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Story Publication logo February 25, 2020

AP Team Follows African Migrants Risking All to Reach Saudi Arabia

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In this July 25, 2019, photo, a Guatemalan man gets a plate of food at El Buen Pastor shelter for migrants in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico. Image by Gregory Bull. Mexico, 2019.
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In the last three years, Europe has erected border fences, closed ports, and paid Libya to warehouse...

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Ethiopian migrants are led by smugglers in Obock, Djibouti, July 14, 2019, prior to crossing the Bab el-Mandeb strait to Yemen. Image by AP Photo / Nariman El-Mofty. Djibouti, 2019.
Ethiopian migrants are led by smugglers in Obock, Djibouti, July 14, 2019, prior to crossing the Bab el-Mandeb strait to Yemen. Image by AP Photo / Nariman El-Mofty. Djibouti, 2019.

The AP took powerful, intimate reporting on the dangerous journey of Ethiopian migrants – crossing the sea to Yemen and then making their way to Saudi Arabia – and giving the package even more impact with stunning visual storytelling.

After Maggie Michael, Nariman El-Mofty and Maad al-Zekri followed Ethiopian migrants across Djibouti and Yemen, they spun an all-formats tale that hooked readers from the very start, weaving together the differing fates of two migrants – one who succeeded in his long walk to Saudi Arabia, the other who failed, left stranded and hopeless along the way.

The story – an installment of the occasional series, “Outsourcing Migrants” – demonstrated the scope of the AP’s reach, covering a little-noticed but rapidly growing route for migrants, exploring what motivates these men and women to risk their lives and making readers care about people to whom they would not otherwise have been introduced.

From the start, the team engaged with the digital storytelling desk: Producer Natalie Castañeda and newsperson Peter Hamlin simultaneously planned the visual elements from the rich video and photo material as the story came together. Hamlin created an audio presentation using the audio messages sent by one of the migrants along the route. Drone footage at the top of the story gave a powerful opening image of migrants running across a bleak landscape. 

Additionally, El-Mofty and Castañeda worked in concert to assemble a compelling photo essay that told the story the most vulnerable migrants – women and girls as young as 13. They endure hunger and exhaustion walking through deserts, the dangers of a sea crossing and, often, rape and torture at the hands of traffickers.

The impactful storytelling garnered more than 26,000 page views on AP mobile, with high engagement. The package showcased how AP’s formats can work seamlessly together, from reporting on the ground to digital storytelling, producing dazzling results.

For their stunningly beautiful work that took AP’s audience on the migrants’ journey from the sun-blasted wastelands of Djibouti to the shores of the Gulf of Aden and beyond, Michael, El-Mofty, al-Zekri, Castañeda and Hamlin win AP’s Best of the Week honors.

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