By Paula Bayarte
Lima, Oct 28 (EFE).- Seven years of immersing himself in the topic made Spanish-Iranian photographer Cesar Dezfuli one of the foremost journalistic authorities on migration and an advocate for the rights of migrants.
“Migration is not new. Migratory processes are natural processes that have been occurring since the origin of humanity, applicable to all the living beings of the world,” he told EFE at the Spanish Cultural Center in Lima, which is hosting an exhibit of photos from his Passengers project.
In August 2016, the Madrid native boarded one of the ships that rescue migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean in unsafe and overcrowded craft to photograph and interview each of 118 people picked up from a rubber boat adrift off the coast of Libya.
The experience inspired Dezfuli to keep track of those 118 individuals and create a chronicle of their journeys in pursuit of a better life.
The aim of the Passengers exhibit, which has been seen around the world, is to enable people to understand the phenomenon.
“The concept of migration has been tarnished when it does not always have to be something negative and problematic and it’s time to begin to reclaim the use of the word migration in a positive way, to begin to speak more broadly and more completely about what it implies,” Dezfuli said.
Accompanying the photos of the migrants is a map of Africa and Europe criss-crossed by a web of colored lines corresponding to the individual trajectories.
“The interesting thing is that all of them arrived in Europe on the same day at the same hour,” the photographer said. “The project allowed me to explain how the processes of integration function, the differences in the reception systems of the countries of Europe.”
Over the last seven years, he has been able to observe “how a person can integrate better in some countries than others.”
Dezfuli has also seen how migrants are scapegoated for political reasons.
“The migrants are victims of the political polarization that spans all of the places in the world,” he said.
One of the enormous photos in the exhibit of Amadul, who returns the visitor’s gaze with a look of profound exhaustion.
“Amadul reached Barcelona four years ago and he has documents. He secured international protection due to the deterioration of the situation in Mali. That will allow and enable a life of dignity from now on,” Dezfuli said.
Some of the 118 migrants work as itinerant farm laborers in Spain, traveling from region to region for the seasonal harvests. Others have started families in Italy and several are making lives for themselves in Germany.
Along with the happy endings are tragedies such as that of Abdul, who died in 2019 at a shelter for migrant youth in Italy.
“His family managed to repatriate his body to Guinea and I was there visiting his family at the start of this year. It seemed important that people can hear and understand these stories to empathize and understand the complexities of migration,” the photographer said. EFE pbc/dr