Michel Lozano | Shipwrecks of the night

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Hoping to find a better life in Europe, every year dozens of men, women and children die while tempting to cross the Strait of Gibraltar on board makeshift crafts, without anybody showing the slightest interest. Hardly twenty years ago, southern European countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece were exporting labor. The massive emigration was painful to families but beneficial for the countries’ economy. In the 1960s, the transfer of currencies of Spanish workers working abroad was, together with tourism, the first national resource. Today, these countries from southern Europe have become members of the EU and are part of the very select club of rich nations. They have reached a long-dreamt-of modernity and seem to have totally forgotten their past as lands of emigration as well as the humiliation and discrimination which their citizens have had to endure abroad. For the past ten years, thousands of emigrants from western Africa and from the Maghreb are fleeing misery, under-development, wars…

Risking their life, they cross deserts and a strait, and are the victims of dishonest smugglers, then end up as illegal immigrants exploited by slave traders of modern times who offer them illegal work, paying them a miserable amount of money, with no rights, no papers, no health care, no respect… It took me four years to make this photographic work and to better understand the route of suffering and fear which these men and women have to take. I’ve followed and shared their journey on both sides of the Strait of Gibraltar, mostly in the cities and around Tarifa, Tangiers and the two Spanish enclaves Ceuta and Melilla. For the thousands of candidates to the eldorado, the cities are the entry gates of illegal immigration to Europe.


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