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 World

#TheBrief: Who Is Responsible for Migrants Who Seek Asylum?

Who is responsible for migrants seeking asylum? Italy? Or the European Union?

At least 700 refugees are feared dead after their boat capsized off the coast of Libya.

With countries in Europe closing up borders to prevent the influx of refugees fleeing war and conflict, migrants—mostly from Syria and Eritrea, but also from sub-Saharan Africa—are opting for the risky voyage across the Mediterranean Sea to reach Italy.

From Italy, they travel to countries like Spain, Greece, and the U.K.—all in search for asylum and better job opportunities.

But it could come at a price.

TIME europe

What You Need to Know About the E.U.’s Refugee Crisis

Thousands of asylum seekers have now died trying to reach Europe from Africa, putting the E.U.'s refugee policies under scrutiny

At least 700, but perhaps as many as 950, refugees are feared dead after a boat capsized off the coast of Libya on Sunday.

The disaster is merely the latest in such deadly incidents in the Mediterranean Sea, and has prompted much criticism and soul-searching over Europe’s response to the the waves of people fleeing poor and war-torn countries in Africa. Here is some of the background to the developing crisis:

Who are the migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea?

Although it is still unclear exactly which countries the migrants feared dead in Sunday’s disaster hail from, refugees being transported across the Mediterranean Sea by smugglers come mostly from North African and West Asian countries like Yemen, Nigeria, Gambia, Syria and Libya, to name a few. Some come from even further afield, however. One of the 28 survivors of the vessel that capsized on Sunday — who reportedly told authorities that the boat was carrying 950 people — was from Bangladesh.

Where are they going and why?

Most people attempting the perilous crossing are fleeing poverty or violent conflict in their native countries and are attempting to reach Europe, where they seek asylum and better employment opportunities. Countries like Spain, Greece, Italy and the small island nation of Malta are common destinations. The vessel on Sunday capsized off the coast of Libya near the island of Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost landmass, which is about 127 miles from Sicily and 109 miles from Malta.

How did the boat capsize?

Italian authorities received an emergency call on Saturday night about a boat bearing migrants 70 miles off the Libyan coast, the New York Times reported, and ordered the closest commercial vessel — Portuguese freighter King Jacob — to make contact and wait for rescue ships to arrive. The migrants on board rushed to one side of the boat on glimpsing the freighter in order to signal it, overturning it in the process. The Bangladeshi survivor told Italian authorities that the smugglers had locked about 300 others in the boat’s hold, but his account could not be confirmed.

Aren’t incidents like this becoming tragically common?

Yes. The influx of refugees into Europe, particularly Italy, has increased dramatically in recent months. Some 170,100 refugees arrived in Italy in 2014, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration estimates that 21, 191 migrants reached the country this year as of April 17 — over 10,000 within the past week.

International Organization for Migration

Fatalities during the perilous journey have risen dramatically during the same period, with an estimated 3,500 deaths in 2014. Sunday’s disaster, if the deaths are confirmed, will be the region’s worst ever and will take the total death toll this year above 1,500. About 1,100 of those will have died last week alone, with another 400 migrants believed to have drowned off the Libyan coast in a separate incident last Monday. Other horror stories from the past week include the rescue of burn victims from a rubber raft (smugglers reportedly didn’t allow them to get treatment after a gas cylinder exploded before their departure in Libya) and reports of Muslim refugees tossing Christian refugees overboard.

What are European countries doing about the issue?

Sunday’s incident has prompted a wave of criticism against the E.U., with experts as well as national leaders across the continent accusing the E.U. of mishandling the issue of refugees crossing the Mediterranean. “This disaster confirms how urgent it is to restore a robust rescue-at-sea operation and establish credible legal avenues to reach Europe,” Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement. Heads of state stressed the need to tackle the root causes of human trafficking in countries like Libya, with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi calling it a “plague in our continent” and French President Francois Hollande urging the E.U. to provide “more boats, more over-flights and a more intense battle against people trafficking.”

