Amsterdam: A haunting black-and-white image of a refugee passing a baby under a barbed wire fence won the prestigious World Press Photo Award on Thursday, highlighting Europe's worst migrant crisis since World War II.
Snapped by Australian freelance photographer Warren Richardson, the picture titled Hope for a New Life captures the drama of one crossing on the Serbo-Hungarian border, as more than a million people made their way to Europe's shores in 2015 — nearly half of them fleeing Syria's brutal civil war.
Agence France-Presse scooped up four awards including first prize for Syrian-based Sameer Al-Doumy in the Spot News stories category, for his images taken just after air strikes ravaged the city of Douma near Damascus.
His AFP Syrian colleague Abd Doumany won second prize in the General News stories category for his harrowing depiction of children killed and wounded in similar strikes over Douma.
Syria's nearly five-year war has claimed more than 260,000 lives.
AFP's veteran lensman Roberto Schmidt won second prize, Spot News stories, for his dramatic shots of the deadly avalanche on Mount Everest triggered by last April's Nepal earthquake. Turkey-based Bulent Kilic won third prize in the same category for his pictures of Syrian refugees on the Turkish border.
Judges in this year's competition — which drew some 82,951 entries from 5,775 photographers from 128 countries — called Richardson's grainy picture, taken in the dead of night without a flash "incredibly powerful visually" and a "haunting image."
Budapest-based Richardson had camped with a group of migrants for five days on the Serbo-Hungarian border near Roszke when he snapped the group as they slipped through the boundary fence.
"We played cat-and-mouse with the police the whole night," Richardson said in a statement from the World Press Photo Awards.
"It was around three o'clock in the morning and you can't use a flash while police are trying to find these people, because I would just give them away," he said, adding he shot his image just using the light of the moon.
AFP photo director Francis Kohn, who chaired this year's jury in The Hague, said Richardson's picture "had such power because of its simplicity, especially the symbolism of the barbed wire."
"We thought it had almost everything in there to give a strong visual of what's happening with the refugees," Kohn said.
"It's incredibly powerful visually," added jury member and Al Jazeera America deputy photo editor Vaughn Wallace.