An Australian Instagram account is reminding the world that refugees are human beings with great potential.
Based on the wildly popular Humans Of New York format, Refugeestories shares moments from the lives of people who've gained Australian residency.
When the civil war began in Somalia, we had no idea it was coming. We went from being okay to running for our lives. The people we grew up with, our neighbours, we couldn't trust them. We were living with fear, looking over our shoulders all the time. When we watch war on TV, there is always music in the background. There is no music in war. One minute you are with someone the next minute they are dead. It is a harsh and cruel space to be in.
Their stories tell of being born in refugee camps, of surviving a boat capsizing that killed all other passengers and of realising new opportunities in Australia.
The project's creator freelance journalist Nicolle White said she shared the touching and at times traumatic stories to encourage people to look beyond refugee rhetoric.
When I arrived in Australia, we lived near the local pool. I’d never swum before and was curious to learn. The lifeguards were very friendly and talked to me even though I had just started to learn English. One day, AMES took us to a beach to talk about water safety. I asked one of the guys “How do you become a lifeguard?” He gave me his card and asked me to think about it. I gave him a call the next day, he booked me in and paid for my course. I became the first Afghani lifeguard in Australia.
“The issue is so politicised here and I think it’s time people connect to the individuals and their stories," White said.
"They want people to be more understanding of their situation."
She said more refugees were coming forward as the page gained a larger following.
"Very few people I've asked to be part of it have said no," White said.
I boarded the boat with 34 other people. After one day at sea our boat capsized. It was the middle of the night and I was very afraid of sharks. Slowly everyone around me was lost. I drifted at sea for three and a half days. I was certain it was the end. When an Indonesian fishing boat arrived, I was the only survivor.
"Generally, they want people to understand they want to be here in Australia.
"They want to integrate and share their culture and play active role in society."
Along with prominent Australian lawyer Julian Burnside and Greens MP Scott Ludlam, she said a large proportion of the account's followers were from Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is calling for unity ahead of an European Union meeting to determine the future of 160,000 refugees flooding Europe.
"It shows these stories are universal -- the experience translates," White said.
Currently, all the posts are from Melbourne, where White lives, but she said she was open to expanding.
"If people want to share their stories, they can always email me."
Suggest a correction
"The Navy told us to go back...there were people on the boat who had previously made the same journey and had been returned to Indonesia. They set the boat on fire. There were more than 100 people on board, including women and children. Everyone jumped in the water. I remember a lady passed away right in front of me. I could not do anything to help her."