The Triton program, Europe’s effort to rescue and rehabilitate migrants, is being slammed as inadequate, ineffective and underfunded in comparison to its predecessor, Italy’s Mare Nostrum program. Mare Nostrum, which reportedly had a budget of nearly $10 million compared to Triton’s $3.2 million, was shut down late last year amid claims that it encouraged more refugees to seek passage to Europe.

The issue will be discussed in Luxembourg on Monday when the E.U. Foreign Affairs Council meets, according to High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini.

“The world needs to react with the conviction with which it eliminated piracy off the coast of Somalia a few years ago,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing, advocating a reinstatement of a program on the scale of Mare Nostrum. “All of us, especially the E.U. and the world’s powers, can no longer sit on the sidelines watching while this tragedy unfolds in slow motion.”

What happens to the migrants after they arrive?

Every refugee is entitled to asylum in Europe under the Common European Asylum System, which sets out a framework for their protection and rehabilitation. However, several countries are unable to implement this framework effectively with the sudden and ever-increasing influx of illegal migrants. There have been allegations of mistreatment of asylum-seekers in the past, and measures to deal with the problem include a proposal to create offshore detention centers in so-called “third countries” like Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia. A large part of the effort is funded by the E.U.’s Asylum, Migration and Integration fund, which has set aside 3.137 billion euros for the period of 2014-2020.

Unfortunately, as this week’s events show, many perish before they can be even considered for asylum.

TIME Libya

Video Purports to Show ISIS Killing Ethiopian Christians in Libya

One day after group claims deadly suicide bombing in Afghanistan

(CAIRO) — Islamic State militants in Libya shot and beheaded groups of captive Ethiopian Christians, a video purportedly from the extremists showed Sunday. The attack widens the circle of nations affected by the group’s atrocities while showing its growth beyond a self-declared “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq.

The release of the 29-minute video comes a day after Afghanistan’s president blamed the extremists for a suicide attack in his country that killed at least 35 people — and underscores the chaos gripping Libya after its 2011 civil war and the killing of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

It also mirrored a film released in February showing militants beheading 21 captured Egyptian Christians on a Libyan beach, which immediately drew Egyptian airstrikes on the group’s suspected positions in Libya. Whether Ethiopia would — or could — respond with similar military force remains unclear.

Ethiopia long has drawn the anger of Islamic extremists over its military’s attacks on neighboring Somalia, whose population is almost entirely Muslim. While the militant in the video at one point said “Muslim blood that was shed under the hands of your religion is not cheap,” it did not specifically mention the Ethiopian government’s actions.

The video, released via militant social media accounts and websites, could not be independently verified by The Associated Press. However, it corresponded to other videos released by the Islamic State group and bore the symbol of its al-Furqan media arm.

The video starts with what it called a history of Christian-Muslim relations, followed by scenes of militants destroying churches, graves and icons. A masked fighter brandishing a pistol delivers a long statement, saying Christians must convert to Islam or pay a special tax prescribed by the Quran.

MORE: ISIS Claims Suicide Bombing in Afghanistan That Killed 35

It shows one group of captives, identified as Ethiopian Christians, purportedly held by an Islamic State affiliate in eastern Libya known as Barqa Province. It also shows another purportedly held by an affiliate in the southern Libyan calling itself the Fazzan Province. The video then switches between footage of the captives in the south being shot dead and the captives in the east being beheaded on a beach. It was not immediately possible to estimate how many captives were killed or confirm their identities.

In Ethiopia, government spokesman Redwan Hussein said officials were in contact with its embassy in Cairo to verify the video’s authenticity. Hussein said he believed those killed likely were Ethiopian migrants hoping to reach Europe. Libya has become a hub for migrants across Africa hoping to cross the Mediterranean to enter Europe for work and better lives.

“If this is confirmed, it will be a warning to people who wish to risk and travel to Europe though the dangerous route,” Hussein said.

