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Fleeing Children’s Sleeping Portraits Haunt

Photographer Magnus Wennman highlights the plight of millions of migrant children by documenting them as they sleep, when they are their most vulnerable.

. Walaa, 5, in Dar-El-Ias

Walaa wants to go home. She had her own room in Aleppo, she tells us. There, she never used to cry at bedtime. Here, in the refugee camp, she cries every night. Resting her head on the pillow is horrible, she says, because nighttime is horrible. That was when the attacks happened. By day, Walaa's mother often builds a little house out of pillows, to teach her that they are nothing to be afraid of.

Magnus Wennman / Aftonbladet / REX Shutterstock

. Lamar, 5, in Horgos, Serbia

Back home in Baghdad the dolls, the toy train, and the ball are left; Lamar often talks about these items when home is mentioned. The bomb changed everything. The family was on its way to buy food when it was dropped close to their house. It was not possible to live there anymore, says Lamar's grandmother, Sara. After two attempts to cross the sea from Turkey in a small, rubber boat they succeeded in coming here to Hungary's closed border. Now Lamar sleeps on a blanket in the forest, scared, frozen, and sad.

Magnus Wennman / Aftonbladet / REX Shutterstock

. Ahmad, 7, in Horgos, Hungary

Even sleep is not a free zone; it is then that the terror replays. Ahmad was home when the bomb hit his family's house in Idlib. Shrapnel hit him in the head, but he survived. His younger brother did not. The family had lived with war as their nearest neighbor for several years, but without a home they had no choice. They were forced to flee. Now Ahmad lays among thousands of other refugees on the asphalt along the highway leading to Hungary's closed border. This is day 16 of their flight. The family has slept in bus shelters, on the road, and in the forest, explains Ahmad's father.

Magnus Wennman / Aftonbladet / REX Shutterstock

. Abdullah, 5, in Belgrade, Serbia

Abdullah has a blood disease. For the last two days he has been sleeping outside of the central station in Belgrade. He saw the killing of his sister in their home in Daraa. He is still in shock and has nightmares every night, says his mother. Abdullah is tired and is not healthy, but his mother does not have any money to buy medicine for him.

Magnus Wennman / Aftonbladet / REX Shutterstock

. Ahmed, 6, in Horgos, Serbia

It is after midnight when Ahmed falls asleep in the grass. The adults are still sitting around, formulating plans for how they are going to get out of Hungary without registering themselves with the authorities. Ahmed is six years old and carries his own bag over the long stretches that his family walks by foot. "He is brave and only cries sometimes in the evenings," says his uncle, who has taken care of Ahmed since his father was killed in their hometown Deir ez-Zor in northern Syria.


— Magnus Wennman

Magnus Wennman / Aftonbladet / REX Shutterstock