Juror’s Pick, Project Prize
“Jan Lieske’s work on displaced immigrants trapped in a cycle of indentured servitude on the Italian Mediterranean coast is a visually striking series on the subject of desperation. There is a palpable sense of anxiety and disorientation in the series, which is most notable in images of cluttered, makeshift bedrooms. An intangible feeling of loneliness lingers in all of the images and in the faces of those trapped in a cycle of seeming hopelessness. There is the sense that these people are not only neglected but forgotten, relegated to a place in life that is metaphorically symbolized in the photograph of the functional but broken stove.”
Dead End Rosarno
“We are suffering here.”
Rosarno is a small town in the province of Reggio Calabria on the Italian Mediterranean coast, well known for the production of citrus fruits, olive oil, and wines. On January 7, 2010, Rosarno also gained notoriety for racially motivated riots against African migrant workers when over a thousand of them were evacuated, almost over night, to other areas of the country. If refugees are granted asylum, they are left to fend for themselves, without any public support. Many of the recently evacuated refugees from Rosarno did not have any choice but to come back and once again seek employment, from the same people, ironically, who had chased them out some weeks earlier.
The living conditions are unspeakable. At the periphery, these workers endure abject poverty—no electricity, no drinking water, no medical care. Entirely on their own, they try to survive in an environment that has absolutely nothing in common with the European Dream but only strongly reminds them of situations from which they fled. Every morning at seven o’clock, they stand at the arterial roads for hours, desperately waiting and hoping for an offer of work—a one-day job on the plantations that pays no more than 25 euros. Whether or when they will get paid depends on the vagaries of the planters. The dream of a better, prosperous life disappeared long ago; Rosarno’s migrant workers are facing a dead-end Europe where they are neither able to go forward nor willing to turn back.