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Image by Emily Kassie. Turkey, 2016.
At least 19 Syrian child refugees have died in Turkish factories since 2013. Image by Emily Kassie. Turkey, 2016.

We've read about the harrowing journeys that nearly millions of refugees have made to Europe, risking their lives and investing their savings to cross the Mediterranean from Turkey or Africa. Less understood are the ways in which this river of humanity is changing every place that it touches. It's the greatest migration in recorded history, and it is transforming entire economies and societies in real time. This is a story about the CEOs, criminals, and small-time vultures who are making a killing off the refugee crisis.

Journalists Malia Politzer and Emily Kassie traveled to four key hotspots to explore the economic impact of the crisis. In Agadez, they discovered how the influx of migrant money is fueling a brand new smuggling hub in the middle of the desert in Niger. In Italy, they found that the migration flow has forged a powerful—and risky—new bond between Nigerian gangs and the Sicilian mafia, with disturbing implications for the politics of organized crime in Europe. In Turkey, they documented a booming market in Syrian child workers, and an entire shadow economy of Syrian refugee-entrepreneurs, whose businesses are essentially keeping their war-torn homeland afloat.

The journey ends in Berlin, where refugees are being monetized on an industrial scale. With stunning photography and video, this project shows readers an entirely new dimension of a phenomenon that is altering the course of the 21st century.

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