Migrant Offshore Aid Station - Mediterranean 2015
Destination Europe 2015
I was assigned to make a one week embed with the Migrant Offshore Aid Station rescue ship, ‘Phoenix’. MOAS was the first NGO created to respond to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean after European governments failed to make a strategic response, despite hundreds of migrants having lost their lives in multiple disasters at sea. My one-week assignment turned into eighteen months.
I was living in The Gambia at the time I was called for the assignment. Whilst there I would hear weekly of young Gambians who had vanished into the African night, many not even telling their families, they were taking the ‘back-way,’ as the irregular route to Europe via Libya is colloquially called. It was not long into the first mission I began to meet 'back-way' Gambians in distress at sea.
It was in the very first group of Gambians rescued that I met a young boy who looked vaguely familiar. We bantered for a few minutes in a mix of English and Mandinka. I soon found out his father, Sana worked for a friend of mine at his lodge in Makasutu, one Gambia's sacred forests. I had even photographed Sana as part of my long-term portrait project based around the forest. Over a stuttering Skype connection from the ship,I called Helen my wife, who was still in The Gambia, “Call Sana Colley at Makasutu “Why what's wrong?” “Just tell him I am with his son, Abdoulie, and he is safe. The team just pulled him off a sinking dinghy... ”
Published in Virginia Quarterly Review