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Second finalist 2015

Santi Palacios

Thousand of lives at stake just to reach Europe


More than 600,000 people have arrived in Europe throughout 2015, fleeing from their countries of origin because of war, poverty and persecution for several reasons. Most of them have entered the European continent through the Greek islands.

Every day, thousands of people cross the 10 kilometers of sea which separate the Turkish coast from the north of the Greek island of Lesbos, where most refugees arrive, risking their lives on board unstable plastic boats. The cost of the passage is at least 1,100 Euros.

During September, October and November 2015, the number of deaths rose dramatically in this corner of the Aegean Sea. Due to the rain, wind and waves, the lack of rescue teams and, fundamentally, the unscrupulousness of Turkish traffickers and European politicians, who chose to ignore the drama, the beaches of the island filled with corpses.

Each afternoon and every night people drown while trying to make the crossing. Each new morning there appear new bodies on the shore. Every day the same screams of panic and hypothermia. Every day we take the same photos and we send them so that something may change, so that no one can say that they didn’t know.


Photojournalist and Editor in Chief of Sonda Internacional, a non-profit media outlet specializing in visual journalism on the climate crisis. Since the beginning of his career Santi has focused on migrations, conflicts and human ecology—these interests stemming from his training as a sociologist.

His work has been published in major magazines and newspapers worldwide, exhibited in dozens of cities, and it has received a number of national and international awards including a World Press Photo in 2017 and Spain’s National Photojournalism Award two years running. In 2016 he was part of the team nominated by the Associated Press for the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Photography; and in 2018 he was selected by the World Press Photo 6x6 Talent Program in Europe.

Santi often contributes to the magazine Revista 5W, the NGO, Open Arms, and is a guest lecturer at the EFTI International Photography School, among others. He was a frequent contributor to the Associated Press from 2014 to 2018, and he has also freelanced occasionally with other media in the past, including The New York Times, TIME Magazine, CNN and El País.