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Work grant edition 2018

Juan Medina

The last border


During the last 20 years, I have had the opportunity to photograph in different points of the southern border of Europe different situations in which tens of thousands of people were involved who were forced to risk their lives either crossing deserts, boarding flimsy boats to cross the ocean, jump fences covered with blades, swim across, or in many other ways to try to circumvent the border fence.

I have documented migratory movements in Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, the Canary Islands, Ceuta, Melilla, the Central Mediterranean and the southern coast of Spain. According to official data, in 2018 57,498 people arrived in Spain by sea and 6,800 people by land border (Ceuta and Melilla). The general vision we have of these arrivals are of people who come aboard a Maritime Rescue boat, in other cases waiting at the dock with blankets or tracksuits that are provided to them right there, either by the Red Cross or some other organization.

The jumps of the fences were also very visible, many times people perched on them or running through the streets of Ceuta and Melilla to the CETI. Once these people are on Spanish soil, in general, we do not know what happens to them, either on the docks because despite being presented as castaways (in the case of those who arrive by sea), for practical purposes they become detainees, since they cannot be spoken to while they are on the dock, much less if they are transferred to an internment center, which causes a cut in the information on what is happening. On the part of the media, what is already happening in European territory is being neglected, either because of the difficulty of establishing a contact or because it is considered that it loses informational strength.

Among those 64,298 people, many do not remain in Spain, seeking to reach the land border with France, either through Catalonia or the Basque Country; some to stay in France or continue to another European country. There are no official figures in this regard, but they are a good part of it, organizations that have attended some of those who are still on the road, such as the medical assistance clinic that Doctors of the World has in Bilbao, give a good account. They must not contact anyone in Spain and cross the border into France.

The figures of arrivals in Spain in this way are often used to use alarmist arguments and xenophobic overtones, but the reality is that we know how many people stay and how many are passing through, in any case, we know that they are in legal limbo and with an expulsion order in your pocket, which creates stress, and with very little margin to guarantee your rights. This situation leads them to a high degree of vulnerability.

The project I want to develop is based on photographing and interviewing people who are waiting for an opportunity to cross their last border to Europe in Morocco. People who have already crossed the border, but who have not reached the peninsula and remain in Ceuta and Melilla. To people who have reached the coast in the peninsula, in the south of Spain. To be able to know and document your journey through Spain towards the border with France, your passage, and what happens after this occurs, whether it is your stay there or, if it is also a country of passage, continue to your destination.

The objective is to know what motivates them to make the decision to go through all these places, what are their expectations, and what they find during this whole process, whether in Morocco, Spain, France, or any other country they are destined for. The first contact would be the second fortnight of March, where he would make the first trip to Morocco and one of the two Spanish enclaves in North Africa, Ceuta or Melilla. The decision of one or the other site will be made a few days before evaluating possible arrivals or possible transfers to the peninsula.


(Buenos Aires, 1963). Photographer for the Reuters agency based in Madrid. In recent years he has lent particular interest to covering African migration towards the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla, and also from home or transit countries such as Mali, Senegal, Mauritania and Morocco.

He is the recipient of a number of Awards, including the 3rd Prize in FotoPres 2003, 3rd Prize in the news photography category of the World Press Photo awards 2005, 1st Prize in FotoPres 2005, the International Photojournalism Prize from the city of Gijon 2005, Care International Prize 2005, 1st Prize and “Photo of the Year" from Lead Awards 2007, 3rd Prize in the Arts and Culture News category of the China International Press Photo Contest 2010, 3rd prize in the portrait category of the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar Contest 2014 and 1st Prize in the portrait category of the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar Contest 2018.

He has also participated in international events such as Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan, and has exhibited his work around Spain, as well as in Milan, Paris, Bamako, London, New York, Florence and Buenos Aires.