TIME Behind the Photos

How Photographers Are Trying to Put a Face on Europe’s Migrant Crisis

"I wanted to show that behind each migrant there’s a person”

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.

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.”

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.

TIME europe

These 5 Facts Explain Europe’s Deadly Migrants Crisis

Ship with large number of undocumented migrants runs aground at Rhodes
Loukas Mastis—EPA Illegal migrants arriving at Zefyros beach at Rhodes island, Greece, April 20, 2015.

Over 1,500 migrants have died trying to reach Europe—and the numbers are only likely to increase unless the EU takes real action

On April 19, more than 600 refugees drowned in the Mediterranean when their boat capsized on its way from Africa to Italy. On April 12, about 400 people died in a separate shipwreck. So far in 2015, 1,600 migrants have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean, and authorities fear that the number will surge as the weather warms. These five stats explain the rising tide of migration problems for Europe and for the desperate migrants of Africa and the Middle East.

1. Political Refugees Fleeing to Europe

EU member states received 216,300 applications for asylum last year. A large number of these asylum seekers are fleeing from Syria (civil war), Eritrea (dictatorship) and Mali (another civil war). Many of them are officially recognized as “refugees” by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, a status that affords certain legal protections. But navigating the red tape takes time. Rather than waiting for a reluctant host country to take them in, many of these refugees entrust their fates to smugglers. As we’ve seen time and again, this can lead to tragic results.

(UNHCR, VOX)

2. Trouble on the Rise

75% of migrant deaths worldwide occur in the Mediterranean Sea. Europe has already seen a 43% increase in migrants through the first two months of 2015, and peak migration season (typically May through September) hasn’t yet begun. In 2014, the top countries of origin of people attempting to enter Europe by sea were Syria (67,000), Eritrea (34,000), Afghanistan (13,000) and Mali (10,000). Currently, an estimated 600,000 people are waiting in Libya to emigrate, according to Vox. These people represent three years worth of migration to Europe at the present rate.

(Guardian, BBC, Economist, VOX)

3. The Insufficient European Response

Even for those migrants who safely reach European shores, their troubles are far from over. The EU requires that asylum petitions be processed by the country in which migrants first arrive. As a result, southern countries such as Malta, Italy and Greece have found themselves overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of incoming migrants, while richer northern countries receive relatively few. Until last year, Italy had a program in place to find and rescue migrant ships, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Italy had to spend $9.7 million a month to fund the program, and so turned to the rest of Europe for help. The United Kingdom and others made it clear that they would not offer support for rescue operations, for fear doing so would encourage more people to attempt to make the dangerous sea crossing. This past fall, the EU’s border patrol agency Frontex took over responsibility from Italian authorities—with a budget that is about a seventh of what Italy was spending on its own.

(FiveThirtyEight, VOX, Economist)

4. Turkey Stands Apart

While Italy and the rest of the EU struggle, neighboring Turkey has been busy hosting 1.6 million displaced Syrians within its borders, or about half the people who have fled that country since the fighting began there nearly four years ago. Taking in refugees is not cheap; the total cost to Turkey is estimated to be $4.5 billion and rising. Turkey has introduced new regulations to give the Syrians a more robust legal status in the country, which includes access to basic services like health care and education. But Istanbul has stopped short of granting these migrants official refugee status, which would provide them with additional social services.

(New York Times, World Bulletin)

5. Rise in Xenophobia

The cost of taking in migrants is not measured only in dollars or euros. As Europe’s economy has struggled to rebound, anti-immigrant attitudes have risen across the continent. In a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2014, a median of 55% of Europeans surveyed wanted to limit immigration. The percentages were much higher in struggling countries like Greece (86%) and Italy (80%). The rise in xenophobia has propelled new far-right parties to the political forefront, and older parties like Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France are looking to play a much larger role in their countries’ politics in years to come. As long as high-unemployment persists in the Euro region, rising xenophobia in EU countries will be an important driver in shaping EU migrant policy.

(New York Times, Pew Research Center)

TIME Africa

Ebola Nations Request Debt Cancellation and Billions in Aid

People stand in line for food to be distributed to them as a health worker makes an announcement in Freetown, Sierra Leone on March 27, 2015.
Michael Duff—AP People stand in line for food to be distributed to them as a health worker makes an announcement in Freetown, Sierra Leone on March 27, 2015.

The countries in West Africa affected most by the Ebola outbreak are asking donors to cancel their debts and give them $5 billion to $6 billion in aid over two years.

“Our social services are ruined, our economies have halted, and we need a real Marshall Plan to take us out of the woods,” Ernest Bai Koroma, the president of Sierra Leone, told Reuters Thursday.

Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are working on a regional reconstruction program, but they will need about $4 billion in debt relief on top of the billions they are requesting to rebuild their countries. The countries’ will unveil their program at a meeting on Friday with the heads of the World Bank, the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund.

“If that (debt) is canceled and support is provided to our regional program, it will take us a long way forward in our transformation agenda,” Koroma said.

There were only 37 cases of Ebola reported in the region last week. But as leaders in West Africa and the World Health Organization have made clear, much more money and time is needed to fully eradicate the disease and help get the countries ruined by its spread.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 16

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Go ahead and start a new career in your fifties. It’s easier than you think.

By Donna Rosato in Money

2. This is what sex-ed would look like if it took place entirely on social media.

By Kate Hakala in Mic

3. Here’s why the FDA doesn’t really know what’s in our food.

By Erin Quinn and Chris Young at the Center for Public Integrity

4. What critical resource helps the sharing economy make billions? People trusting people.

By the editorial board of the Christian Science Monitor

5. Could a continent-wide CDC for Africa stop the next Ebola outbreak?

By Jim Burress at National Public Radio

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Terrorism

These 5 Facts Explain Terrorism in Kenya

Family members sit on a bench as they wait to view the bodies of their loved ones who had been killed in an attack on Garissa University College, at a mortuary in Nairobi on April 8, 2015.
Dai Kurokawa—EPA Family members sit on a bench as they wait to view the bodies of their loved ones who had been killed in an attack on Garissa University College, at a mortuary in Nairobi on April 8, 2015.

Porous borders,a bad economy and corruption have made Kenya a sitting target for al-Shabab

The tragic Garissa University College attack in Kenya on April 2 led to 147 deaths and a global outpouring of shock and sympathy. But it didn’t approach the intense level of commentary—from journalists and world leaders alike—that the Charlie Hebdo attack in France garnered, despite a far higher death toll. To put this tragedy in context, it’s important to understand the state of play between al-Shabab and Kenya. Here are five stats on the attacks that cover everything from the porous Kenya-Somalia border to the cash incentive for would-be terrorist recruits.

1. Kenya suffers more than its share

The fight against al-Shabab in East Africa is a regional effort. With 3,664 people deployed, Kenya provides fewer personnel to the UN-backed African Union Mission in Somalia than Uganda, Ethiopia or Burundi do. Yet it is Kenya that has borne the brunt of al-Shabab’s attacks outside Somalia. Since 2012, the group has killed over 600 people in Kenya. There has been only one major attack outside Somalia’s borders that didn’t target Kenya: the 2010 Kampala bombings. The Garissa siege was the deadliest terror attack in Kenya since the 1998 al-Qaeda bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi.

(The Boston Globe, Council on Foreign Relations, The New York Times, The Washington Post)

2. The problem of porous borders

A porous border helps Al-Shabab target Kenya. Though the Kenyan government has announced plans to build a wall along parts of the 424 mile-long border with Somalia, the structure could cost as much as $17 billion—and it wouldn’t address other glaring issues. Kenya’s police force is among the most corrupt in East Africa; members of al-Shabab can easily buy passage and visas from officials. Payments to officers made up almost 50% of all bribes in Kenya in 2014. Garissa County is particularly vulnerable. The area is home to Dadaab, one of the world’s biggest refugee camps with over 336,000 Somalis. Garissa was the victim of more than a fifth of al-Shabab’s attacks in Kenya between 2009 and 2013.

(Global Terrorism Database, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, BBC)

3. Weak security

The siege at Garissa lasted nearly 15 hours. Yet, security forces were only deployed 7 hours after the attack began, and there was a two-hour briefing when they arrived in the area. They didn’t enter the university until 11 hours had passed. Why the glacial response? The two fixed-wing planes that security forces flew in were too small for all of the officers and their equipment; no police choppers were available. Despite legislation passed in 2011 to overhaul the police, intelligence and defense forces in Kenya, not much progress has been made. Anti-terror police units in Nairobi have a budget as low as $735 per month for operations, and police officers are paid around $200 per month. For comparison, some Kenyan parliamentarians earn up to $15,000 monthly. According to some estimates, over 300,000 people are employed as private security guards in Kenya, whereas Kenya’s police force numbers approximately 60,000.

