Documentary and Portrait Photographer Mariusz Smiejek is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography.  From the project ‘Unaccompanied’.  To see Mariusz’s body of work, click on any image.


Sama, homeless 18 year old Gambian.
As an orphan, He lived with his uncle in Gambia, but when he was 14 years old, his uncle told him that he must go to Ahmadiyya, when Sama refused, his uncle said he would kill him, so he escaped from the village. His trip from Gambia to Italy lasted for a year and he came to Sicily as teenager in 2015. He used to live at the center for minors refugee. At the beginning of 2018 he was forced to leave the center for unaccompanied minors.


Lamin (18 years old)
In his room. He lives with 140 other people in the center for refugees in Palermo. He may stay here only for a few months.


Young migrants and refugee at the center for migrants in Palermo. Old hotel building is transformed to center for refugee where more than 100 people lives from several countries, 70% of them are 18-19 years old.


Ibra (18 years old) at the center for minors in Palermo, he share this apartment with other 6 people.
He left Guinea Bissau to find better life and any job to support his mum and younger brother after his dad died in car accident.
He told his mum that he is going for dance competition to the city nearby, otherwise she will not allow him to go. He is a dancer.
He arrived to Italy in November 2016.
“I will never forget that day to the rest of my life”
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), at least 239 migrants include three babies had died in two shipwrecks only in 48 hours.
“People on my boat have to hold babies above their heads to save them after boat start to sink. I saw so many dead bodies around me”


Unaccompanied minors turn homeless in Sicily after become adults.

More than 70,000 unaccompanied minors have arrived in Italy between 2011 and 2017 they are mostly from Eritrea, Egypt, Gambia and Somalia.

Most of them were 16 or 17 years old, and although a few were in reality older, the number of children and pre-adolescents under 15 grow from 698 in 2012 to 2,050 in 2015. A very small minority were girls, but they are also growing in number, from 440 to 1,832 over the period, and mostly from Nigeria and Eritrea, often victims of sexual violence while en route to Italy and threatened by prostitution networks in Europe. In Italy, a large numbers of institutions, will shelter the arriving children,  often orphans,  until they are 18-19 years old. Once they become adults and they get all the necessary documents allowing them to stay and work in the country, they have to start living on their own.

Only in Palermo, there are hundreds of young people in Centres for Unaccompanied Minors who face the same problem and each year a large number of them are forced to look after themselves without support from the government.


Young migrants and refugees at the center for refugee in Palermo, sitting in front of their room.


Ibra working in a restaurant kitchen, washing dishes and cleaning 6 days a week for 8-12 hrs a day for 500 euro per month.


Malick (18 years old)
His mum died when he was 8 years old, after that he stay with his dad and second wife.
7 years later his dad got ill and passed away. 6 months after Malick decided to escape form his uncle, farmer, who wants him to work for him for free at the farm, so he moved to Senegal.
At the beginning of 2017 he arrived in Italy, now he is living in the center and his agreement allow him to stay there only to the end of August 2019.
He is going to school and try to be involved in as many courses and trainings as possible to have a chance to find some work after August to survived in Italy.


Filli (19 years old) was 15 years old when left Gambia to help his mum after his dad, who was a farmer, died.
His trip from Gambia takes around one year through the African countries.
He was kidnapped and worked as a slave for more then one month in Libya, water and food was given to him once a day. He was beaten daily. He begged to be released, a few of his friends was shot or beaten to death.
At the beginning of March 2016 he finally left Libya and came to Italy on the boat with more than 120 people.
He used to work for more than 5 months in Chinese shop in center of Palermo, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for 100 Euro, but there is no more work now.
His refugee status will be expired this year.


Lamin (18 years old) escaped from his house after spending two weeks in the hospital, due to a beating from his step father. He came to Italy in February 2017, after his long trip through Africa and Mediterranean sea.
Libyan gang kidnapped him and released after one month of trying to take ransom from his family in Gambia.
After escaped fights between gangs, he found a job doing construction in Tripoli for 6 months.
He lives with 140 other people in the center for refugees in Palermo and time to time work in the garden nearby Palermo.


All images & text © Mariusz Smiejek



See also:

No Surrender

By Mariusz Smiejek



Mariusz’s Previous Contribution To Edge Of Humanity Magazine

With The Olive Harvest Season Over, West African Migrants Struggle To Survive In Sicily