Ras Ajdir, Tunisia. 03/2011 - Border between Lybia and Tunisia. Refugee from Lybia in the camp. Community from bangadesh protesting for the conditions.
Refugees from Libya rest in Ras Ajdir, a coastal town on the border between Libya and Tunisia in March, 2011.Davide Monteleone—VII
Ras Ajdir, Tunisia. 03/2011 - Border between Lybia and Tunisia. Refugee from Lybia in the camp. Community from bangadesh protesting for the conditions.
Refugees run to reach their transport to continue their journey in Libya, near the border with Egypt, May 18, 2014.
Zarzis, Tunisia - 03/2011. Migrants getting ready to board the boat to reach Italy from the coast of Tunisia.
mediterranean-crisis-alixandra-fazzina
Kingsley, carnet de route d'un immigrant clandestin.
Kingsley, carnet de route d'un immigrant clandestin.
Kingsley, carnet de route d'un immigrant clandestin.
Italian navy rescues asylum seekers traveling by boat off the coast of Africa on the Mediterranean, June 7, 2014.
mediterranean-crisis-alessandro-penso
mediterranean-crisis-alessandro-penso
Sub-Saharan migrants scale a metallic fence that divides Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla on May 28, 2014.
mediterranean-crisis-lynsey-addario
mediterranean-crisis-alessio-mamo
Afghan refugees, Kabir and Zaher, sit by a fire in Subotica, Serbia on Nov. 10, 2012. Zaher, who lost his left leg below the knees, made it to Serbia on crutches. Zaher says he is 16 and Kabir 15. The two were traveling together from Greece. The men they lived outdoors in Subotica, waiting for smugglers to give the green light to continue their journey.
mediterranean-crisis-alessandro-penso
mediterranean-crisis-alessandro-penso
mediterranean-crisis-alessandro-penso
Nawras Soukhta, a 15-year-old from Damascus, sits in the train traveling from Stockholm to Malmö, Sweden, a few hours after his plane lands in Sweden. After 11 days sailing to Italy from Turkey, and another week traveling through Italy, the train ride to Malmö is the final leg of a three-week journey he has made in the hopes of applying for asylum in Sweden.
Mansour, an immigrant from Mali waits a friend in downtown Sofia, Sofia, Bulgaria on Dec. 7, 2014. He is in a shelter in south-western part of the city.
A pair of trousers lie on the seabed near the shipwreck of the 66-foot-long fishing boat that sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa lies at a depth of 164 ft. on the seabed, on Sept. 22, 2014. The tragedy that happened a year ago on Oct. 3, 2013 killed 366 migrants from North Africa.
Refugees from Libya rest in Ras Ajdir, a coastal town on the border between Libya and Tunisia in March, 2011.
Davide Monteleone—VII
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How Photographers Are Trying to Put a Face on Europe's Migrant Crisis

European leaders are grappling with what's being called one of the worst migrant and refugee crises in two generations. On Thursday, in a hastily formed summit in Brussels called after an estimated 800 people died in a capsizing off Libya while en route to Europe, leaders pledged new support to cap the rising death toll in the Mediterranean. But aid organizations and humanitarian officials said Europe is still "lagging far behind" of what's realistically needed to ease the tragedy.

The crisis along the Mediterranean's coastlines, from Libya to Morocco and Greece to Italy, is not new. Photographers have worked over the last decade to raise awareness as conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa have displaced millions. Last June, one image crystallized the scale of this movement. Shot by Italian photographer Massimo Sestini aboard a helicopter taking part in Mare Nostrum, an Italian-led search and rescue operation largely funded by the European Union and abandoned late last year, it showed one boat with hundreds of people looking up, waving their arms. “You could see their desperation,” Sestini said last year. “And, concurrently, their happiness at being saved.”

The photograph, which TIME named one of the top 10 images of 2014, went on to win a World Press Photo award, but it told only one part of a much larger story.

“The only way to really tell the story is to spend time with them in their home countries, see how they live, learn why they leave and then just go with them on their way,” says Daniel Etter, a German photographer, who has documented migrants in northern Africa and across Europe. He called that "almost impossible" to do. Security risks, travel obstacles and financial barriers get in the way, leaving most photographers unable to build the kind of all-encompassing narrative that could help people understand the true nature of the crisis.