(The Boston Globe, Daily Mail, Daily Nation, Aljazeera)

4. Local tensions

Muslims make up about a tenth of Kenya’s population, and they reside primarily in the Northeast and along the coast. These communities lag in development, due to limited public and private investment, giving rise to local tension and instability. The northeast region bordering Somalia, an area the size of Mississippi, has less than 100 miles of tarmacked roads. Kenyan-Somali clan conflict and banditry has led to past conflicts in the area, including the 1980 Garissa massacre and the 1984 Wagalla massacre—resulting in the deaths of over 4,000 ethnic Somalis. Though Garissa County is a predominantly ethnic Somali area, students from across Kenya attend the university. The Shabab attackers singled out Christians for execution.

(The Guardian, The World Post, Aljazeera, Climate Change and Security Conference, The New York Times)

5. Recruiting made easy

Al-Shabab translates to ‘the youth’ in Arabic, a fitting name for an organization that feeds off limited opportunities for young people in the region. According to BBC News, roughly a quarter of al-Shabab’s 7,000-9,000 forces are Kenyan. Many of them were attracted to al-Shabab’s high salaries for new recruits, which are reportedly more than $1,000. Meanwhile, the average monthly wage in Kenya is $76 ($912 annual). Some 70% of working class youth are currently unemployed.

(BBC News (a), BBC News (b), Reuters, Aljazeera)

TIME Rwanda

Scars and the Smell of Grass: One Survivor’s Lasting Reminders of Genocide

Survivors of the Rwanda genocide in 1994, which left hundreds of thousands of people dead, still grapple with its brutal legacy

More than two decades after the Rwandan genocide, the smell of grass in the summer still gives Consolee Nishimwe nightmares.

Between 250,000 and 500,000 women were raped during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, according to the United Nations. At 14, Nishimwe survived a brutal attack that left her emotionally and physically scarred for years. As a result of the assault, she is now HIV positive. Her father and brothers—aged 18 months, 7 and 9—were all killed.

“I will never forget what happened to me,” Nishimwe, who has vivid memories of hiding in the bushes from Hutu militias, told TIME in a recent interview. “Physical violence happened to me, and also living with HIV as a result of that, it’s something I will never forget—that will never go anywhere, that I have to live with.”

This week, as Rwanda’s government commemorates the 21st anniversary of the genocide, many survivors like Nishimwe are faced with unavoidable reminders of the physical and emotional toll of the conflict.

When asked about forgiveness, Nishimwe, who now lives in New York City, spoke of a work in progress. “That’s a really difficult word,” she said. “I think I did… I think 20 years is still early to me.”

Nishimwe’s book, Tested to the Limit: A Genocide Survivor’s Story of Pain, Resilience, and Hope, is an account of her experience as a survivor.

TIME Archaeology

Human Ancestor ‘Little Foot’ Lived 3.7 Million Years Ago

Undated handout photo shows the Little Foot skull
Reuters The Little Foot skull is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters April 1, 2015.

The findings shed light on the connections between early human ancestors

New research indicates that a mysterious skeleton dubbed “Little Foot” lived around the same time as human ancestor Lucy’s species, suggesting a diverse landscape of pre-humans in Africa during the same period.

Scientists initially believed that Little Foot was far older than Lucy’s species, but according to research published in the journal Nature this week the skeleton is roughly 3.7 million years old.

Lucy, who lived about 3.2 million years ago, was an Australopithecus afarensis, a species of early upright walkers in east Africa that lived between 2.9 and 4.1 million years ago and is believed to be a direct human ancestor, predating the Homo lineage by more than a million years.

Scientists aren’t clear how to categorize Little Foot, who was found in a cave in South Africa in the 1990s. But the age of the skeleton helps shed light on the diversity of the Australopithecus human ancestors.

“The most important implication from dating Little Foot is that we now know that australopithecines were in South Africa early in their evolution,” lead author Darryl Granger, a geochronologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, told Live Science. “This implies an evolutionary connection between South Africa and East Africa prior to the age of Little Foot, and with enough time for the australopithecine species to diverge.”

TIME Economy

5 Stats That Explain the Super Wealthy

The Davos World Economic Forum 2015
Jason Alden—Bloomberg/Getty Images Aliko Dangote, billionaire and chief executive officer of Dangote Group, pauses during a session on day two of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2015.

From Nigerian billionaires to Russian oligarchs, numbers that explain how wealth works in politics

The world will always be divided into “the haves and the have nots,” but lately seems the ‘haves’ are capturing more and more of the world’s wealth. Yet, even the super wealthy are feeling the impact of political turmoil. Here are five stats that explore the plight—and flight—of the world’s richest.