Abba Kaletsidk Mulugeta, an official with the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church’s Patriarchate Office, told the AP he also believed the victims likely were migrants.

“I believe this is just another case of the IS group killing Christians in the name of Islam. Our fellow citizens have just been killed on a faith-based violence that is totally unacceptable. This is outrageous,” Mulugeta said. “No religion orders the killing of other people, even people from another religion.”

After the February killings of the Coptic Christians, Egypt’s military responded with airstrikes targeting the militant stronghold of Darna. It has not launched further strikes, though its president is trying to form a pan-Arab military force to respond to extremist threats in the region.

The Islamic State group, which grew out of al-Qaida’s former Iraqi affiliate, now holds about a third of Iraq and Syria in its self-declared caliphate. It’s called on Muslims across the world to join it. Its online videos and propaganda, including scenes of its mass killings and beheadings, have caught the attention of many extremists

Its influence has grown since it seized large areas of Iraq last summer. Insurgents in Egypt’s strategic Sinai Peninsula also have pledged to the group, while another purported affiliate in Yemen claimed a series of suicide bombings in March that killed at least 137 people. On Saturday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani blamed an affiliate in his country for an attack on a bank branch in the country’s east that killed 35 people and wounded 125. An affiliate also operates in Pakistan.

However, it remains unclear what kind of central command-and-control structure the Islamic State group operates.

“The Islamic State in Libya is still focused on this consolidation phase of announcing its presence through these very high-profile executions,” said Frederic Wehrey, a senior associate for the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “But they face some structural limits in terms of how much local support they can get because they haven’t captured real revenue streams.”

Meanwhile Sunday, the U.S.-led coalition said Kurdish forces recaptured 11 villages in Iraq’s Kirkuk province from the Islamic State group following days of intense clashes. The coalition said the area of about 25 square miles (65 square kilometers) was south of the city of Kirkuk.

The coalition also said Sunday that Iraqi forces had full control over the country’s Beiji oil refinery, the nation’s largest. Islamic State group fighters had been targeting it for days in attacks and briefly held a small portion of the sprawling complex.

In Anbar province, the extremists recently captured three villages near the city of Ramadi and remain locked in heavy clashes with Iraqi troops. More than 90,000 people have fled the militant’s advance there, a United Nations humanitarian agency said.

“Our top priority is delivering life-saving assistance to people who are fleeing — food, water and shelter are highest on the list of priorities,” said Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq. “Seeing people carrying what little they can and rushing for safety is heart-breaking.”

Iraqi troops backed by Shiite militias and U.S.-led airstrikes managed to dislodge the Islamic State group from the northern city of Tikrit earlier this month. But the troops have struggled against the militants in Anbar, which saw some of the heaviest fighting of the eight-year U.S. military occupation that ended in 2011.

___

Associated Press writers Joseph Krauss in Cairo, Elias Meseret in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Vivian Salama in Baghdad contributed to this report.

TIME Libya

Italian Fishing Boat Seized By Armed Men Off Coast of Libya

Seven crew members were also taken by gunmen who witnesses said were not from the Libyan military

MILAN — A Sicilian fishing cooperative says a boat with seven crew members has been taken by armed men 40 miles (65 kilometers) off Libya, and was being brought to the Libyan port of Misurata.

Cooperative spokesman Francesco Mezzapelle said port authorities were alerted early Friday by another Italian fishing boat in the area, and that the cooperative president was in touch with both Libyan authorities and the Italian foreign ministry. Mezzapelle said the armed men did not appear to be from the Libyan military.

The crew members were three Sicilians and four Tunisians. There were no reports of injuries.

Mezzapelle says there have been a dozen such seizures since 2005 when Libya asserted that its territorial waters extended more than 70 miles off shore — well beyond international agreements.

