Destination Europe - Embedded with Migrant Offshore Aid Station
For the past two years (2015-16), I was embedded with the first search and rescue NGO, MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) to operate rescue ships, specifically to save the lives of migrants and refugees attempting to cross the Mediterranean and Aegean seas.
Prior to working with MOAS, I was based in The Gambia, West Africa, 2013-15. During that time rarely a day went by without hearing about someone who had left, or who had died at sea trying, to take 'the back way' - as the illegal route to Europe is colloquially called.
With MOAS I was assigned to document their lifesaving missions off the coast of Libya and in the Aegean. Initially, it was 'just an assignment, but quite soon we were rescuing not only Syrians, Somalis, and Nigerians, fleeing conflict, but many Gambians escaping a dictatorship and grinding poverty. My work quickly began to take on an added role when, in the first group of Gambians we rescued, I met 18-year-old Sana Colley, the son of a friend of mine back in the Gambia. These close connections with rescued Gambians continued to happen. Whenever possible I would call their relatives back in The Gambia, from onboard the rescue ship, to let them know their loved ones were now safe. My initial embed was for three weeks, but I was soon emotionally invested in the story and I stayed on to make multiple sea missions over the next two years. I am now focusing my work on the effects of mass migration in source countries, including The Gambia and the host countries.