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Juan Medina

Life and Death in the Mediterranean


Between mid-July and the end of August 2018, the Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms was the only organisation able to rescue migrants fleeing Libya on flimsy boats and sailing across the Mediterranean. All the other rescue ships operating in the zone had been retained in Italian and Maltese ports. One of the operations this summer included the rescue of Josepha, a Cameroonian woman abandoned in a half-submerged inflatable boat in the middle of the sea. When she was rescued, Josepha was on the brink of death. She was found beside the bodies of a woman and a four-year old boy. Some days later, an inflatable boat with 87 people aboard was also rescued 80 miles off the coast of Libya, and its occupants taken to the port of Algeciras.

Thousands of people have perished in recent decades, forced to migrate so perilously both by laws restricting the movement of people and the lack of safe routes. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean to reach the Canary Islands has been deadly since the late 1990s. Crossing the Gibraltar Strait was also deadly, as is crossing the high fences of Ceuta and Melilla, confronting the border patrols – be they on the Moroccan and or the Spanish side – or trying to get through the Eurotunnel. The Mediterranean Sea has become a huge cemetery. There are people who have spent years living in the tremendous void on both sides of the border, in the woods around our cities, in pain-filled, legal limbo territories. There are families that will never know the whereabouts of their loved ones. There are unmarked graves and lives permanently on standby.


(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.