2001 Photo Contest, People in the News, 1st prize

Matias Costa

for Agence Vu

01 August, 2000

An estimated 500,000 people entered the European Union illegally in 2000. The short passage from Morocco across the Strait of Gibraltar to the Spanish coast was a frequently used route. Small, overladen open boats often sunk during the crossing; hundreds of people drowned in this way. Migrants who relied on illicit traffickers had to pay up to US $3,000 to be smuggled in to Spain, often crowded into the backs of trucks. Spain tightened its immigration laws during the year. The authorities revealed that in two years they had arrested 70,000 illegal foreigners, but some estimates are that three quarters of the people who reach Spain are not detained.

The so-called ‘western route’ of unauthorized migration by sea to Europe—the 15-kilometer crossing from Morocco to Algeciras in Spain—was the first to be used. Records of irregular crossings date back to the 1970s, but after 1999 the route became the nucleus of what would grow into a strong surge of migration. Since then, migrants have also followed other paths: the central route from North Africa and Albania to Italy, and the eastern route, mainly from Turkey to Greece.

About the photographer

Matias Costa

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