TIME On Our Radar

Kevin Frayer, Diana Markosian Win Chris Hondros Fund Awards

"Chris Hondros was the consummate photojournalist," says Kevin Frayer

When photojournalist Chris Hondros was killed in Libya four years ago, he left behind a legacy of award-winning images that continue to inspire photographers today. “It’s the kind of work that so many of our generation of photographers would aspire to do,” says Kevin Frayer, a Canadian photojournalist. “He was prolific in his excellence.”

Today, Frayer has won the Getty Images and Chris Hondros Fund Award, which comes with a $20,000 to support his documentary work.

Established a few months after its namesake’s death, the Chris Hondros Fund is designed to help advance the work of photojournalists who embrace Hondros’ legacy and vision. Frayer, who is based in China, will use the grant to continue his long term work in Asia, he tells TIME.

“Right off the bat, I would have to say it was one of the most significant phone calls I’ve received in my career,” he says of learning he had won the grant. “To win this kind of award is absolutely humbling and [I feel] honored. I admired Chris Hondros’ work and his courage. He was, for me, the consummate photojournalist, somebody that worked with an intense dedication and told stories in such a wonderful compassionate way.”

Until 18 months ago, Frayer worked as a chief photographer for the Associated Press. Today, he’s a freelance contributor for Getty Images, which, he says, allows him to go more in-depth on the issues he’s covering. “I felt that the cycle of news I was working on wasn’t necessarily [allowing me] to tell the stories I wanted to tell,” he explains. “You go to the breaking news because that’s what you’re assigned to do, and as soon as the violence ends you leave that story and, maybe, never return.”

Now, his approach is more anthropological and dedicated. “You have to keep going,” he says. “In Afghanistan, for example, we couldn’t embed with the Taliban, so we continually embedded with the NATO forces, because it’s better to see something than nothing at all. If there’s a story, you have to do something to get it.”

Of course, the $20,000 grant comes with the pressure of living up to Hondros’ name. “It will inspire me to try to do strong work in the name of the award,” says Frayer. “My goal would be to take every cent and to put it towards something that I would hope Chris Hondros would be proud of.”

 Chris Hondros Fund
Diana Markosian

The Chris Hondros Fund also awarded photographer Diana Markosian, who received the organization’s first Emerging Award. The Armenian-American photographer will received a $5,000 grant.

“I met Chris as a graduate student at Columbia when he came to speak about his work,” says Markosian. “His talk [had] a real impact on me. I was a wannabe photographer. I had this dream to see the world, and I had no desire to do things the conventional way – graduate, stay in New York, work my way up the corporate ladder. Chris encouraged me to find my own way.”

Markosian, who says she is slowly finding her voice as a photographer, will use the grant money to continue her current projects. “I want to create work that is personal, that speaks to people on an intimate level, and creates a sort of experience,” she says.

Kevin Frayer is a freelance photographer represented by Getty Images.

Diana Markosian is a freelance photographer.

TIME Italy

Survivors Tell Aid Group Some 400 Migrants Drowned Off Libya

A Red Cross volunteer carries a baby wrapped in a blanket after migrants disembarked at the Sicilian Porto Empedocle harbor, Italy, April 13, 2015
Calogero Montanalampo—AP A Red Cross volunteer carries a baby wrapped in a blanket after migrants disembarked at the Sicilian Porto Empedocle harbor, Italy, on April 13, 2015

More than 7,000 migrants have been plucked from the Mediterranean in the last four days

(ROME) — Survivors of a capsized migrant boat off Libya have told the aid group Save the Children that an estimated 400 people are believed to have drowned. Even before the survivors were interviewed, Italy’s Coast Guard said it assumed that there were many dead given the size of the ship and that nine bodies had been found.

The coast guard had helped rescue some 144 people on Monday and immediately launched an air and sea search operation in hopes of finding others. No other survivors or bodies have been recovered.

On Tuesday, Save the Children said its interviews with survivors who arrived in Reggio Calabria indicated there may have been 400 others who drowned.

The U.N. refugee agency said the toll was likely given the size of the ship.

