen people, caught in the world’s longest running civil war, have been subjected to extortion, torture and forced labour by the Burmese army. Their villages burnt to the ground, the Karen have been forced to flee to neighbouring Thailand.
More than 150,000 Karen refugees now live in nine official Thai border camps administered by UNHCR, many of them for over twenty years. Sanitation, clean water, proper nutrition, education and employment is basically non existent in the camps. About 200,000 others, such as those in the photos, live in ‘illegal’ unofficial camps, where conditions can be worse.
Despite Myanmar’s recent nascent steps towards democracy, the plight of the Karen has not much improved. Though talks of peace and repatriation are ongoing, Burmese troops continue to attack the refugee camps, burning what they can and killing residents at random. Most Karen are afraid to return home.
'Bereba is a rural village in the small west african country of Burkina Faso. I have been living and working there for two months every year since 2007. Each morning my friends and neighbors travel to their farms outside the village on foot, bicycles, motor cycles or in carts drawn by mules or oxen.
In the evening they return along a dirt path that passes beside my front door. At twilight, as the harsh equatorial sun softens, I linger on the roadside. The villagers stop and proudly pose for portraits as they make their way home. The stark, sub-saharan landscape provides a simple backdrop in the fading light.
In the western media, Africa is often portrayed either as a continent of war, famine, corruption and disease, or as an exotic place for safaris and tribal rituals. The simple beauty of everyday life is seldom seen. [These photos] present contemporary village life in a positive and realistic light, and emphasizes the strength and dignity of the people of bereba.’
Photos and text by David Pace