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Thousands Of Life Vests Left Behind Show Scale Of Migration

Bradley Secker looks at life vests left behind by migrants at a crossing point in Greece.

Posted on November 21, 2015, at 9:47 a.m. ET

Thousands of refugees have landed on the shores of the Greek island of Lesbos, this year, leaving behind a life of conflict in the hope of something better in Europe.

Almost everyone leaves a trace of their arrival. Photographer Bradley Secker was struck by the piles of life vests that littered the beaches where he spent a week documenting migrants and refugees arriving by boat in October.

The inflatable boats used in crossings are perilous, and the quality of the life vests varies. Many are mass-produced in Turkey and often defective. More than one sinks in the water.

The vests are left behind upon landing, or tied to trees to signal a safe landing point. Each discarded vest serves as a marker of a person willing to make the dangerous crossing, and a symbol to those arriving of what was left behind and what is yet to come as thousands continue to travel into Europe.

Volunteers signal a safe landing point to arriving boats.
Bradley Secker

Volunteers signal a safe landing point to arriving boats.

Hundreds of life vests are left behind on the shore.
Bradley Secker

Hundreds of life vests are left behind on the shore.

Volunteers and local officials use the life vests to signal a landing point before removing the life vests from the beach.
Bradley Secker

Volunteers and local officials use the life vests to signal a landing point before removing the life vests from the beach.

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Bradley Secker
A child's life vest.
Bradley Secker

A child's life vest.

Thermal blankets and flotation devices left behind by arriving migrants.
Bradley Secker

Thermal blankets and flotation devices left behind by arriving migrants.

Life vests are hung in trees to signal a safe landing point.
Bradley Secker

Life vests are hung in trees to signal a safe landing point.

Thousands of discarded life vests are piled up by volunteers and local officials, each representing a newly arrived person.
Bradley Secker

Thousands of discarded life vests are piled up by volunteers and local officials, each representing a newly arrived person.

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