Considered the biggest human exodus since the end of the World War II, hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East, mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan fled their homes under armed conflict and persecution and started to flow in growing numbers to Europe.

I had the opportunity to approach this project through the experience of two brothers, Ahmad and Farid Majid, who hail from an extended family of 13 people in Syria. The two decided to abandon their homes in Afrin to seek asylum in Sweden.

The process was not easy though. Hundreds of people lost their lives, particularly on the perilous crossing from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos. Everyone, from baby to elderly, was willing to risk their lives on dangerous boat trips, illegal border crossings, and endless bus and train journeys. The final hope was to seek asylum and a decent life in Western Europe and Scandinavia.

Meanwhile, the latest UN report from January 2015 estimated that more than 220,000 people have become fatal victims of the interminable conflict in Syria that still shows no signs of stopping.

—Mauricio Lima

Editors’ note: This timely and important series of photographs was selected as a winner in the Documentary Category of the Magnum Photography Awards 2016. Discover more inspiring work from all 44 of the winners, finalists, jurors’ picks and student spotlights.