We are thrilled to announce that the groundbreaking cross-border investigation, The Border Graves Investigation,” has been honored with the ‘Special Award’ from the European Press Prize 2024. At the 2024 Awards ceremony in Prague, team members accepted the award from Cristian Lupsa, Chair of the Preparatory Committee.

Unbias the News, Hostwriter’s cross-border newsroom, along with The Border Graves Investigation team, a collective of eight freelance journalists from across Europe in collaboration with the outlets The Guardian (UK) , Süddeutsche Zeitung (Germany), Solomon (Greece), and more than ten outlets across Europe published this critical investigation last year, uncovering the fate of more than 1,000 migrants who died attempting to enter Europe. These individuals now lie in nameless graves, their identities lost and their stories untold. The investigation spans multiple countries, including Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta, Poland, Lithuania, France, and Croatia, and reveals a harrowing truth about the European Union’s migration policies.

The European Press Prize celebrates excellence and quality journalism produced by journalists from 46 countries in Europe, Belarus, and Russia. In addition to the Special Award, five different categories are awarded, each worth 10.000 euros.

Part of ‘The Border Graves Investigation Team’ at the Award Ceremony 2024: Gabriela Ramirez, Tina Xu, Barbara Matejčić, Daphne Tolis, Leah Pattem, Gabriele Cruciata and Eoghan Gilmartin

Each year, the judges highlight an area of exceptional excellence in European journalism through the Special Prize category. This award celebrates “journalism of particular excellence and journalism that defies all categories and disciplines.” Last year, the Special Prize was dedicated to Ukraine Reporting, featuring five shortlisted pieces. This year, the Prep Comittee and the judges unanimously decided to honor the cross-border team behind The Border Graves Investigation.

“The scale and brand of this project are the best in terms of what we celebrate in the European Press Prize in terms of how journalism is recorded, packaged, and distributed. It has courage. It has context and it has a lot of creativity”, said Cristian Lupsa during the Award Ceremony. He also added a conclusion from the judges on why The Border Graves Investigation should receive this year’s Special Award.

“Stories about migrants who die or disappeared in their attempts to reach the European Union have appeared in abundance in recent years. There have been good stories, but nothing as comprehensive and specific at the same time as this set of reports.”

European press prize judges

The Border Graves Investigation team confirmed the existence of 1,015 unmarked graves in 65 cemeteries over the past decade. Despite a 2021 European Parliament resolution urging a coordinated approach to identify bodies found at EU borders, there remains a significant legislative void. The Council of Europe has emphasized this gap, and the investigation highlights the dire need for comprehensive official data, which European and national governments have yet to provide.

This work involved over 60 interviews conducted in six languages, engaging with families from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Algeria, and Sri Lanka. These families shared the emotional and bureaucratic struggles they faced in searching for and burying their loved ones.

Unbias the News is proud to be part of this cross-border collaborative effort to bring forward this investigation and tell five stories that illustrate the human cost of the current border regime. These narratives highlight the relentless efforts of individuals in each country fighting to restore the deceased’s identity and dignity.

“The tragic loss of migrants attempting to reach Europe should spark policy changes and reforms to combat the exploitation of victims. Let’s remember that these individuals are not just statistics, but people with hopes and dreams seeking a better life. The European Union must step up and address the challenges faced by migrants.”

Mercy Abang, co-managing director of the Hostwriter Network, publisher of Unbias The News
Award Ceremony in Prague

The Special Prize from the European Press Prize recognizes the exceptional work of the Border Graves Investigation. It underscores the importance of journalism that transcends boundaries to uncover truths that are often left in the shadows. This investigation not only brings to light the failures of EU migration policies but also honors the memory of those who lost their lives in search of a better future.

“We are excited as a team to win this award, especially at a time when funding for journalism and media is dwindling. Our partners have played a crucial role in supporting our important work, and this award is a testament to the value of indie newsrooms. By recognizing our efforts, we hope to encourage more donors to support independent news outlets and view them as key news partners,” Abang adds. 

This year, the European Press Prize received almost 800 submissions from over 40 European countries.

For more details on the European Press Prize and all the winners and nominees for the five categories, visit the Prize’s website.

2024 Nominees European Press Prize

The Border Graves Investigation team: 

Tina Xu (Project Manager)

Gabriela Ramirez (Poland and Lithuania) Widowed by Europe’s borders

Barbara Matejčić (Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia) Unmarked monuments of EU’s shame in Croatia and Bosnia

Gabriele Cruciata (Italy) Missing data, missing souls in Italy 

Eoghan Gilmartin (Spain)

Leah Pattem (Spain)

Counting the invisible victims of Spain’s EU borders

Danai Maragoudaki (Greece) 

Daphne Tolis (Greece)

The unidentified: Unmarked refugee graves on the Greek borders

Edited by Tina Lee, Editor in Chief, Unbias the News.

This investigation was supported by JournalismFund Europe and Investigative Journalism For Europe (IJ4EU), the publication in Unbias the News, and its contribution to the investigation was made possible through additional support from the Limelight Foundation.