Röszke Refugee Field Camp: Fading Hopes

Röszke Refugee Field Camp: Fading Hopes

During the first half of September 2015 up to 60,000 people passed the Serbian-Hungarian border to enter the European Union. Since the 175 km long border fence was already being set up, everybody walked over the only opening still existing: a 20 m wide area with a railway line in between. This little opening became the main traffic point for refugees. After passing the border opening and walking some 200 m, they would arrive at the refugee field camp of Röszke in southern Hungary. The refugee field camp consisted of wasteland surrounded by police forces. The camp had no infrastructure whatsoever, no shade during sunny days, no shelter in cold nights, no place to sit when it rained.

Hungary is known to refugees for its inhuman treatment and conditions. They are also aware of the consequences of the so-called Dublin III regulation. Based on this regulation, refugees have to apply for asylum in the first EU member country they arrive in. If the first country is Hungary, they lose the chance to continue their way to West European states – at least if they get registered which usually includes the scanning of fingerprints. If people do continue their journey to the West after registration, chances are very high that they will be deported back to Hungary. “Fingerprint?” was the first question of newly arriving refugees which they asked everyone whom they saw. “Fingerprint”, in this environment’s literature, is referring to “Dublin III“.

Thousands of trapped refugees tried to take the governmentally organized buses which came once in every some hours to take the people to registration camps. Knowing about the consequences of their fingerprints being added to the Eurodac data system, many people still took the buses only to escape the disastrous situation of the Röszke field camp.

Nonetheless, refugees also decided to break out of the field camp. In those moments, all refugees – with different languages, life experiences, beliefs and fears – rebelled as one body only few hours after entering Europe and facing the conditions of Röszke field camp. During my stay in Röszke I witnessed an average of two riots per day. Riots at Röszke simply meant that all refugees suddenly dropped parts of their luggage, broke through police forces and started their way towards Budapest by foot.

Only some kilometres further the Hungarian riot police was waiting for them, hidden in absolute darkness or behind walls, armed with teargas, pepper spray, shields and batons. Each time only few of the refugees managed to escape from the riot police, the rest was arrested and brought to the registration camps.

When I was back to the field camp from the clashes between refugees and riot police, again hundreds of newly arrived people were being kept there. However it only took some hours until the conditions would lead into a new rebellion. The next groups of arriving refugees rebelled too at the first sparkle without knowing anything about the previous riots. It seemed that human beings could not stand that situation.

On 15th September the far right-wing and xenophobic Hungarian government closed the border and announced military action against the refugees.
“We do not like the consequences of having a large number of Muslim communities that we see in other countries, and I do not see any reason for anyone else to force us to create ways of living together in Hungary that we do not want to see.” (Viktor Órban, prime minister of Hungary)

As a former asylum seeker, I photographed the crisis which happens in every refugee’s life in the heart of Europe. These photos give an insight into a small part of the refugees’ journey and their common experience during the last days of an “open border“ until the Hungarian government finished the border fence and since then protects it with the help of its army.