Correspondent / behind the news

A journey to the unknown on the Balkan migrant route (2)

Sep 5 2015


A family crawls under the Hungarian-Serbian border fence near Roszke on August 27, 2015 (AFP Photo / Attila Kisbenedek)

(AFP Photo / Attila Kisbenedek)


"Since the beginning of 2015, more than 350,000 people fleeing war and misery have reached Europe in risky, sometimes deadly journeys on inflatable boats", writes AFP reporter Serene Assir. "They set sail from Turkey's shores for Greece and from chaos-ridden Libya for Italy. Most are Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans, desperate to restart their lives in safety".

"But they face a journey plagued with obstacles, smugglers and hustlers, long waits in the sun and short nights in the cold before they get there. They also face many fears and exorbitant costs, which they cover with money borrowed from family or from having sold their homes."

"After covering the refugees' ordeal on the Greek islands, AFP has sent a team of three journalists on the Balkan migrant route to follow the continuation of their journey to an all too uncertain future."

"This is a diary with notes from the trip from Greece through Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary. Our plan is to reach Germany with the migrants."

(This chapter starts on the 4th day of our journey, at the Serbia-Hungary border. Scroll down to find the previous chapter, from Greece to Belgrade)


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A starting point for refugees' dreams... and nightmares

Sep 4 2015


A woman carries her baby as she boards a dinghy to reach the Greek Island of Kos from Turkish side Bodrum early on August 20, 2015 (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)

(AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)


"Usually in summer, Bodrum is known as a glitzy destination for Turkish celebrities and moneyed Istanbulites, its upmarket nightclubs and golden sands earning it the moniker of the Turkish Saint Tropez", writes AFP reporter Fulya Özerkan. "But this year, with the summer holiday season in full swing, the Bodrum peninsular has become a launch point for refugees making the open boat journey from Turkey to the EU and the Greek island of Kos, tantalisingly visible to the south".

"Some will make it to Greece to have a chance of forging a new life in the European Union. But, for others, the shiny resort will turn into a trap they cannot leave".

"And several won't make it out alive".


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A journey to the unknown on the Balkan migrant route (1)

Sep 4 2015


Syrian refugees and migrants along a railway line as they try to cross from Serbia into Hungary near Horgos on September 1, 2015 (AFP Photo / Aris Messinis)

(AFP Photo / Aris Messinis)


"Since the beginning of 2015, more than 350,000 people fleeing war and misery have reached Europe in risky, sometimes deadly journeys on inflatable boats", writes AFP reporter Serene Assir. "They set sail from Turkey's shores for Greece and from chaos-ridden Libya for Italy. Most are Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans, desperate to restart their lives in safety".

"But they face a journey plagued with obstacles, smugglers and hustlers, long waits in the sun and short nights in the cold before they get there. They also face many fears and exorbitant costs, which they cover with money borrowed from family or from having sold their homes."

"After covering the refugees' ordeal on the Greek islands, AFP has sent a team of three journalists on the Balkan migrant route to follow the continuation of their journey to an all too uncertain future."

"This is a diary with notes from the trip from Greece through Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary. Our plan is to reach Germany with the migrants."


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A boy, a soldier – and a near catastrophe

Aug 30 2015


An Israeli soldier controls a Palestinian boy during clashes in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on August 28, 2015 (AFP Photo / Abbas Momani)

(AFP Photo / Abbas Momani)


"The story is known territory, one that's been covered thousands of times", says photographer Abbas Momani. "But this time it is different and disconcerting, even for someone who has been on it for so many years. Every Friday, after the main weekly Muslim prayers, there are demonstrations in Palestinian villages in the occupied West Bank against Israeli settlements. And it's always the same scenario. Dozens of Palestinian, foreign and Israeli activists march from the village toward areas where Israel is building more settlements."

"But on this particular Friday, the rules appear to have changed".


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‘ The lucky ones ’

Aug 28 2015


Migrants check their mobile phones on a beach after reaching the Greek island of Kos on August 12, 2015 (AFP Photo / Angelos Tzortzinis)

(AFP Photo / Angelos Tzortzinis)


"It’s 4:00 am, stars fill the velvet night sky and the Aegean Sea is perfectly still", writes AFP reporter Serene Assir. "A few journalists gather at the beach in Greece’s resort island Kos, waiting in silence on an unlikely frontline of Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II. Today, like every other day, scores of refugees and migrants fleeing war and misery will reach the shore on inflatable boats, dreaming of a better life in Europe."

“Greece? Turkey? Where am I?” pants a man in his forties as he clambers out of the dinghy, tearing off his bright orange life vest. “You’re in Greece,” I reply. Overcome with emotion, he kneels down on the sand to pray, grateful that he has made it to Europe alive."


