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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 born in Madrid in 1985, currently based in Barcelona and specialized in the international arena. His work has been published in main global newspapers and magazines and has been recognized with many awards including World Press Photo, POY, or the National Photojournalism Award, Spain, 2015, and 2016, among others. In 2018, he was selected as one of the six talents in Europe by the 6x6 program of the World Press Photo Foundation.

A sociologist by training and journalist by trade, his work focuses on migration, conflict, and environmental issues; being of special mention his long-term project on borders and migratory routes.

During the first wave and lockdown in Spain caused by the pandemic of COVID-19, Santi worked daily in nursing homes in the provinces of Barcelona and Girona accompanying emergency teams from the NGO Open Arms.