An abandoned hotel in the Sangho district of Zarzis. Until the terroristic attacks of 2015 the area hosted numerous tourists especially in the summer, but is now almost deserted.

Limbo is the first chapter of an ongoing project on migrant smuggling via land and sea in Africa through the Mediterranean. This chapter is an attempt to give voice to the stories of people who became victim of migrant smuggling in North Africa, especially Libya. It collects the experiences of five men, and of others connected to them, in Tunisia. Although these five men represent the very personal dimension of human trafficking and smuggling, from the original decision to leave home for Europe (the dream land) to the nightmare of the boat or land journey from Libya and the psychological repercussions of assisting victims, they also metaphorically tell the story of the millions of people trying to reach Europe today.


Limbo is not about migration, refugees or immigrants in Europe. It rather tells the story of men who were left behind, who failed to reach their destination, and who are now living in a condition of perpetual uncertainty. Ultimately, it is about those who have not arrived and know they probably never will. By reporting their stories collected through interviews, it also wishes to underline how “destination” has lost its geographic connotation for these men.


Hassun, Adama, Usman, Mouhamed, and Chams-eddine are all stuck in a place which is not their intended destination, whether physically or psychologically. The limbo they live through every day in Tunisia is not  due to their failure to reach Europe. It is rather their impossibility of crossing a line, of finding a geographic identity. For some of them it is also caused by having to deal with others’ pain everyday with no support from any institutionalized body.


Limbo originates from research conducted by Eileen Quinn, PhD student in human rights. The body of work that constitutes the contents of LIMBO is being made possible by the funding of the University of Palermo and the academic support of its Department of Human Rights.


Limbo is a self-published dummy book developed during “Open Spine”, a workshop led by Nico Baumgarten and Michela Palermo. It has been made possible by the support of  photography Application and Research Center (FUAM), Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul, Turkey.

Limbo has been shortlisted for Self Publish Riga 2016, Photobook Bristol Dummy and First Book Table 2016 and Kassel Dummy Award 2016.


Photography: Valentino Bellini

Text: Eileen Quinn