To many, the drowned refugees appear merely as constantly rising numbers on the pages of daily newspapers. Behind every number, however, lies a world suffering, and every one of these numbers is someone else’s mother or father, child, brother or sister.

These photographs and objects were found in the Mediterranean Sea on the bodies of refugees who drowned on April 18th, 2015, in the worst shipwreck in Italy’s history. Almost 800 people lost their lives. Italy is the first country in Europe to initiate a national program to identify missing migrants. The objects, which I photographed at the Labanof Institute in Milan, are used by Italian authorities as clues in their attempt to identify the drowned.

On the border of Europe lies a mass grave, the Mediterranean, which continues to claim more casualties.

—Anna Autio

Editor’s Note: Autio’s project was recognized by the jury of the LensCulture Portrait Awards 2017—don’t miss the work from all 44 of the outstanding, international talents! You can follow Autio’s work on her personal website. This series is a work in progress.

If you’d like to see more work on this and similar topics, we’d recommend these previous features: Papers, a series on the objects discarded along Europe’s refugee trail; The Stateless, Placeless Desert, Gohar Dashti’s project on the relationship between body and home in contemporary Iranian society; and Mediterranean Migration, Mathieu Willcocks’s remarkable series shot onboard a migrant rescue ship.