For three years, Frédérique Buck, a communications consultant in the capital, was friendly with a family of asylum seekers, originally from the Balkans, who lived in a nearby shelter.
“I moved heaven and earth to increase their chances of receiving refugee status,” Buck recounted in an email exchange. “In vain. Then they disappeared. I talked to my neighbours; they did not even know they existed. I told myself that that was inconceivable”, and that something “absolutely had to be done” to make refugees’ existence in Luxembourg felt.
Thus, inspired by the “Humans of New York” Facebook page, iamnotarefugee.lu was born. It features candid interviews with migrants (five as of this writing) about their journey to the Grand Duchy, their initial experiences here and how they are coping with their personal situation.
“My goal was to find a different angle, to build another, more accurate story. A story that reduces fears, blows up biases. And at the same time to ‘re-humanise’ refugees and give them the floor.”
She originally started a Wordpress blog to launch the project, but then found the existing iamnotarefugee.com site, run out of Sweden, and contacted them. “Five hours later” they agreed to adapt the site for Buck’s project.
Shortly after that, she ran into Sven Becker, a freelance photographer (who also works for Delano). Buck pitched the idea “and it took him exactly one minute to accept!” His pictures further help put a human face on the stories.
Yet a website only goes so far. “At the end of each portrait, a button allows [readers] to immediately connect with the person [profiled] via email,” Buck stated. “We have to transform the rush of [feeling] solidarity into a real encounter.”