The pictures flickering in front of you as you enter The Curve gallery looks like a series of security screens that you might see in corporate lobbies or on police dramas. Draw closer and rather than seeing the usual traffic of one of two figures on the monitors you see people on the move en masse their bodies etched by thermal imaging.

Incoming is the latest work by conceptual documentary photographer and Deutsche Börse Photography Prize winner Richard Mosse which uses still images and an immersive multi-channel video installation to comment on the current refugee crisis unfolding across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

Row upon row of tents nestle within the confines of a football stadium. A community of refugees occupy pockets of space within a container park - some resting on bicycles or playing games or standing in conversation. In the foreground are trucks, to the left is a power station, behind them the sea - around them a thin ribbon of barbed wire. All of it rendered in exquisite detail like a lithograph.

Beyond these you enter a disorientating blackness where you can see people sitting in darkness and you put your bag down and join them, just as if you were arriving at an unknown destination. On the wall in front three screens narrate the journeys made by refugees and illegal migrants captured using cameras that record the biological trace of human life.

In collaboration with composer Ben Frost and cinematographer Trevor Tweeten, Richard has utilised powerful telephoto military technology that can detect the human body from a distance of more than 30km and accurately identify an individual from 6.3km, day or night.

At a time when, according to the UN, the world is experiencing the largest migration of people since World War II, with more than a million people fleeing to Europe by sea in 2015 – escaping war, climate change, persecution and poverty – with heartbreaking clarity Richard’s film presents a portrait of migrants made with a camera that sees as a missile sees. The film bears witness to significant chapters in recent world events, mediated through an advanced weapons-grade camera technology that reads only heat, and is blind to skin colour, capturing glowing bodies crossing dangerous waters, drowning at sea, or sleeping in makeshift camps, presenting a story of humans struggling against the elements for survival.

Richard comments: “I am European. I am complicit. I wanted to foreground this perspective in a way, to try to see refugees and illegal immigrants as our governments see them. I wanted to enter into that logic in order to create an image that reveals it. So I chose to represent these stories, really a journey or series of journeys, using an ambivalent and perhaps sinister new European weapons camera technology.

"The camera is intrusive of individual privacy, yet the imagery that this technology produces is so dehumanised – the person literally glows – that the medium anonymizes the subject in ways that are both insidious and humane. Working against the camera’s intended purpose, my collaborators and I listened carefully to the camera, to understand what it wanted to do — and then tried to reconcile that with these harsh, disparate, unpredictable and frequently tragic narratives of migration and displacement.”

Jane Alison, head of visual arts, Barbican, adds: “This is a haunting and humane portrait of the millions who are fleeing from wars and persecution. At least two years in the making, Mosse illuminates a tragedy that has unfolded without us seeming to have the means to prevent it, a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions that remains largely hidden and continues to ask questions of us all.”

The Curve, Barbican, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS, until April 23, 2017

Details: 0845 120 7550,