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Work grant edition 2006

Yannis Kontos

Africa to Europe Migration


Many reasons lead people to migrate: violent conflicts and wars, natural disasters or social oppression, the desire for family reunification, or poverty. Whether we want it or not, migration is unavoidable because of solid and expansive forces in the economy transcending national borders.

Thousands of Africans try to make the journey to Europe each year as irregular migrants – risking people smugglers, deserts, sea crossings, and the possibility of being sent home, all for the dream of a better life. These photographs document the living conditions and every daily life struggle for survival of those Africans from Mauritania and Senegal who have emigrated to Spain or intend to leave Africa.

The Spanish and the Senegalese authorities increased joint police controls along the Senegalese coast to prevent the immigration of African nationals to the Canary Islands (Spain). Because it’s become more difficult to leave Senegal or Mauritania, those trying to emigrate take more risks while making a longer crossing. Their departure points are moving more and further away to escape the coast guard’s patrols.

The deaths have increased due to makeshift boats sinking. It is striking, however, that planes coming back to the city of Saint Louis transporting those who failed in their attempt are always full. But no barriers can stop the migration of poor people who are driven to leave by hunger and misery.


Yannis Kontos (Ioannina, Greece, 1971) has gained international recognition for his work in the photojournalism field. As a freelance photographer, he has covered the conflicts in Kosovo, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Sierra Leone, among others, as well as the most important world events. His works have been published in the main international media, and they have received, among others, the 2006 World Press Photo prize and the 2005 Fujifilm European Press Photographer prize.

He holds a Ph.D. degree in Documentary Photography (University of Wales), an MA degree in Photographic Journalism (University of Westminster), and BA degrees in Photography (Athens Technological Educational Institute) and Physical Education and Sports Science (University of Thessaloniki).