During the summer of 2016, I photographed the desperate attempts of migrants from all over Africa and the Middle East to cross the Mediterranean. Embedded on board the MOAS [Migrant Offshore Aid Station] rescue vessel “Topaz Responder,” I saw thousands of migrants—of all ages and nationalities—try to cross the sea in vessels from Libya. Amongst those thousands of migrants were many children, some without parents.

These images are but a glimpse of the unfolding, and unabated, tragedy of the people desperately risking their lives—and those of their children—in search of a life free from persecution or poverty in Europe.

—Mathieu Willcocks

Editors’ Note: This work was recognized by the jury of the LensCulture Emerging Talent Awards 2016—don’t miss the work from all 50 of these outstanding talents!

If you’re moved by work on this topic, you may also like these features: The Refugee Crisis in Europe is an interview with photojournalist Sergey Ponomarev about his experience documenting the crisis; Saints, by Panos Kefalos, enters the private spaces of a refugee community in Athens, Greece; and Tourists vs. Refugees is a video project exploring the jarring juxtapositions in the Mediterranean today.