Federico Rios Escobar wins ICRC Humanitarian Visa d’or for photo essay on migrants crossing the Darién Gap

The ICRC’s Humanitarian Visa d’or was awarded unanimously on 21 June to Federico Rios Escobar, a Colombian photographer who freelances for many international media outlets. His photo essay, “Paths of desperate hope, crossing the Darién Gap”, shot between September 2022 and March 2023, vividly illustrates what life is like for migrants attempting to cross from South to North America.

"This prize is a recognition of my work. I'm very happy and proud that my photos can bear witness to the tragedies unfolding in the Darién Gap. Every year, thousands of migrants risk their lives crossing the jungle. This recognition is very important, because it will give these photos even more visibility. The stories that we tell, as photojournalists working on humanitarian issues, should spark discussion and reflection. That's what we're looking for: to make decision-makers and governments face up to their responsibilities and take concrete steps to help all these people."

Federico Rios Escobar

The Darién Gap

The very dense jungle in the Darién Region, which straddles the border between Colombia and Panama, is becoming busier each day with the tens of thousands of migrants from Latin America, and even as far away as Afghanistan, attempting to cross. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Panamanian government, a record 250,000 migrants and refugees crossed Panama in 2022 – nearly twice as many as the 133,000 who crossed in 2021 – having made the perilous journey through the jungle of the Darién Gap. Those crossing have fled war or poverty and are desperate to reach North America. Exhausted, carrying what little they have left, they face a treacherous journey towards hope.

Federico Rios Escobar's photo essay, "Paths of desperate hope, crossing the Darién Gap", was produced with Julie Turkewitz, the Andes bureau chief for The New York Times.  

The 13th edition of the ICRC's Humanitarian Visa d'Or award

Created in 2011, the Humanitarian Visa d'or is a photojournalism prize awarded once a year by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to a professional photojournalist who has covered a humanitarian issue related to armed conflict or other violence.

The 8,000-euro prize has two purposes: to recognize the work of a photojournalist covering an armed conflict or other situation of violence, and to promote the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law. Federico Rios Escobar will officially receive his award on 6 September in Perpignan during the 35th edition of the Visa pour l'Image, a prestigious international photojournalism festival. His work will be exhibited there from 2 to 17 September 2023, before moving on to Paris.

The jury

This year's jury was made up of:

  • Marie-Hélène Barberis, researcher and archivist
  • Abdulmonam Eassa, winner of the Humanitarian Visa d'or award in 2019
  • Claude Guibal, senior reporter, Radio France
  • Véronique Gaymard, journalist, RFI
  • Cyril Drouhet, photo director, Le Figaro
  • Isabelle de la Gasnerie, chief photo-editor, La Croix
  • Luc Mathieu, reporter, Libération
  • Rony Brauman, researcher at CRASH, Médecins sans frontières
  • Halimatou Amadou, head of communication for Africa, ICRC

 Previous editionS of the award