“You have to tell a story”: Emma Jane Kirby on reporting the migration crisis

by Emma Jane Kirby in conversation with Hettie O’Brien

Six years on from the start of the Syrian civil war, the migration crisis has developed a rich and powerful imagery: pictures of overcrowded rubber boats at sea, of Aleppo’s obliterated streets, and of makeshift settlements in Calais. Though the scale of the dislocation can be overwhelming, images and objects – like the picture of Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach – have helped awaken UK public opinion to the human cost of the crisis. As part of our new series on migration, Hettie O’Brien spoke to Emma Jane Kirby, an award winning foreign correspondent who has covered the European migration crisis for the BBC. Her recent book, The Optician of Lampedusa, blends fact and fictive elements to tell the real-life story of Carmine Menna, a local optician who found himself at the centre of the crisis when he rescued drowning migrants from the Mediterranean.