Entry Title: "Asylum Seekers, MAlta."
Name: Albertina d'Urso , Italy
Category and Expertise: Photo Essay and Feature Story|Deeper Perspective, Professional


Entry Description: Malta is too small to assimilate them and, after all, they did not even want to come here. Most of them never heard of it until they came across it during their journey to a promised and unknown land named Europe. They are the thousands of refugees arriving from Sub-Saharan Africa. Their stories are all similar, they come countries where war and inhumane living conditions force them to flee in search of a better life. After a long and exhausting journey, crammed onto makeshift boats, they reach what for them is "salvation"…

Story: Malta is too small to assimilate them and, after all, they did not even want to come here. Most of them never heard of it until they came across it during their journey to a promised and unknown land named Europe. They are the thousands of refugees arriving from Sub-Saharan Africa. Their stories are all similar: for the most part, they come from Somalia, but also from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Congo… countries where war and inhumane living conditions force them to flee in search of a better life. After a long and exhausting journey, they arrive in Libya, where they are usually imprisoned for months. From there, they are crammed onto makeshift boats and try to reach what for them is "salvation". They usually arrive in Malta by chance; they are heading for Italy but something goes wrong and they are forced to ask the Maltese army for help. Once on dry land, they ask for asylum, but they then face up to 12 months in detention (18 months if their request is rejected). After this time, they can go to Open Centres, places where they can sleep and eat, but with the possibility of going out and finding accommodation and a job. After a year, they have to find a way of managing on their own. According to Fabrizio Ellul of UNHCR (the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), even if integration is still something of a pipe dream (in fact according to a survey, more than 50% of Maltese people believe that there are too many migrants and more than 40% said that they have never spoken to any of them), the phenomenon is not yet an emergency: "Since 2002, almost 20,000 have arrived in Malta, but only about 3000 of these have remained on the island. 78% received international protection and then a passport that allows them to travel with a three-month visa to any other country in the European Union; few of them, however, will return. It is said that on arrival in Malta, their fingerprints are taken badly on purpose… so when their visas expire, that is assuming they are ever found, it is impossible to go back to their country of entry." However, the Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, does not seem to be in agreement. In fact, he has just informed the European Union that if other member countries do not help Malta, his government will ignore conventions and adopt a policy of refused entry.

About the Artist:

Italian photographer Albertina d'Urso (Milan, 1976) studied at the ICP (International Center of Photography), at TPW (Toscana Photographic Workshops) and at the Agency VII. She is focused mainly in social issues and long term projects. Some of tham became succesful books and exhibitions: Bombayslum (2004): a work about people living in the suburbs of Mumbay that gave life to a book, published by Skirà, and an exhibition at “Libreria degli Atellani” in Milan. Lifezoom (2006): close-ups of trees printed on canvas and resembling paintings. The show took place in the beautiful "scuderie di Palazzo Ruspoli" in Rome, in "Bookshop & Caffetteria degli Atellani", in Milan and "La Tessitura-Concept Store" in Como. (Catalog published by Skirà). Spirit of Shekhawati (2008): an exhibition about this small region of India, forgotten by the economic boom. ("Cavedine Library", Trento; "Le Biciclette ristorante + Art Bar", Milan; “Bibli”, (Rome). In 2006 she participated to the "Kabul mission of the municipality of Milan", a work aimed at showing the consequences of the war in Afghanistan and the efforts of the mission ISAF 8 and the Italian NGOs to restore the situation, culminated with the "Milano-Kabul no stop" exhibition in the "Ottagono", in Arcade Vittorio Emanuele and with two collectives books that came out in 2007: "Respiro del Mondo 5 Afghanistan, Kabul", and "Km 5072, Milano-Kabul no stop". In 2007 she was selected for "Focus on Monferrato Masterclass" a project that consist in 12 young photographers, guided by Stanley Greene and Kadir van Lohuizen and assigned to document different sides of life in Piedmont and won the "Canon Young Photographers Award" with her project "Welcome to Compton", a reportage about gangs and violence in Los Angeles. In 2008 Albertina was featured in "Young Blood", the annual of Italian talents who have recived international prizes in the creative and research fields. She besides recived various recognitions at the "International Photography Awards" (2005, 2006, 2008); the “Prix de la Photographie Paris" (2006, 2008), the festival "Orvieto Fotografia" (2008), and had experiences as a photography teacher. Works and news can be seen in the website: www.albertinadurso.com.