Sudan 2015 by Matthias Ziegler

Photographer Matthias Ziegler and journalist Michael Obert traveled to Sudan once again in 2015 to investigate the EU’s mantra of combating migrant smuggling.…

March 2024 ︎ Auf Deutsch lesen.

FROM Khartoum 1 by Matthias Ziegler

The two experienced journalists tried to penetrate Khartoum, a hub of the migration route, but any interview or portrait of insiders in the gigantic smuggling system could have been life-threatening for those who shared their knowledge.

FROM Khartoum 2 by Matthias Ziegler

In search of Yonas, whose sister had already climbed the EU’s sealed-off fortress, they drove through the capital Khartoum in a van covered in nets.

To do research in Sudan, you need permission from the Ministry of the Interior to move around freely. Obert’s journalistic work on the migration route spans a triad of three locations (Eritrea, Sudan and the Sinai Peninsula), which he researched from 2014 to 2017. As this was not the first time Ziegler and Obert had been in Sudan and were known for their investigative work, they were not granted permission.

The regime in Sudan has no interest in leaking details about the hierarchy and actors involved in this cruel system to the EU. This could stop the cash flow, which the regime uses to finance itself substantially.

FROM Khartoum 3 by Matthias Ziegler

As a consequence, extremely sensitive research was carried out under the radar of the secret service. The few insiders who agreed to divulge their paths or their activities on the migration route needed maximum protection. So a moving, darkened van with nets draped over the windows, where people got in and out to share their knowledge with the two journalists, became a safe place in the middle of Khartoum.

Matthias Ziegler and Michael Obert found Yonas, the missing brother. He was still on the run from the Horn of Africa to Germany. “One of the hardest things about this journey was simply getting on a plane with my passport after a few weeks and leaving Yonas and all the others behind on the route,” says Michael Obert in an conversation with Marie-Kristin Thiele from FROM.

FROM Khartoum 5 by Matthias Ziegler

Their report, published in ︎Süddeutsche Zeitung 01.2016 made it clear more than 8 years ago: when initiatives such as the Khartoum Process, the Libya deal or the current Tunisia agreement tend to arm criminal regimes instead of helping the people on the ground; when smuggling networks are used to destroy escape routes that are vital for survival; when the hypocritical war against smugglers is just a means of keeping people seeking protection away from the external borders, this continually leads to new conflicts and wars.

The Sudan 2015 edition by Matthias Ziegler shows Khartoum through a protective screen. On the one hand, it conceals the harsh reality of conflict-ridden Sudan: a situation that has once again put 25 million people in acute danger since 2023 because it blocks the route to the Mediterranean. On the other hand, the images show a place outside the control of the criminal regime, where information can be exchanged to initiate change.

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