2012.Corinth. Greece. 17-year old Ali from Algeria lives in the old train station of Corinth. In Corinth, a small sea town on the Peloponnese, the boarding of boats directly is attempted by group of North Africans who have established themselves in an old train station.
17-year old Ali from Algeria lives in the old train station of Corinth, Greece. He hopes to be able to board a boat to Western Europe.Alessandro Penso
2012.Corinth. Greece. 17-year old Ali from Algeria lives in the old train station of Corinth. In Corinth, a small sea town on the Peloponnese, the boarding of boats directly is attempted by group of North Africans who have established themselves in an old train station.
2012. Greece. Orestiada. A group of migrants spends the night in the railway station of Orestiada after crossing the border with Turkey. In 2011/2012, around 80% of migration towards Europe crossed through Greek territory.
2012. Patrass. Greece. A group of Afghans in abandoned factory in Patras. Patras is one of the main escape points from Greece, due to the numerous cargo ships that dock in the port and are bound for Italy. It is therefore one of the points where it is possible to attempt to escape from Greece.
2013. Patras. Greece. Three young Afghans spend the night in an abandoned place near the beach of Patras. Patras is one of the main escape points from Greece, due to the numerous cargo ships that dock in the port and are bound for Italy. It is therefore one of the pointswhere it is possible to attempt to escape from Greece.
2011. Athens. Greece. Mohammed from Algeria lives inside the old Columbia records factory. Columbia was once a leader in the music industry but today the factory has been completely abandoned and kids of various nationalities now take refuge there.
2012. Patras. Greece. Young Afghans cooking in an abandoned factory in Patras. Patras is one of the main escape points from Greece, due to the numerous cargo ships that dock in the port and are bound for Italy. It is therefore one of the points where it is possible to attempt to escape from Greece.
2012. Patras. Greece. View from the factory where illegal immigrants live, near the port of Patras. Patras is one of the main escape points from Greece, due to the numerous cargo ships that dock in the port and are bound for Italy. It is therefore one of the points where it is possible to attempt to escape from Greece.
2012. Patras. Greece. A group of adolescents trying to illegally board trucks going to Italy.A group of Afghan boys aged 14 to 18 years, on a traffic island. Every day, these kids try to illegally board trucks going towards Italy. One of the most common ways of illegally leaving Greece which is attempted is the illegal boarding of goods trucks which will subsequently be loaded onto cargo ships for Italy. Over the years, many young people have lost their lives attempting this, while others have been stopped by the police. Only a very small percentage manages to succeed in this desperate attempt. Patras is one of the main escape points from Greece, due to the numerous cargo ships that dock in the port and are bound for Italy. It is therefore one of the points where it is possible to attempt to escape from Greece.
2012. Corinth. Greece. Mohammed, Ahmed and Nabi from Morocco in the wagon wherethey live in the abandoned train station of Corinth. In Corinth, a small sea town on the Peloponnese, the boarding of boats directly is attempted by group of North Africans who have established themselves in an old train station.
Corinth, Greece, February 2012 - A group of North Africans was attacked by three locals. Mostafa El Mouzdahir, a 20-year old from Morocco, was hit by a car and sustained multiple injuries. I went to see him in hospital. With him, he had a police form which asked him to leave the country within 15 days because he was there illegally.
2012. Patras. Greece. Afghan boys throwing stones into the sea. They are waiting forevening, when they will try to sneak into the port, where they hope to illegally board a ship bound for Italy. Patras is one of the main escape points from Greece, due to the numerous cargo ships that dock in the port and are bound for Italy. It is therefore one of the points where it is possible to attempt to escape from Greece.
2012. Corinth. Greece. Mohamed from Morocco and his friends hiding behind the rocks at the port during the night, waiting for the right moment to illegally board a ship to Italy. In Greece, more than 99.5% of requests for political asylum are refused, and for this reason, these young people are forced to hide from the authorities, because having a Greek police record would mean the end of the dream of safe reception in Europe.This is the story of young, unaccompanied migrants in Greece: young people who, everyday, confront the difficulties of a country tormented by the economic crisis. Greece also refuses asylum requests more than any other country in Europe, reaching a 99.5% refusalrate in 2012. Many young migrants therefore see other European countries as their only hope of a future, and attempt to leave Greece at the first possible moment, often indesperate ways, tolerating desperate conditions.
17-year old Ali from Algeria lives in the old train station of Corinth, Greece. He hopes to be able to board a boat to W
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Alessandro Penso
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Some photographers have attempted to piece together the stories of migrants who risk their lives on these journeys. Alixandra Fazzina, a photographer with Noor, followed Somali migrants’ arduous trip across the Gulf of Aden in search of a better future in her book A Million Shillings, published in 2010. One in 20 who attempted the crossing lost their lives, their bodies washing up on Yemen's shore.

She wanted to go deeper, she says, than the “small paragraph you find in a newspaper detailing the number of people that have died... I wanted to find out why they were making the journey. I wanted to find out why these people were willing to put their lives into the hands of smugglers and traffickers? Why would somebody do that?”

Olivier Jobard, a French photographer who followed a Cameroonian man's trek to France, seeks similar answers. “What’s bothering me when we’re talking about immigration is that we often associate these people with ghosts and shadows,” he says. “They are not human in our minds.”

Italian photographer Alessandro Penso, who has been following migrants around Europe, focusing on hotspots like Greece, Italy and Malta, says he seeks moments of spontaneity to expose the humanity of his subjects."There are simple gestures and habits in daily life that, as banal as they can seem to our eyes, hide the simple truth that we are all humans and vulnerable."

Humanizing the people making these dangerous and harrowing journeys is important, Penso and his colleagues argue, especially when photography can lead to misconceptions. Cases in point are the widely published photographs of “hordes” of people scaling border fences in Melilla, a Spanish enclave on the edge of northern Morocco. “[When] people see these images," says Santi Palacios, an Associated Press photographer who has taken such pictures, "they [think] we’ve been invaded."

