New East Digital Archive

Halfway house: documenting the lives of refugees in Armenia

Stories of displacement though the generations

At the beginning of April violence erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh once again, starting a new chapter in the prolonged conflict between the armed forces of Azerbaijan and Armenia. Despite the fact that the conflict has attracted attention from the international media, the stories of perhaps the most affected, the refugees who fled their homes in the face of ceasefire, often remain untold. In the photo series featured here, French photographer Camille Lévêque returns to the time she spent at a refugee centre in Erebuni not far from the Armenian capital, Yerevan. In 2006, aged 21, Lévêque embarked on the painful journey, learning the stories of the displaced, many of which echoed the history of her own family — Armenian refugees who fled to France in 1915. “I visited the centre and its inhabitants once a week for about a year and we talked about matters of identity, living in Baku, war and cultural heritage,” the photographer remembers. In the centre which she described as a “big sad building” the sanitary conditions were critical, with no heating and scarce access to water. Most of the inhabitants of the centre were unable to find work due to health issues, psychological trauma, lack of suitable papers or the fact that they couldn’t afford transportation into town. “When I came back to this story, I edited it and added various documents — some belonged to the refugees, some I found in Yerevan markets, and then I blended them with my own personal documents. I felt the urge to see this project as a response to current events in the Middle East and Europe. With this new structure, and through the use of specifically relevant post-war documentation, I aim to bring light to the fact that many of us are, in fact, refugees. I wanted to emphasise the reality of the journeys that these people went through.”