In June 2018, Italian photographer Nicol Lanfranchi joined the last ship patrolling the Mediterranean to save refugees. Then, over many months, he tracked them down to their new homes
In early 2018 Italian-born photographer Nicol Lanfranchi was living in Berlin combining reportage work with commercial projects. He travelled the world for German media, producing stark images of the slow death of Brazilian rivers and the dignity of survivors of the Haiti earthquake.
But he began watching with growing horror as a crisis unfolded closer to home. In his native Italy he could see an increasingly rightwing government cracking down on the rescue ships that patrolled the Mediterranean, particularly off the coast of Libya, threatening fines of tens of thousands of euros for bringing ashore people who were risking their lives trying to reach Europe in flimsy boats. By June, when the countrys hardline interior minister Matteo Salvini began closing Italys ports to the rescue ships, 45,000 migrants had already crossed the Mediterranean that year, with more than 1,000 deaths. Salvinis crackdown worked. Ships began to vanish, until there was only one left: the Aquarius, run by Mdecins Sans Frontires (MSF) and SOS Mditerrane.
I was following this debacle from abroad, says Lanfranchi. It was really painful to see how these rescue crews were being criminalised by my own government.
Lanfranchi wanted to know more about the endemic brutality and violence in Libya that was making people take to the sea in desperation as their only way out.