British photojournalist wins 2010 Nansen Refugee Award

UNHCR's annual award recognizing outstanding work on behalf of refugees goes to photojournalist Alixandra Fazzina for her powerful documenting of the lives of those displaced by conflict.

Nansen Award winner, Alixandra Fazzina.  © Eduardo Diaz

GENEVA, 9 July 2010 - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced today that its annual Nansen Refugee Award will go to Alixandra Fazzina, a British photojournalist whose work documents the often overlooked consequences of war.

On learning of the award Fazzina said, "I am overwhelmed and absolutely delighted to have been recognized by UNHCR with this distinguished honour. I have always sought to bring greater attention to those forced to flee conflict, violence and misery. To lose one's home and have to start a new life is one of the greatest challenges anybody can face, yet millions every year have no other choice."

Over the past ten years Fazzina has travelled to Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe documenting the lives of the uprooted through powerful and moving photo essays.

Announcing the recipient of this year's Nansen Award, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres called Fazzina a "fearless humanitarian. By unearthing and so vividly portraying the individual stories of uprooted people she has achieved something remarkable. Her commitment, empathy and devotion to getting to the bottom of every story make her an exemplary chronicler of the world's most vulnerable people."

Her commitment, empathy and devotion to getting to the bottom of every story make her an exemplary chronicler of the world's most vulnerable people.

High Commissioner António Guterres

Fazzina began her career as a photojournalist embedded with the British army in Bosnia in 2005. She has since focussed on chronicling the human suffering caused by war. The Nansen award committee praised in particular her coverage of land mine victims in Kosovo, civilians stranded behind enemy lines in Angola, rape as a weapon of war in Sierra Leone, the abuse of children by militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda and refugee situations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Between 2006 and 2008 Fazzina chronicled the exodus of migrants and refugees from Somalia as they sought to cross the Gulf of Aden to Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula. Spending extended periods of time with those looking to make the hazardous journey aboard smugglers' boats; she captured first hand the despair and suffering of people seeking safety and a better life. The result was the book, A Million Shillings - Escape from Somalia to be published in September.

The Nansen Refuge Award is given annually to an individual or organization for outstanding work on behalf of refugees. It includes a $100,000 prize that the winner can donate to a cause of his or her choice. It was created in 1954 in honour of Fridtjof Nansen, a Norwegian explorer, scientist and the first U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The Nansen Award Ceremony will take place on 4 October 2010 in Geneva.

