Somalia has an emblematic role to play in any attempt to understand the refugee crisis today, because this country on the Horn of Africa, together with Syria, is the starting point for a large contingent of the refugees who are fleeing to other parts of the world in search of asylum.

The internally displaced people in Somalia number over a million, and another million have already left to seek refuge in neighboring countries or in Europe. However, by virtue of a historical and geopolitical paradox, Somalia itself—long a emblem of war on earth—has become, for the moment, a place of welcome.

Over 30,000 Yemenites have already landed on Somalia’s coasts, in flight from the Arabian peninsula (where the Houthi rebels are at war with the Saudi-guided coalition). They have found refuge in a nation that, for 25 years now, has been under the anarchic rule of competing factions and insurgent groups of soldiers.

Despite the difficult situation, the help that these Yemenites are receiving from the Somali people is indicative of the desire for change afoot in the former Italian colony. From the port of Bosaso in the north to the southern city of Dolow, this desire is palpable everywhere: girls from Mogadishu go to the beach, while beauty parlors and game arcades open their doors. People want to start living again, and to do so they are prepared to stand up to the dictates and threats of Al-Shabaab, a jihadist fundamentalist group. The group, though lately rocked by internal strife, has not ceased to carry out terrorist attacks. These setbacks directly challenge the people’s movement towards a brighter, more stable country.

A climate of terror, the corrupt state administration, and the continuing formation of armed groups are all contributing factors to the disease that has been devouring Somalia for decades. But today, rising up against it, we see the collective sentiment of a people that no longer wish to feel alone. If the country is able to accept and even help refugees from abroad, perhaps it can finally take its destiny into its own hands and look forward to a different future.

—Marco Gualazzini

The third image in this series was chosen by juror Sam Barzilay, founder of Photoville, as his juror’s pick in the Street Photography Awards 2017. See all of the inspiring work by the 37 winners, finalists and jurors’ picks.