The deaths, if confirmed, would add to the skyrocketing numbers of migrants lost at sea: The International Organization of Migration estimates that up to 3,072 migrants are believed to have died in the Mediterranean in 2014, compared to an estimate of 700 in 2013. But the IOM says even those estimates could be low. Overall, since the year 2000, IOM estimates that over 22,000 migrants have lost their lives trying to reach Europe.

Earlier Tuesday, the European Union’s top migration official said the EU must quickly adapt to the growing numbers of migrants trying to reach its shores, as new figures showed that more than 7,000 migrants have been plucked from the Mediterranean in the last four days.

Migrants on a Coast Guard dinghy boat arrive at the Sicilian Porto Empedocle harbor, Italy, Monday, …
“The unprecedented influx of migrants at our borders, and in particular refugees, is unfortunately the new norm and we will need to adjust our responses accordingly,” the EU’s commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, told lawmakers in Brussels.

More than 280,000 people entered the European Union illegally last year. Many came from Syria, Eritrea and Somalia and made the perilous sea journey from conflict-torn Libya.

European coast guards have been overwhelmed by the numbers. As the weather has begun to warm, even more people have been fleeing conflict and poverty for better lives in Europe.

Of the 7,000 migrants saved in the Mediterranean since Friday, “over 3,500 are still on board rescue vessels and being taken to Italy and so far, 11 bodies were recovered,” EU migration spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said.

Meanwhile the EU’s Frontex border agency said that people smugglers trying to recover a wooden boat that had been carrying migrants had fired shots into the air to warn away a coast guard vessel.

European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos speaks during a committee …
The incident on Monday happened some 60 nautical miles off the coast of Libya after an Italian tugboat and the coast guard ship came to the rescue of 250 migrants.

The coast guard vessel was already carrying 342 migrants from a previous rescue.

It’s at least the second incident of this kind, raising concern for the safety of rescue workers and migrants alike.

Late next month, Avramopoulos is expected to unveil a new EU strategy aimed at tackling the migrant wave.

TIME On Our Radar

Photojournalist Moises Saman Receives Guggenheim Fellowship

Photojournalist wins prestigious fellowship

Magnum photojournalist Moises Saman was about to step out to dinner in Barcelona last night when he heard some very pleasant news: he had just been awarded the prestigious 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship.

Awarded annually since 1925 “to further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions” the Guggenheim is one of the most prestigious awards of its kind.

Saman says he had long known of the Fellowship, but assumed it was geared towards topics such as “poetry and science,” he tells TIME. “I knew there’s a photography element but it tends to be fine art.”

Nevertheless, Moises submitted a photojournalism project on the Arab Spring—part of which is shown in this gallery. Shot from 2011 to the present day across Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Kurdistan, Saman says he “felt really strongly about this body of work and felt it was very relevant to the times.”

Saman plans to use the funds to continue the Arab Spring project. Next step? He’s going to Kurdistan in May.

Moises Saman is a Spanish-American member of Magnum Photos and winner of awards from World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year and the Overseas Press Club.

Myles Little is an associate photo editor at TIME.

TIME Libya

ISIS Allies Try to Cut off Libya’s Oil Revenue

A fighter from Misrata shouts to his comrades as they move to fight ISIS militants near Sirte March 15, 2015.
Goran Tomasevic—Reuters A fighter from Misrata shouts to his comrades as they move to fight ISIS militants near Sirte March 15, 2015.

The militants are trying to undermine opponents as the country descends further into chaos

A series of attacks by militants linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on Libya’s oilfields is threatening to further undermine chances of stability in a country gripped by a multi-sided armed conflict.

ISIS, the militant group that took control of parts of Syria and Iraq last year, has found footholds in Libya as a result of a power vacuum engendered by civil war. Now the group’s own attacks on the country’s crucial oil infrastructure are denying resources to its rivals and creating conditions that could help it expand.

