on the road for human rights

When many small people...

As we are scouting the camp, people ask us for blankets, but the Red Cross tells us not to start distributing, “because then, everybody comes and wants some”. We ignore this wise advice, grab the blankets we collected the night before and bring them to the people, who gladly take them. As we are walking between the tent rows, talking with the refugees, joking with them and posing for souvenir photos, we notice that we are the only staffs actually entering this place. No police, no Red Cross people. They stay at the edges, Red Cross hiding in their tent, police on the earth walls surrounding the various sectors. I wonder if they know how the conditions for people in there really are. I enter one tent where families are preparing to go to sleep, and there is an awful stench of shoes, sweat, moist and dirt in there. Glad to get out after having stayed for like 15 minutes, I feel sorry for these people who will stay at least a few hours until police wakes them up to get into the buses to somewhere.

What happens with the donations?

Shortly before leaving our home base for the camp, we get the call that police is clearing the makeshift camp in front of the entrance. We hurry up to save whatever possible material that is still there. The order to remove everything came when a group of volunteers had just spent hours organising the donations in order to be able to distribute them appropriately. Thanks to one of our coordinators' negotiations with the Red Cross and UNHCR, we are allowed to set up a warehouse a bit further away and bring these donations over there.

Volunteers packing donations after having received the order to clear the camp.

Volunteers packing donations after having received the order to clear the camp. (Opatovac 25/09/2015)

Rock the Camp

When we reach the camp, the coordination team has managed to obtain permission for us to enter the camp, and day shift has already installed some equipment inside. We are told we are the only NGO next to the Red Cross to be allowed in.

People seek shelter from the rain in our internet tent.

People seek shelter from the rain in our internet tent. (Opatovac 25/09/2015)


Back in the field, this time, we provide a charging station for mobile phones and Internet access at Opatovac refugee camp, 17 km from the Croatian-Serbian border crossing Tovarnik.

The situation is quite different here, as people are mostly brought from Bebska border crossing by bus. It is an official government camp, but people are not being registered here. We are not allowed into the camp, but since there have been too many waiting, a makeshift camp has appeared in front of the entrance, our services are requested there.

A view inside the camp across the barbed wire fence

A view inside the camp across the barbed wire fence. (Opatovac 23/09/2015)

Borders Kill

Kathy and Jonathan's last piece from the outer border.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch confirms what I was writing yesterday, that Hungary is violating fundamental Human Rights with its new policy, which exposes refugees to further persecution.

Because We Can

Our job in Röszke is done, the Swiss team arrived home safely. It was great to find breakfast and coffee ready, and the office crew taking care of us. A huge thank you to my mates from the night shift for that awesome team. I really enjoyed working with you guys. I also want to thank all people who supported us from afar, all your encouraging messages were precious to keep us going on.

I am grateful I got the opportunity to contribute giving back a tiny bit of dignity to desperate, exhausted people.

The Fortress

Monday evening, when we get ready for night shift, we get the news that the gate has been closed already. We expected it to happen, but not this early. For a while, we don't know what to do, until ten minutes before it is time to go, we receive a call from the field not to come, that there is no need, as there are no refugees anymore. That the entire group will join the camp in the morning to pack our material.

Our help is no longer needed here.

Our help is no longer needed here. (Röszke 15/09/2015)

Soap Bubbles

When we arrived at the camp at midnight, there were almost no refugees around and the situation seemed quite tense. We took over a few additional security measures from the outgoing team. At the same time, the area had been cleaned up and looked way better than the day before.

Volunteers discussing how to proceed now in front of UNHCR tents

Volunteers discussing how to proceed now in front of UNHCR tents. (Röszke 14/09/2015)

Reblog video: Refugeecamp Röszke

My awesome teammates Kathy and Jonathan's piece is online.

Night Shift

Nine thirty in the evening, time to get up. I make some coffee and have a cigarette, as every morning. I gather warm clothes and stuff I'll need out there. I have the feeling this is going to be a long night. With the team, we cook pasta and have a meal together before we leave.

Our shift starts at midnight. The outgoing team briefs us about the current situation and hands us over the radios. We have three public tents, one where we hand out tea and coffee, one where we provide electricity to charge mobile phones and WiFi, and one big sleeping tent.

Everything left behind

Everything left behind (Röszke, 13/09/2015)