Europe

Aris Messinis: Lesbos migrant crisis photos win French award

Migrants crowded on a flimsy boat at sea Image copyright ARIS MESSINIS/ AFP
Image caption Mr Messinis stayed on Lesbos for months to photograph the crisis

A Greek photographer has won the Visa d'Or news photography prize for his coverage of the mass arrival of migrants on the island of Lesbos last year.

Aris Messinis worked for the French news agency AFP and has won prizes before for images taken in war zones.

He said he never thought he would cover this in his own country.

Notably, he has at times stepped out from behind the lens and helped the people he saw in difficulty.

One photograph that won him acclaim on social media was not taken by him but by a witness, who saw him carrying a refugee child to safety from the sea.

Image copyright RAYMOND ROIG/ AFP
Image caption Mr Messinis said he never thought he would cover this kind of story in his own country, Greece

Mr Messinis said there was no conflict of interest between photographing and rescuing and it was a "normal human reflex".

"We try to keep our distance, to be objective," he said.

"But sometimes it is good to lend a hand to somebody who needs a hand. It is a personal decision."

The work is on display in Perpignan in southern France.

The Visa d'Or for news is considered the most prestigious award handed out at the Visa Pour L'Image festival.

At one point, 7,000 migrants a day were arriving on Lesbos - and many who tried to make the journey died at sea.

In 2016 a deal between Turkey and the EU saw seaborne migrants being returned to Turkey in exchange for Syrian refugees who had applied through official channels.

Image copyright ARIS MESSINIS/ AFP
Image caption Pictures like this one underlined how unsafe the journey across the Aegean Sea was for many migrants
Image copyright ARIS MESSINIS/ ADP
Image caption More unusually, Mr Messinis documented how hills of lifejackets were left behind by migrants who had arrived in Lesbos
Image copyright ARIS MESSINIS/ AFP
Image caption After their boat sank in the Aegean, these Syrian refugees were rescued by Greek fishermen
Image copyright ARIS MESSINIS/ AFP
Image caption A bleak landscape was the backdrop for these people's tents on Lesbos
Image copyright ARIS MESSINIS/ AFP
Image caption The apprehension in this man's eyes is an example of the emotion that brings Mr Messinis's news photography to life
Image copyright ARIS MESSINIS/ AFP
Image caption This woman had just arrived from Turkey
Image copyright ARIS MESSINIS/ AFP
Image caption At least six children died on this day in December 2015, when the boat they were in capsized
Image copyright ARIS MESSINIS/ AFP
Image caption He captured this peaceful moment when migrants slept under the stars on the Greek island

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.