The people portrayed in these images are often seen shirtless and shouting, Jobard says, deliberately assuming a provocative stance. “They actually choose to behave like 'wild animals' in these situations—to impress or to scare people because it’s a real battle to get in [Melilla]. Of course, that also does them disservice.”

Once they’ve made it over the fence, he says, the contrast is striking. “They dress up, they take care of their appearances." Last year, he shadowed a man named Hassan Adam from the Ivory Coast, who spent hours on one of these fences, alone. His friends had made it across to Melilla, successfully avoiding the police forces, but Adam was handcuffed, beaten and sent back to Morocco. Jobard tracked him down, months later, after he had finally made it across. “I told his story,” he says. “I wanted to show that behind each migrant there’s a person.”

Lampedusa Shipwreck: From the Depths of the Mediterranean Sea

The shipwreck of the 66-foot-long fishing boat that sank off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy, lies at a depth of 164 ft. on the seabed, on Sept. 22, 2014. The tragedy that happened a year ago on Oct. 3, 2013 killed 366 migrants from North Africa.
The shipwreck of the 66-foot-long fishing boat that sank off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy, lies at a depth of 164 ft. on the seabed, on Sept. 22, 2014. The tragedy that happened a year ago on Oct. 3, 2013 killed 366 migrants from North Africa.Francesco Zizola—NOOR
The shipwreck of the 66-foot-long fishing boat that sank off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy, lies at a depth of 164 ft. on the seabed, on Sept. 22, 2014. The tragedy that happened a year ago on Oct. 3, 2013 killed 366 migrants from North Africa.
A scuba-diver inspects the shipwreck of the 66-foot-long fishing boat that sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa lies at a depth of 164 ft. on the seabed, on Sept. 22, 2014. The tragedy that happened a year ago on Oct. 3, 2013 killed 366 migrants from North Africa.
A pair of trousers lie on the seabed near the shipwreck of the 66-foot-long fishing boat that sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa lies at a depth of 164 ft. on the seabed, on Sept. 22, 2014. The tragedy that happened a year ago on Oct. 3, 2013 killed 366 migrants from North Africa.
A scuba-diver enters the shipwreck that sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa lies at a depth of 164 ft. on the seabed, on Sept. 22, 2014. The tragedy that happened a year ago on Oct. 3, 2013 killed 366 migrants from North Africa.
A cabin inside the 66-foot-long fishing boat that sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa lies at a depth of 164 ft. on the seabed, on Sept. 22, 2014. The tragedy that happened a year ago on Oct. 3, 2013 killed 366 migrants from North Africa.
A scuba-diver inspects the shipwreck of the 66-foot-long fishing boat that sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa lies at a depth of 164 ft. on the seabed, on Sept. 22, 2014. The tragedy that happened a year ago on Oct. 3, 2013 killed 366 migrants from North Africa.
The wheelhouse of the 66-foot-long fishing boat that sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa lies at a depth of 164 ft. on the seabed, on Sept. 22, 2014. The tragedy that happened a year ago on Oct. 3, 2013 killed 366 migrants from North Africa.
The shipwreck of the 66-foot-long fishing boat that sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa lies at a depth of 164 ft. on the seabed, on Sept. 22, 2014. The tragedy that happened a year ago on Oct. 3, 2013 killed 366 migrants from North Africa.
The shipwreck of the 66-foot-long fishing boat that sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa lies at a depth of 164 ft. on the seabed, on Sept. 22, 2014. The tragedy that happened a year ago on Oct. 3, 2013 killed 366 migrants from North Africa.
The shipwreck of the 66-foot-long fishing boat that sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa lies at a depth of 164 ft. on the seabed, on Sept. 22, 2014. The tragedy that happened a year ago on Oct. 3, 2013 killed 366 migrants from North Africa.
The nameless graves in the cemetery belong to unidentified migrants found dead on the beach of Lampedusa in Italy.
The shipwreck of the 66-foot-long fishing boat that sank off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy, lies at a depth of 164 ft. o
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Francesco Zizola—NOOR
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For all of those who made it over the fence, or past border patrols or across the Mediterranean, there are untold thousands who lost their lives in the search for a new or better one. In October, Italian photographer Francesco Zizola dived 59 meters to photograph the wreckage of a boat that had carried some 500 people, and now rests at the bottom of the Mediterranean. He sought to convey the vastness of the tragedy that had occurred one year before, when 360 people lost their lives.

“I wanted to show to everybody that our comfortable, bourgeois homes could turn—as if in a nightmare—into that cabin with the red curtain, which I photographed inside the sunken ship,” he says. “That cabin is the tomb of our collective conscience and a memento of our indifference.”

Alice Gabriner and Mikko Takkunen edited this photo essay. With reporting by Lucia De Stefani, a contributor to TIME LightBox.

Andrew Katz is a News Editor at TIME. Follow him on Twitter @katz. Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent.

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