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Remembering New Orleans chaos, 10 years after Katrina

Aug 27 2015


A baby is passed above the crowd as people wait to leave the Superdome in New Orleans on September 1st, 2005 (AFP Photo / James Nielsen)

(AFP Photo / James Nielsen)


"Ten years ago, my New Orleans hotel shook like a speeding freight train", writes AFP journalist Mira Oberman. "Hurricane Katrina's deadly winds tore up roofs, yanked trees from the ground, and pushed towering walls of seawater miles past the coast".

"I am still haunted by what I saw as the Big Easy collapsed into chaos."


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A summer of fire in Sarajevo

Aug 11 2015


A journalist (R) and a passer-by rescue a badly injured bus driver after his coach was hit by a mortar in the center of Sarajevo on June 15, 1995 (AFP Photo / Anja Niedringhaus)

(AFP Photo / Anja Niedringhaus)


"June 1995: summer was just beginning in Paris when I was called over to the editor-in-chief's desk", writes AFP reporter Dominique Chabrol. "AFP was urgently looking for someone to run the bureau until September in war-ravaged, besieged Sarajevo".

"Naturally I accepted, though I knew the mission would be tough".


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Long march to the scaffold

Aug 8 2015


Pakistani Kashmiri Makhni Begum (L), the mother of convicted murderer Shafqat Hussain, reacts with her daughter (R) after Shafqat's execution in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir on August 4, 2015 (AFP Photo / Sajjad Qayyum)

(AFP Photo / Sajjad Qayyum)


"Shafqat Hussain was hanged on Tuesday morning before dawn prayers after languishing for a decade on death row", writes AFP correspondent in Pakistan Guillaume Lavallée. "His name probably means nothing to you. Or not very much. And yet his death was intertwined with a tragedy that the world claimed to share with Pakistan: the Peshawar massacre."


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Six months in India : my best-of video

Aug 7 2015


An Indian woman's face is smeared with colored powder during celebrations of the Holi festival in the Sivasagar district of northeastern Assam state on March 6, 2015 (AFP PHOTO)

(AFP Photo)


"In February 2015 I moved to New Delhi to become AFP’s South Asia video coordinator", writes journalist Agnès Bun. "While I had travelled to the region before and did my homework after I got the job, I soon realized that I would have to expect the unexpected. All these moments, all these faces, do not always find their place in a news agency’s video output. That is why I wanted to gather them in a personal video, in a tribute to a unique and fascinating country that I have barely started to explore and which reminds me every minute that there are still so many brave, resigned or mischievious smiles left to be captured and shared."


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Dreams crushed by a beast

Jul 28 2015

A migrant runs to catch a train in the Chacamax community, Chiapas State, Mexico, on June 21, 2015 (AFP PHOTO/ALFREDO ESTRELLA)

(AFP Photo / Alfredo Estrella)


"It is 35 degrees out, and the humidity is close to 100 percent. We are tracking a freight train known as “La Bestia” (The Beast), as it rumbles from the southern border of Mexico towards the United States," writes Daphné Lemelin. "This train is part of the history of migration. Hundreds of thousands have ridden it in pursuit of their American dream. Many have been attacked, robbed, mutilated or even killed in the process."

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A rail ticket to Europe

Jul 22 2015

The baby of Syrian migrants sleeps in the waiting room of the train station of the southern Serbian town of Presevo, near the border with Macedonia on July 16, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / DIMITAR DILKOFF)

(AFP Photo / Dimitar Dilkoff)


"Early this month my work took me from Sofia to the far east of Bosnia for the anniversary of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre," writes the photographer Dimitar Dilkoff. "Before heading home I took the chance to stop in Serbia and see for myself the migration of hundreds of people heading north towards the European Union."

"Most of these migrants come from Muslim countries and many in the Balkans say they are terrorists. That, in any event, is the fantasy, what people imagine from afar. Because when you see these people it is plain – to me anyway – that they are just ordinary families making a long and difficult journey."

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The long wait in Vienna

Jul 15 2015

A worker brings compact air conditioners to the Palais Coburg Hotel, where the Iran nuclear talks meetings are being held, in Vienna, Austria on July 7, 2015 ( AFP PHOTO / JOE KLAMAR)

(AFP Photo / Joe Klamar)


"''You're still here?' It’s a sign you’ve been away a long time, when even the hotel receptionist is surprised to see you at breakfast," writes Helen Percival as she wraps up her coverage of the marathon Iran nuclear talks in Vienna. "That was nearly two weeks after I arrived, and several days before the talks concluded with a deal more than a decade in the making. But of course we didn’t know that at the time."

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Whipped by the sharia police

Jul 13 2015

An Acehnese woman convicted for 'immoral acts' reacts after being lashed by a hooded local government officer during a public caning at a square in Banda Aceh, Aceh province, on June 12, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / Chaideer MAHYUDDIN)

(AFP Photo / Chaideer Mayhuddin)


"It's not clear if the caning itself was responsible for the young woman collapsing, or the trauma of being punished so publicly before an enormous crowd," writes Nurdin Hasan, an AFP correspondent in Aceh, the only province in Indonesia allowed to implement Islamic sharia law, where public canings for "immoral acts" have been on the rise.

