“Get Away from the Target”-Rescuing Migrants from the Libyan Coast Guard

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“There is nothing more difficult than feeling lost and astray in the middle of nowhere.” Those were the words of the captain of a Doctors Without Borders rescue ship on the Mediterranean last spring. The boat, with videographer Ed Ou of The Outlaw Ocean Project aboard, spent three weeks looking to save the lives of migrants crossing the sea from Africa to Europe, from misery to maybe the miracle of job, a bed, a meal. Finding the migrants wasn't hard. Rescuing them before they were captured by the Libyan Coast Guard was deeply challenging. The Libyans had guns and faster boats, and, it turned out, a sense of mission that traced itself to the immigration policies of the European Union.

The EU has for years partnered with Libya to solve its migrant crisis by giving the Libyan Coast Guard the task of capturing the desperate before they reach European shores. Ou, with a blend of daring and grace, documented the daily contest—the threats from the Coast Guard, the urgency to get rafts and lifejackets to those stranded, the fear that colored every lost moment—for those whom the Coast Guard could catch first would be returned to the notorious gulag of migrant jails in Libya.

To ensure this reporting was seen globally, we published the film in various versions with dozens of partners around the world, including Globonews in Brazil, NBC in the US, El Pais in Spain, and The Guardian in the UK.

  1. Emmy Award

    Outstanding Crime & Justice Coverage

    National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences

  2. Picture of the Year Award

    Documentary Journalism

    Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

  3. Best of Photojournalism

    Short Form & Documentary of the Year

    National Press Photographers Association

  4. North American Digital Media Award

    Use of Online Video

    World Associan of News Publishers


Rescuing Migrants at Sea

A photo-essay by Ed Ou & The Outlaw Ocean Project