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Have you ever stopped to read the comments on those click bait “news” articles online? You know the ones, they usually have words like Islam, Muslim, Terror, or Refugee in the heading, or better yet, a combination of them. News outlets must make a fortune out of them. Sometimes they are genuine news, but often the headlines are designed simply to cater to the lowest common denominator, the uneducated bigot. The comments that follow ALWAYS end up in a flood of cyber bigotry, hate, name calling, and very little empathy for the plight of essentially millions of people across the world.

Reading the comments to these online stories can feel like staring into the abyss at just how ugly mankind can be. “Let the refugees drown!” “Go home you cowards!” “All refugees are men! — there are no women and children”.

For a while, I actually spent time arguing with these people online, I even called them names. Surely people can’t be so ignorant, these people are just keyboard warriors I thought. So I stooped to their level, gave as good as I got. But in the end, I realized that I was no better than these people, maybe I was just a keyboard warrior too.

Of course, they would call me a leftard — they love that one. But the irony is I’ve worked in big mining for years and I’ve always voted to the right, I just happen to also feel empathy for those in need, so sue me.

Anyway recently, only a few weeks ago, I thought screw it, I’ll fly to Greece, go to some refugee camps and do what I am so passionate about — telling stories through photography. So I did just that. I booked air tickets on a Friday, and flew from Australia to Greece on a Monday.

I’m back in Australia now, but the experience was amazing! It was everything I’d hoped for and so much more.

I mainly spent time at the Piraeus camps in Athens, literally on the harbor or port where the big ferries come and go all day to islands in the Aegean.

The first thing I noticed was that there were women and children everywhere! Wait, what? Absolutely! The 2000 people or so living in the 2 camps at Piraeus — known as “E1” and “The Stonehouse” — are mostly women and children, babies even, the vast majority being from Syria and Afghanistan. According to the UNHCR official figures, 35% of arrivals in the Mediterranean in 2016 are children, 20% are women, 45% are men. My gut feel is that figures were skewed even higher to women and children in the Greek camps.

And virtually all people that I met would have at one point taken the very dangerous and often fatal trip across the Aegean from Turkey, in dinghy’s with no or unsafe life vests. Many people drowned.

Remember the photo of that Syrian Kurd child washed up on a Turkish beach? His name was Alan Kurdi. I thought about him often, as I spent time with these people. These are the people that survived the dangerous trip, not for money or wealth, but because the sea offered a safer place than the land that they left behind.

The next thing I noticed about the people in the camp were just how warm, welcoming, and non judging they were of me. I told them that I was from Australia, they smiled, and in broken English told me that they thought it was a good country. But Australia is an American ally, I thought, why don’t they hate me? These people aren’t the West hating, Quran preaching jihadists, rapists and pickpockets I read about online back in Australia. They were families, mostly, just escaping from Daesh (a mostly derogatory term they use to refer to ISIS), or from Assad, Russian barrel bombs, or the Taliban. They are almost all from countries that we’ve done a reasonable job of helping to screw up in recent decades.

In between watching the kids play, and taking photos for amazing NGOs like A Drop in the Ocean, I was invited to tents in the camp to share a meal, or to chat. Afghan people are renowned for their hospitality. I talked to a Syrian family who told me that they left home because Aleppo in Syria was going”boom, boom”. I spoke to an Iraqi who left to escape Daesh. And to a Palestinian man who’s daughter was an Austrian citizen and he wanted to reunite with her.

But these people are now stuck in camps throughout Greece, with an uncertain future. The borders to the north are closed, from Macedonia through to Germany. Boats arriving from Turkey across the Aegean have slowed to a trickle since March, but the situation is fragile. In the meantime, the amazing people I met spend their days doing the same thing, day in, day out. Queue for food, queue to shower, queue for lunch, queue for dinner, sleep, with lots of sitting and waiting in between. People I know, myself included, would be in therapy after far less, yet these people seem to be so resilient. They can smile, despite the uncertain future.

There are social problems in these camps, don’t get me wrong, some nasty things happen, there are some people in the camps that are undeserving of a life in Europe or its safe haven. A minority of people in the camps are violent, and should face the full weight of the law and be jailed or be deported from whence they came. But as I said, they are a minority.

By far, the majority of people I met are worth saving.

So on that note, I want to let my photos do the talking. I’ve already sent dozens of photos to volunteers, the NGOs and the refugees themselves where possible. The following are just a selection of the photos of the innocent kids caught up in this mess. Despite the fact that they are living on a port in tents in a foreign country, for months at a time, with summer approaching and an uncertain future, they were some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met.

So next time you spot one of those click bait online news stories, where social media trolls are saying let them drown, they are all men, that they are all terrorists, all I ask is that you remember some of these faces. Or better yet, don’t bother to read the comments in the first place. Sometimes hate doesn’t deserve a reply.