1. Nigeria’s super rich

For a country that relies on oil for almost 70% of state revenue, crashing prices spell trouble. The stock index dropped 40% in 2014, while the currency has lost a fifth of its value over the last six months. But the person who has been hit hardest is the person who can most afford it. Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote, earned Forbes’ “Biggest Loser” title—his wealth has fallen the most of anyone on earth in dollar terms. Yet he still has a $14.7 billion fortune and his companies account for a quarter of the market capitalization of the Lagos stock market. Even as youth unemployment and corruption remain staggeringly pervasive, economic growth has enriched the country’s elites. Nigeria’s population of high net worth individuals grew 44% between 2007 and 2013.

(Forbes, Forbes, Financial Times, New World Wealth)

2. Oil prices and sanctions hit Russia

Russia has also been battered by tanking oil prices, and sanctions have had an outsized impact on Russia’s wealthiest and those closest to Vladimir Putin (who are often one and the same). The country lost the most billionaires in 2014, down to 88 from 111. Between February and December of 2014, the combined wealth of the country’s 20 richest people shrank by 30%. In other words, .0000001% of Russia’s population lost $73 billion—a sum on par with the annual GDP of neighboring Belarus. It’s no wonder India overtook Russia for third place on the billionaires list last year.

(Forbes, Forbes, CNBC, Wall Street Journal, World Bank)

3. The millionaire exodus

Millionaires have been voting with their feet. Between 2003 and 2013, 76,200 Chinese millionaires emigrated, representing 15% of China’s total and the largest exodus of millionaires of any country. Over the same span, 27% of Indian millionaires, some 43,400 people, left as well. In third place, France saw 13% of its millionaire population leave, perhaps due to what they viewed as excessive taxation on the wealthiest. Russia came fifth in sheer number of departing millionaires; they accounted for 17% of Russia’s millionaire population. Where are they all heading? Mainly the UK, the U.S., Australia and Singapore. The number of UK fast-track or Tier 1 visas (which require a $3 million investment in British assets) provided to Russians increased nearly 70% last year.

(CNBC, Business Insider, Bloomberg)

4. Billionaire cities

A few years ago, New York surpassed Moscow as the top city by billionaire population. Hong Kong, London, and Beijing round out the rest of the top five. Yet, unlike Moscow, where 80% of Russia’s billionaires reside, New York has less than a sixth of America’s. The United States spreads the wealth: 11 U.S. cities have 11 or more billionaires. California itself has 131—if it were a country, it would have more billionaires than any country except the U.S. and China.

(Forbes, Knight Frank, Forbes)

5. Big money in Chinese politics

While many of China’s wealthiest may have left the country, there are plenty who still fill the highest ranks of government. More than one in seven of the 1,271 richest Chinese are serving in Parliament or its advisory body. These 203 delegates are collectively worth over $460 billion. For some perspective, the richest representative in the U.S. government would be the 166th richest member of China’s government. Even as Chinese leader Xi Jinping clamps down on corruption and pressures elites to rein in their extravagance, China’s wealthy are still spending. Chinese now represent nearly a third of the world’s luxury sales, although roughly two-thirds of these sales take place outside the country.

(CNBC, New York Times, NBC News)

TIME Addiction

WHO Global Tobacco-Use Reduction Target Likely Up in Smoke, Says Study

Man lights up a cigarette with another cigarette outside an office building in Beijing
Jason Lee—Reuters A man lights up a cigarette with another cigarette outside an office building in Beijing, Nov. 25, 2014

China remains the world's largest market for tobacco products

Even as the number of smokers in many countries declines, increasing numbers in Africa and the Mediterranean are taking up the habit, meaning global tobacco-use figures will likely increase slightly over the next decade, according to a new study.

Member states of the World Health Organization (WHO) are aiming to cut worldwide tobacco consumption by 30% from 2010 levels by 2025, but the target may be missed because of smoking’s enduring popularity in low and middle-income nations, reports Agence France-Presse.

The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, projected “an estimated 1.1 billion current tobacco smokers” by 2025, higher than the current number of one billion smokers worldwide.

In time, as many as half of today’s smokers will die as a result of their tobacco use. Currently, there is a tobacco-related death every six seconds, according to the WHO.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 11

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Special collaborative courts focus on rehabilitating troubled veterans. They’re working.

By Spencer Michels at PBS Newshour

2. PayPal runs a dead-simple microlending program that helps small businesses grow.

By Michelle Goodman in Entrepreneur

3. To make voters care, a radio station in L.A. picked a prototype non-voter and built their election coverage around him.

By Melody Kramer at Poynter.org

4. Can the mining industry become a responsible, reliable partner for local communities and the environment?

By Andrea Mustain in Kellogg Insight

5. Robert Mugabe is 91 years old. The world should prepare for a succession crisis in Zimbabwe.

By Helia Ighani at the Council on Foreign Relations

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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