An AP all-formats team delivers compelling coverage of migrants, many fleeing Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, making the risky Alps crossing into France.
With exclusive access, the AP team of John Leicester, Daniel Cole and Florent Bajrami drew the world’s attention to the plight of migrants trekking in perilous conditions across snow-covered Alps, seeking a better life.
Chief Paris correspondent Leicester identified the potentially powerful story back in October, when he learned that the first Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban takeover and other misery were starting to arrive in France by foot via the Alps after long, arduous journeys. He built contacts with villagers and organized a trip for the heavy snow season, when Alpine conditions — and dangers — are at their worst.
Leicester, freelance photographer Cole and Kosovo-based video journalist Bajrami spent days in the snowy terrain on the Italian and French sides of the border, getting to know the migrants, their journeys and struggles. At one point, as Cole accompanied migrants traversing a treacherous section with bad visibility, Leicester monitored their movements remotely and alerted them to the fact that they were coming up to a ravine.
The AP team was there as French volunteers guided the migrants to warmth and shelter. Leicester also gathered videos for use in AP’s coverage that Afghans, Iranians and Moroccans had recorded during their treks. The result: two Only on AP packages that take a respectful, professional look at the humans and humanity behind Europe’s migration debate, where the migrants’ voices have been increasingly drowned out by nationalist invective.
The online videos racked up more than 12,000 views, and Bajrami's broadcast videos were used at length by channels across Asia, Europe and the Mideast. Cole’s photos were used to illustrate customers' migrant coverage across Europe and beyond, and Leicester’s heart-rending stories drew attention around the world.
For a wrenching exposé of this new migrant route, and for humanizing the people behind the migration, Leicester, Cole and Bajrami earn AP’s Best of the Week — Second Winner.