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Nightmares and miracles in Srebrenica

Jul 11 2015

An elderly Muslim couple are treated for injuries inflicted by Serb forces as they fled the east Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica. The man on the right died shortly afterwards. (AFP PHOTO/Odd ANDERSEN)

"It’s the summer of 1995. I am on a reporting assignment in Croatia when I get a call from AFP’s chief editors. Can I go to Bosnia? Srebrenica has just fallen to Serb forces," writes Nadège Puljak, who covered the influx of refugees in the nearby town of Tuzla, alongside the AFP photographer Odd Andersen. "Of course, I answer yes."

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Returning to Gaza

Jul 9 2015

A combination of pictures shows (top) destroyed buildings in the northern district of Beit Hanun in the Gaza Strip on July 26, 2014, and the same place (bottom) on July 3, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED ABED)

(AFP Photo / Mohammed Abed)


"The 50-day war between Israel and Hamas had just begun when I entered Gaza on July 10, 2014," writes the AFP video journalist Andrea Bernardi. "A year later I find myself back at the iron gates leading to the Erez border crossing. Everything is the same. And everything is different."

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Patience an acquired virtue at Iran talks

Jul 8 2015

Journalists gather outside the Palais Coburg Hotel where the Iran nuclear talks meetings are being held in Vienna, Austria on July 2, 2015. (AFP PHOTO / JOE KLAMAR)

(AFP Photo / Joe Klamar)

"In the frenetic, 24-hour news cycle world of instant messaging, Tweets, Snapchats and texts, patience has almost become an outmoded, lost virtue," writes AFP's Jo Biddle. "But for 12 days now, more than 500 accredited journalists gathered in Vienna for the last stages of the talks to curb Iran's nuclear programme have become experts in killing time."

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The crying man

Jul 7 2015

A July 3, 2015 photograph shows Greek pensioner Giorgos Chatzifotiadis crying outside a national bank branch in Thessaloniki (AFP PHOTO /SAKIS MITROLIDIS)

(AFP Photo / Sakis Mitrolidis)


"Suddenly a man emerged from the bank yelling and gesturing, holding in his hand a savings book and his ID card," writes the AFP photographer Sakis Mitrolidis, who took the viral picture of a Greek pensioner weeping on the street. "Immediately I picked up my camera and started shooting. The poor man. After seconds he collapsed to the ground."

"Some people have suggested it is THE defining picture of the Greek crisis. I don’t see it that way. I think it tells part of the story."

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Sleepless nights, smoke and mirrors

Jul 6 2015

A motorcylist with his passenger holding a Greek flag passes in front of the Greek Parliament in Athens on July 5, 2015 ( AFP PHOTO / ARIS MESSINIS)

(AFP Photo / Aris Messinis)


"There are times in journalism when you are so busy, or so tired, that you barely notice a little bit of history passing in front of your eyes," writes AFP's Danny Kemp from Brussels.

"After five years of the Greek debt crisis, five years of talks, five years of stalling, the leaders of the eurozone had finally thrown Athens to the lions. They finally, really did it."

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Clamouring for cash on the streets of Athens

Jul 2 2015

Pensioners try to enter a national Bank branch, as Greece reopened banks for pensioners who do not use cash cards for ATM, to allow them to withdraw their pension with a limit of 120 euros, in Athens on July 1, 2015 (AFP PHOTO / ANGELOS TZORTZINIS)

(AFP Photo / Angelos Tzortzinis)


"We knew there would be ugly scenes, as Greece said it was opening its beleaguered banks for three days to allow elderly people to draw cash," writes the photographer Aris Messinis. "People shoving, yelling in anger at hapless bank employees. In six long years of crisis, we have seen images like this any number of times. It’s sad. But it’s the reality and your job is to record it."

"Images like these are very powerful, and make you think they are the whole story. In truth they are only part of it. But cool-headed behavior is hard to express with an image."

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Embedded in Mali

Jun 30 2015

A French armoured vehicle leaves Goundam on June 3, 2015 in the Timbuktu region, northern Mali, during a joint operation with Malian army forces as part of the anti-terrorist Operation Barkhane (AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE DESMAZES)

(AFP Photo / Philippe Desmazes)


"The thermometer in the foyer is stuck on 50 degrees Celsius. The highest it can go," writes AFP's Michel Moutot. "It’s not yet noon on the French army base at Timbuktu airport."

"Why did AFP ask to follow a French army unit into Mali's lawless north? Two reasons. Firstly, to report on the soldiers actions on the ground. Secondly to gain access, under the protection of the army, to one of a rising number of places in the world where reporters can no longer venture alone without risk of kidnapping or death."

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