Mosa’ab El Shamy, North Africa photographer based in Rabat, Morocco, spent a week on assignment in Western Sahara, gaining exclusive access to a little-seen but vital piece of the migrant smuggling chain — boats that are built to order, then spirited from the remote desert sand to carry migrants to the Canary Islands. A European Union agency calls it “the most dangerous migratory route in the world.”
El Shamy was closely monitored by security agents in the disputed territory, but was able to slip into the desert in company with locals. There, he was introduced to a senior member of a smuggling network and was able to convince the smugglers that he would protect their anonymity while photographing them at work. His initiative and courage were rewarded with striking images and detailed reporting on the thriving trade of supplying boats for the perilous Atlantic migrant route.