Dennis Schüpf

TRAPPED IN PARADISE

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Biography

Dennis is a freelance documentary photographer and environmental justice researcher.
He is originally from a small village in southern Germany near the Black Forest. He has a degree in International Development Studies (M.A), specialising in distributive justice and environmental conflicts.

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TRAPPED IN PARADISE

A photographic attempt to grasp migration on the Canary Islands

“Ya no hay peces!” (There is no fish anymore), says Mohammed from Senegal who grew up in a fisher
family at the West coast. He has only been 14 years old when he took the dangerous Atlantic route in
nothing but a wooden boat to the unknown Canary Islands.

Driven by the economic impacts of the pandemic or pre-existing environmental crises, intensified by EU policies, more than 23 000 migrants reached the Spanish archipelago in 2020 in the hope of reaching European mainland. Last year similarly high numbers of arrivals were tracked. The migration route to the Canaries is one of the deadliest to Europe especially due to strong currents. In 2021, over 900 people are known to have died attempting the risky crossing, while more than 1000 others have potentially perished in so-called invisible shipwrecks.

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Refugee Camp – Las Raíces, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Mohammed (15) in front of Camp Las Raíces

Overwhelmed and not sufficiently supported by Spanish government, a major camp ironically called ‘Las Raíces’ (The Roots) was set up with several makeshift camps in front. The media is not allowed to enter. Some even claim the Canary Islands turned into Europe’s prison. The people that arrive in ‘Las Raíces’ are mainly from Morocco, Mali, Senegal, and other West African countries willing to do anything to leave the islands again.

Decades before, the camp was used by the military. It is located remotely but paradoxically close to the airport always within sight of the planes that would make the dream of the mainland so tangible.

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Ninguna persona es ilegal - No one is illegal

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Refugee Camp – Las Raíces, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

This series originates from several visits at the site where I had the chance to talk to some people stuck at the camp. It is also the visual attempt to witness how the economic activities of the EU, for example the overfishing at the African west coast, forces people to take new migration routes in the face of stuck transboundary politics.

Hamit (22) and his friends escaped from civil war and a deeply corrupted regime in Sierra Leone. After the death of his mother, nothing was left that  could have hold him from undertaking the journey of more than 3000km to the Canaries.

Among others, he has been transferred to the old barracks of Las Canteras. For two months he is stuck at the site, no papers and no phone as it dropped on the dangerous crossing. Stranded at the camp with no permission to move made him feel desperate. In this state he fainted several times injuring his head as he fell on the ground.

Nestled in the rural landscape of the outskirts of La Laguna, Las Canteras is a small village certainly overwhelmed and surprised by being placed right in the very core of the migration crisis. At the same time, the Canary Island show the highest unemployment rates throughout Europe. As the economy of the Archipelago depends to a great extent on tourism, the region has been more heavily impacted than other communities in Spain. There is little hope for staying with half of all young Canarians registered as looking for work.

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A supply vehicle leaving Camp Las Canteras, Tenerife.

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Hamit (22) in front of Camp Las Canteras.

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