2023 Photo Contest, Europe, Open Format



Cesar Dezfuli

for De Volkskrant

On 1 August 2016, a boat bound for Italy carrying 118 people was found drifting off the coast of Libya. It was one of many boats that attempted the crossing that year, one small part of a larger wave of migration from Africa to Europe that is usually reported in European news media as a humanitarian crisis represented in abstract figures. And while the numbers are staggering -- according to the United Nations Refugee Agency in 2016 over 300,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Europe and 3,211 were reported dead or missing attempting to reach Europe -- the story is incomplete. Who are the individuals behind those numbers and what happens to them after their arrival in Europe? 

The Passengers project, presented as a multimedia website for De Volkskrant, highlights several personal stories from the people who were on that boat in 2016 as they seek to establish new lives across the continent. Their experiences vary greatly: some find a sense of place, some a provisional home, and others are still adrift, questioning their decision to leave. Common to each story is the way they go beyond the numbers, depicting deeply individual trajectories and diverse personal struggles. 

Cesar Dezfuli is a photojournalist who has been working on the European migrant crisis and in particular the Mediterranean migratory route since 2016. Born in Madrid as a son of a migrant, he has a special relationship to the issue, showcased in the special sensitivity of his portrait work.

Text: Maartje Bakker 
Design: Titus Knegtel 
Editing: Gabriel Eisenmeier
Code: Martijn Eerens

Experience the interactive website.

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Cesar Dezfuli
About the photographer

Cesar Dezfuli (b. 1991), born in Madrid, Spain, is a journalist and documentary photographer whose work often explores themes related to migration, identity, and human rights.  Self-taught in photography and having learned the profession as a journalist in various newsrooms, Dezfuli’s assignments and pers...

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Jury comment

This project could have stopped at its strong portraits, but instead the photographer followed the participants across borders to tell a thorough and dignified story about their migration journey. The project was focused and made excellent choices about what parts of the story to follow in order to bring humanity to a group of people who are often othered across Europe and in mainstream media. The jury was impressed by the phenomenal web presentation and strong photography that spans from the men's arrival in Italy to their settlement in different countries.