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Migrants and refugees stand on the deck of the rescue vessel after being rescued on the Mediterranean Sea, June 16, 2017.
Emilio Morenatti/AP

Why 700 Items of Clothing Are Hanging From a London Church Roof

If you visit this London church, you’ll be struck by the explosion of clothes suspended from the ceiling. 

Pairs of jeans, pyjamas, a baby’s bib, shoes, mittens, hats, scarves, have all been scavenged from the beaches of the Greek island of Lesbos — in a powerful representation of Europe’s migration crisis.

The 700 items of clothes have been collected and hung by British war artist Arabella Dorman in St James’ church in Piccadilly for the installation, entitled “Suspended.”

It’s a visual reminder that, still, thousands of people are struggling through desperately dangerous conditions to reach Europe — and they are beginning to be forgotten. 

Take action: Refugee? Migrant? Human Being. Show Your Support for All People — No Matter Where They Were Born

Even those who make the journey, points out Dorman, are then left suspended in a limbo of bureaucracy and detention centres across Europe. 

“Men, women, and children [are] hung between loss and hope,” according to a statement. “[They are] suspended between a part to which they cannot return, and a future to which they cannot move forward.” 

Dorman, who has also spent time on the frontline in Iraq and Afghanistan, first went to Lesbos in 2015.

“But nothing prepared me for the human drama on those beaches,” she said, reported the Guardian. “It was so shocking to see the level of trauma, especially among children, the innocents caught up in war.” 

Read more: Orphaned Refugee Children Could Be Blocked From Reunited With Families in the UK After Brexit, UNICEF Boss Warns

“There were thousands of items of clothing discarded by refugees,” she added. “I was struck by the concept of the empty garment, evoking the hidden presence of the person who had worn that item. These clothes reveal what is now being forgotten.” 

Today, one in every 113 people in the world is forcibly displaced. Human trafficking networks are becoming increasingly efficient at exploiting and making profit from the vulnerability of migrants — especially the almost 100,000 unaccompanied minors.

Refugees crossing Mediterranean.jpgImage: Massimo Sestini for the Italian Navy

“There is a deepening and worsening crisis, but it no longer occupies news headlines,” said Dorman. “People find it easy to turn away and forget  — partly because they feel so helpless.” 

Read more: Ai Weiwei Says 'the Only Solution to the Refugee Crisis Will Be a Human Solution'

The installation — which runs until early February — also raising funds for the Starfish Foundation, which works to support refugees. 

St James’ church also hosted another refugee-inspired exhibition by Dorman in 2015, entitled “Flight”, which featured a refugee boat from Greece. 

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