The worsening migrant crisis in Europe has led to increased attention paid to the thousands of refugees and migrants making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea. For the past decade, Reuters photographer Darrin Zammit Lupi has been documenting their journeys to Malta, which receives the greatest percentage of migrants per population than other country in Europe:
When I started covering this story, most people arrived on boats carrying about 30 people. The trend has changed in recent years to larger vessels and dinghies, carrying anything between 100 and 400 migrants: men, women - many of them pregnant - and children. I’m amazed at the contrasts between people on different boats. Some arrive in a relatively good state of health, the men clean-shaven, indicating that they’ve possibly only been at sea for a couple of days at most. Others can barely stand on their own two feet, and have to be lifted ashore, often to waiting ambulances. When a boat has been at sea for several days, the debris left behind once the immigrants have disembarked is a nauseating sight: old water bottles, food packaging, empty fuel tanks, torn clothing, shoes, excrement, vomit.
His photos show capsized boats, sunburnt and damaged faces, and one woman who gave birth shortly after being rescued at sea. '''I was cold. Everybody was afraid. After some time, people started suffering hallucinations. Our skin was peeling away with the fuel and sea water. I was very sick…I kept thinking of my unborn child,'" she said. Another photo essays documents life for Afghan, Iranian, and Sudanese migrants living off food scraps and with no electricity in two abandoned factories in the economically-depressed port of Patras, Greece, as they try to find a way to Italy and the rest of Europe. One is twenty-six-year-old Azam from South Sudan, who has already had multiple failed attempts to stow away on ferries, but said: "'I want to go to northern Europe and find a decent job and live a good life...I'll never give up.'"