Isle landers – Darrin Zammit Lupi documents the lives of asylum seekers over 10 years

12 May 2015

Young would-be immigrant sits on deck of Armed Forces of Malta patrol boat at Haywharf in Valletta's Marsamxett Harbour

Isle Landers is a photographic project ten years in the making by award-winning photojournalist Darrin Zammit Lupi of Times of Malta and Reuters, documenting the lives of asylum seekers and migrants from North Africa and Syria, throughout and after their journey across the Mediterranean Sea. Since 2002, more than 19,000 individuals have reached Malta by crossing the Mediterranean on rickety vessels. Many others were much less fortunate.

During the last decade, thousands of men, women and children have lost their lives as their rickety vessels succumbed to the sea. To date, in 2014 alone, more than 3,000 people have perished in the Mediterranean, victims of a cynical smuggling and trafficking industry that continues to exploit desperate people on the move. In Darrin’s words: “Untold hundreds have died attempting to make the crossing – the central Mediterranean has become their graveyard.”

Wider Image: Isle Landers

Around 5,000 immigrants remain on the island, in detention centers, open centers and in the community. Some face up to 18 months in detention, locked behind bars without standing trial, fighting numbing boredom. The refugees claim that their intention was never to arrive in Malta, but rather to go to Italy where they could move on within the European mainland. As a result, they show little interest in integrating in the community.

The project captures the journey of the refugees who arrive on the island, beginning with their rescues far out at sea, their arrival on Malta, their life in the detention camps, through to their departure from Malta to be permanently resettled in the U.S. and continental Europe.

Armed Forces of Malta marines toss bottles of water to a group of illegal immigrants in southwest Malta

Speaking on the importance of sharing with the world these immigrants’ suffering and strength, Darrin, who is originally from Malta, said:

“When I decided I wanted to become a professional photojournalist, I dreamt of travelling abroad to follow big stories. I still went abroad, but I soon realized that the biggest story of all was in my own backyard. It is a story the world should know about.”

A hardback, full-color book has been produced of the work, with a foreword by Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.  A preview video of the book can be viewed here.

Learn more about the Islelanders project, including multimedia content on the Wider Image (Link below) or on his  website.