“The Islamic State is trying to use the disunity of Libyans, and the fact that there is fighting going on between rival armed groups to target Libya’s only source of income, Libya’s national wealth represented by the oil facilities,” said Mohamed Eljarh a Libya-based fellow with the Atlantic Council think tank.

“By attacking the oil sector in Libya, they will ensure that any unity government will be deprived of much of the funds they need to buy the weapons they need to face this group.” he said.

The attacks forced the national oil company to shut down operations at 11 oilfields earlier in March. In one assault on the Ghani oilfield, the militants killed at least nine people and took several workers as hostages, including four Filipinos, an Austrian, a Bangladeshi, a Czech, a Ghanaian, and one unidentified person. Libya’s overall oil production dropped to a reported 325,000 barrels per day in January, down from 1.7 million per day before the 2011 uprising.

Oil, along with the central bank and other elements of state infrastructure, has also become a focus of conflict between the warring parties, who are divided into two broad camps aligned to two competing parliaments, one in the capital Tripoli and the other — internationally recognized — in Tobruk. Powerful militias from the city of Misrata recently sent some 3,000 men in a bid to take control of the oil port at Sidra, currently controlled by forces of former rebel leader Ibrahim Jathran.

ISIS-aligned militias have also emerged as a rogue factor in Libya’s larger political conflict in which two rival governments and their allied militias are locked in an ongoing battle for control. Neither of the two main political groupings has been able to strike a decisive blow against the other. Neither has been able to dislodge ISIS from its local bases.

Among those strongholds, the city of Sirte has emerged as a flashpoint in the current crisis. ISIS controls key neighborhoods in the city. Its artillery-mounted pickup trucks patrol the streets and its black flag is flying over a large convention center, according to Claudia Gazzini, a Libya-based analyst with the International Crisis Group.

Sirte and its environs is also where ISIS militants kidnapped at least 20 of the 21 Coptic Christians whose execution they announced in a graphic online video in February. The city is also thought to be the base for attacks on the oilfields in the desert to the south.

In one such raid in February, gunmen killed the guards on the perimeter of an oilfield, then rounded up the workers, lecturing them on the Islamic State’s notion of “true Islam,” according to officials who briefed Gazzini. The attackers threatened the facility’s manager: Tell no one of this for six hours, enough time to allow the attackers to escape. Then they left, taking everything they could: Cars, equipment, guns.

Subsequent attacks have unfolded in a similar style. In each raid, Gazzini says, “They’ve gone in, looted, and gone out.”

“These are targets of opportunity for them, given the proximity to Sirte. It’s a strategy of disruption,” said Frederic Wehrey, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “They’re trying to raise their stature through these spectacular attacks and increase visibility and attract recruits.”

The ISIS presence has been a source of mounting concern for the militias in nearby Misrata. On March 14, Misratan forces clashed with ISIS fighters in Sirte, reportedly killing 25 members of the local ISIS affiliate.

“The Misratan commanders told me we’re going to have to confront this threat eventually,” said Wehrey in an interview last week. “They were reluctant to go in with force because of tribal blowback, that this would trigger some kind of tribal feud.”

Meanwhile, the identity of the militants joining ISIS is a subject of dispute among Libya’s factions. Many in the broad camp allied with Tripoli assert that ISIS includes supporters of the former regime of Muammar Qaddafi, which was brought down in an armed, NATO-supported uprising in 2011.The ICG’s Gazzini says there is evidence to suggest that some Qaddafi loyalists may have joined forces with ISIS. Unlike some armed groups that take a hard line against members of the old regime, ISIS has reportedly projected a message in Libya that anyone is welcome to join, provided they pledge loyalty and accept the group’s doctrine.

“Maybe some are faking it, but also the IS rhetoric appeals to a group of former regime officials who somehow felt persecuted in these last few years,” says Gazzini. “The message Dashis [ISIS] might have been projecting out was that of acceptance as long as they repent for their sins.”

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