Undocumented Lives now Available in English
Image: Katja Tähjä
Undocumented Lives, Europe's first documentary book about people living without legal documentation by Kaisa Viitanen and Katja Tähjä, is now available in English.
Paperless people are living in Europe without residence permits. They are not included in any registers. Officially, they don't exist. This book reveals the stories of the little-known shadow people of today's Europe. Despite the human rights agreements signed by the European Union member states, the paperless are left to fend for themselves.
"The distress of people without residence permits gets worse and worse. While the immigration policies of European countries are getting ever stricter, a growing number of people are at risk of losing their permits", Viitanen and Tähjä say.
Undocumented Lives was first published in Finnish in 2010, kindling a lot of conversation. It was shortlisted for the Most Beautiful Book of the Year Award, among other awards and nominations. The English ebook edition includes new photos and immigrants' own narratives. Also animation and other effects made possible by the new format have been added.
Journalist Viitanen and photographer Tähjä travelled around Europe for two years meeting these invisible people. Undocumented children, women and men from Finland to Spain, Greece, Belgium, The Netherlands, UK and Sweden told them what it is like to live under constant fear of getting caught and being deported. They are being taken advantage of in the employment market, they seldom have access to healthcare and few of the children can go to school. Still, there is a glimpse of hope every day.
"People without residence permits are not criminals. They deserve the same protection as any other EU citizen. All the EU countries have committed to this in various agreements", Tähjä and Viitanen point out.
Katja Tähjä is a Finnish freelance photographer. She works regularly for magazines and newspapers in Finland. Tähjä believes that exceptional photography is achieved by trust, curiosity and a willingness to understand. Kaisa Viitanen has spent 11 years working as a journalist for one of Finland's biggest women's magazines. She is particularly interested in social issues and has travelled extensively around the world for her work.