Trafficked, detained and tortured: the treacherous journey through Libya to Europe

Source: Fri, 4 Nov 2016 12:15 PM
Author: Fondation Carmignac
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In a photo series laying bare an unfolding humanitarian crisis, Narciso Contreras documents the illegal migrants, refugees and asylum seekers at the mercy of militias who exploit them for financial gain in Libya. Held in detention centres for illegal migrants, they are subjected to inhumane conditions including overcrowding, lack of sanitation and vicious beatings. Instead of being a place of transit for migrants on their way to Europe, Libya has become a trafficking market where people are bought and sold on a daily basis.

They belong to a rising number of African migrants and asylum seekers risking their lives as they attempt the often fatal journey to reach Europe, north across land and then by sea. Contreras is the recipient of the 7th Carmignac Photojournalism Award.

His work on Libya is on show at the Hotel de l’Industrie in Paris from Oct. 25 to Nov. 13 and will be at the Saatchi Gallery in London from May 16 to June 16, 2017. A catalogue of the exhibition has been published by Fondation Carmignac and Skira Editio.

All images copyright Narciso Contreras for Fondation Carmignac.

  • Stateless persons of Malian origin collect their belongings from the rubble in the Tinkineien neighborhood of Awbari City. The area was shattered by heavy shelling prior to the ceasefire instigated just days before. Awbari, Libya.

  • A bullet-riddled, civilian-style truck covered in ISIL logos, which has been discarded on the road to Abugrein, in the west of Libya. Abugrein, Libya.

  • Illegal migrants from sub-Saharan Africa look through the window of a cell in the Garabuli Detention Centre, pleading for water, cigarettes, food and their release. Garabuli, Libya

  • Sub-Saharan illegal migrants and refugees are pictured begging for their release in one Surman detention centre. The centre's director (not pictured) stands in front of the cell, threatening to beat them with a stick if they do not calm down. The detainees freeze in panic. Surman, Libya.

  • Sub-Saharan illegal migrants and refugees reach through the window of a cell in the Garabuli Detention Centre, pleading for water, cigarettes, food and their release. Garabuli, Libya.

  • A vigilante group carries out surveillance operations on the Zawara shore, looking for the corpses of illegal migrants and refugees washed up by the tide during the night. Two hundred and twenty six bodies of illegal migrants, asylum seekers and refugees were washed up on the Zuwara and Sabratah shores the week after their boats sank in the Mediterranean. Twenty six pregnant women and one toddler were among the dead. Zawara, Libya, June 2016.

  • Surveillance operations carried out by NATO aircraft and the Libyan coastguard in the Mediterranean Sea looking for the boats of migrants. Libyan Sea.

  • Sub-Saharan illegal migrants and refugees on the Tajoura shore after being arrested in the Mediterranean Sea by the Libyan coastguard. Tajoura, Libya.

  • An illegal female migrant waits with a group of women to be transferred to another detention centre, after being sold by the militia group running the Surman detention camp in the west of Libya. Surman, Libya.

  • A group of sub-Saharan illegal migrants and refugees are crowded into one section of the Zawiyah Detention Centre, a warehouse-like facility holding as many as 2,000 detainees at any one time, making it the largest of its type on Libyan soil. The centre serves as a distribution facility in the human trafficking supply chain, and from here inmates are resold to other militias on the west coast of Libya. Zawiyah, Libya

  • Illegal female migrants queue in the prison yard as they are loaded onto buses to be transferred to another detention centre, after being sold by the militia group running the Surman detention camp in the west of Libya. Surman, Libya.

    In 2009, the Fondation Carmignac launched the Carmignac Photojournalism Award with the aim to support, each year, a photojournalist in undertaking a photographic and investigative assignment to explore an area of the world at the centre of geostrategic conflicts. The award provides the laureate selected by an international jury with €50,000 to fund time in the field, as well as a fully-financed monograph and a touring exhibition of the project.

    All photos are copyright of Narciso Contreras for the Fondation Carmignac

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