  • SHIMBIRO, SOMALIA - NOVEMBER 2007
Somali refugees look back anxiously as they try to locate friends and relatives left behind on Shimbiro Beach as they board smugglers' boats departing for Yemen. Their fate is sealed. Only eleven of the people who took this boat were ever to reach Yemen alive.
    SHIMBIRO, SOMALIA - NOVEMBER 2007 Somali refugees look back anxiously as they try to locate friends and relatives left behind on Shimbiro Beach as they board smugglers' boats departing for Yemen. Their fate is sealed. Only eleven of the people who took this boat were ever to reach Yemen alive.  © Alixandra Fazzina/NOOR
  • BIR ALI, YEMEN - MAY 2007
Having arrived in the middle of the night following a 57 hour voyage from Somalia, dawn breaks over a group of migrants and refugees at a beach on Yemen's southern coast. Despite being unable to swim, passengers were thrown overboard two kilometres out at sea. Of the 253 passengers, at least 30 are thought to have drowned.
    BIR ALI, YEMEN - MAY 2007 Having arrived in the middle of the night following a 57 hour voyage from Somalia, dawn breaks over a group of migrants and refugees at a beach on Yemen's southern coast. Despite being unable to swim, passengers were thrown overboard two kilometres out at sea. Of the 253 passengers, at least 30 are thought to have drowned.  © Alixandra Fazzina/NOOR
  • MAYFA'AH, YEMEN - MAY 2008
Queuing along a wire fence, women form a line as they wait to receive a cooked ration of tea, rice and a little fish from a busy kitchen at the Mayfa'ah Reception Centre. Exhausted after their long journeys, the temporary residents receive breakfasts, lunches and dinners as they recover strength.
    MAYFA'AH, YEMEN - MAY 2008 Queuing along a wire fence, women form a line as they wait to receive a cooked ration of tea, rice and a little fish from a busy kitchen at the Mayfa'ah Reception Centre. Exhausted after their long journeys, the temporary residents receive breakfasts, lunches and dinners as they recover strength.  © Alixandra Fazzina/NOOR
  • BURUM, YEMEN - MAY 2008
Crouching under black volcanic cliffs in a rocky cove, it took more than four hours for this group of Somali refugees to be discovered after landing on a secluded beach in the dead of night. Escorted by authorities to a nearby police station at Burum, the new arrivals were subsequently taken by truck to a UNHCR-run reception centre.
    BURUM, YEMEN - MAY 2008 Crouching under black volcanic cliffs in a rocky cove, it took more than four hours for this group of Somali refugees to be discovered after landing on a secluded beach in the dead of night. Escorted by authorities to a nearby police station at Burum, the new arrivals were subsequently taken by truck to a UNHCR-run reception centre.  © Alixandra Fazzina/NOOR
  • BASATINE, YEMEN - MARCH 2008 
Six weeks ago 19-year-old Salima lost her baby boy Abdi Sallam and the husband she adored in a mortar attack on her home in Mogadishu. With nothing left to lose she decided to make the journey to Yemen. Vulnerable and alone she is now in the hands of trafficking gangs and most likely will spend the following years of her life enslaved as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia.
    BASATINE, YEMEN - MARCH 2008 Six weeks ago 19-year-old Salima lost her baby boy Abdi Sallam and the husband she adored in a mortar attack on her home in Mogadishu. With nothing left to lose she decided to make the journey to Yemen. Vulnerable and alone she is now in the hands of trafficking gangs and most likely will spend the following years of her life enslaved as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia.  © Alixandra Fazzina/NOOR
  • CHAK SHAZHAD, ISLAMABAD - MAY 2009
Holding her baby, 20 year old Ziam weeps in desperation as she attends an all female jirga at Chak Shazhad village. Having fled her home in Buner after it was destroyed by the army during counter insurgency operations, along with a large group of women and their children from Swat and Buner, Ziam now lives in overcrowded conditions with host families near Islamabad.
    CHAK SHAZHAD, ISLAMABAD - MAY 2009 Holding her baby, 20 year old Ziam weeps in desperation as she attends an all female jirga at Chak Shazhad village. Having fled her home in Buner after it was destroyed by the army during counter insurgency operations, along with a large group of women and their children from Swat and Buner, Ziam now lives in overcrowded conditions with host families near Islamabad.  © Alixandra Fazzina/NOOR
  • JALALA, PAKISTAN - MAY 2009
As electricity comes to the displaced persons camp in Jalala, two young girls are illuminated by light bulbs as they rush back to their tents at nightfall. The camp is temporarily home to thousands of refugees from Swat and Buner who have escaped from fighting as the Pakistan Army rout out Taliban insurgents.
    JALALA, PAKISTAN - MAY 2009 As electricity comes to the displaced persons camp in Jalala, two young girls are illuminated by light bulbs as they rush back to their tents at nightfall. The camp is temporarily home to thousands of refugees from Swat and Buner who have escaped from fighting as the Pakistan Army rout out Taliban insurgents.  © Alixandra Fazzina/NOOR
  • KATLANG, PAKISTAN - MAY 2009
A crowd of newly arrived women and children fleeing conflict in Swat and Buner wait to show their temporary refugee cards at a distribution of rice and oil in an old cigarette factory near Mardan.
    KATLANG, PAKISTAN - MAY 2009 A crowd of newly arrived women and children fleeing conflict in Swat and Buner wait to show their temporary refugee cards at a distribution of rice and oil in an old cigarette factory near Mardan.  © Alixandra Fazzina/NOOR
  • CHARSADDA, PAKISTAN - JUNE 2009
As gale-force winds sweep in at the start of the monsoon season, a mother holds her two young sons tightly at the Sugar Mill Camp in Charsadda. The displacement of civilians in Pakistan over the last year is the biggest since the genocide in Rwanda.
    CHARSADDA, PAKISTAN - JUNE 2009 As gale-force winds sweep in at the start of the monsoon season, a mother holds her two young sons tightly at the Sugar Mill Camp in Charsadda. The displacement of civilians in Pakistan over the last year is the biggest since the genocide in Rwanda.  © Alixandra Fazzina/NOOR
  • JALALABAD, AFGHANISTAN - JANUARY 2009 
Forcibly returned after more than 20 years in Pakistan, a community of Afghans who have lost their homes shelter under a sea of tents. Still waiting to be allocated land by the government in their home country, over 4000 refugees at "Tangi Three" will have to spend their first winter in Afghanistan under canvas.
    JALALABAD, AFGHANISTAN - JANUARY 2009 Forcibly returned after more than 20 years in Pakistan, a community of Afghans who have lost their homes shelter under a sea of tents. Still waiting to be allocated land by the government in their home country, over 4000 refugees at "Tangi Three" will have to spend their first winter in Afghanistan under canvas.  © Alixandra Fazzina/NOOR
  • LAHORE, PAKISTAN - NOVEMBER 2009 
Covered in dirt, a young Afghan girl carries her baby brother back to the Sagiam Pull refugee camp which is located on the edge of the landfill site. Afghan refugee children begin work at just four years of age sifting through the refuse. Those working in the dump are often forced to survive by eating the scraps that they find.
    LAHORE, PAKISTAN - NOVEMBER 2009 Covered in dirt, a young Afghan girl carries her baby brother back to the Sagiam Pull refugee camp which is located on the edge of the landfill site. Afghan refugee children begin work at just four years of age sifting through the refuse. Those working in the dump are often forced to survive by eating the scraps that they find.  © Alixandra Fazzina/NOOR
  • LAHORE, PAKISTAN - NOVEMBER 2009
A young Afghan girl carries a sack as she picks her way through freshly dumped waste at Lahore city's landfill. Beginning work at just four years of age, children search for plastic, glass, paper, wood, leather and fabric that will then be sorted and recycled by their families for money.
    LAHORE, PAKISTAN - NOVEMBER 2009 A young Afghan girl carries a sack as she picks her way through freshly dumped waste at Lahore city's landfill. Beginning work at just four years of age, children search for plastic, glass, paper, wood, leather and fabric that will then be sorted and recycled by their families for money.  © Alixandra Fazzina/NOOR