Border Violence (Chapter III)

These photographs map my field work along the borders of Hungary, Serbia and Croatia and my encounter with refugees who in desperation try to cross  the borders illegally facing danger to their lives and often encountering violence from border police and border security.  Many have described horrific stories of physical abuse and psychological torture.  They have described of being stripped naked in the middle of a snowy winter night and left to walk naked, being beaten with batons, pepper sprayed and having dogs bite them and being pushed back. The desperation is so great that many prefer to endure violence than face years of oblivion in a refugee centre or being deported.  For part of my journey along the borders Hungary/Serbia, Serbia/Croatia I joined a team of International Rescue Committee team and Novi Sad Humanitarian organisation which were committed to search for refugees in remote areas to talk to them about the dangers of border crossing.

Glass, bricks and a structure frame in the middle of nowhere populated, not far from the Croatia border. This is the home of a group of refugees, pushed back over and over, but resiliant in trying again. Police raids are frequent. They are hungry, left with nothing but the hope to cross the border and move constantly so their whereabouts are unknown.
Glass, brick and the remains of what once was a factory in a remote area close to the Croatia border. This is the home of a group of refugees, pushed back over and over, but resilient in trying again. Police raids are frequent. They are hungry, left with nothing but their hope to cross the border and one day succeed.
The Bulgarian police ask us"Why are you here?" and then they attack us. Sometimes they have dogs who they are ordered to bite us, sometimes they attack with knives.
The Bulgarian police asks  us “Why are you here?” and then they attack. Sometimes, they have dogs who they are ordered to bite us, sometimes they attack with knives.
The choice is between going and register in a camp or avoid being registered and hide. Along the borders, many live in disused and abandoned structures or hiding in wood areas. They keep on moving for fear of being caught. The closer to any border the better so that during the nights they try to cross.
The choice is between going and register in a camp or avoid being registered and hide. Along the borders, many live in disused and abandoned structures or hiding in wood areas. They keep on moving for fear of being caught. The closer to any border the better so that during the nights they try to cross.
They come on you when you are sleeping. One friend of mine he was sleeping and the dogs came on him and bit his hands and face. I have the picture of my friend. You can see his face. (he has asked permission from his friend to show me the photograph).
They come on you when you are sleeping. One friend of mine he was sleeping and the dogs came on him and bit his hands and face. I have the picture of my friend. You can see his face. (he has asked permission from his friend to show me the photograph).
They are very cold people, the Bulgarian police. Even if you have a short time document pass, they still do the same thing. In the centre of Sofia, not at the border, they take everything from us, they took us to the jungle, the permit, my money, mobile, they took everything and then they push us back.
They are very cold people, the Bulgarian police. Even if you have a short time document pass, they still do the same thing. In the centre of Sofia, not at the border, they take everything from us, they took us to the jungle, the permit, my money, mobile, they took everything and then they push us back.
"This morning before sunrise I went to work in the fields, I saw 15 people going to the border from the woods along here. Three of them came back. I think the others managed." a local farmer.
“This morning before sunrise I went to work in the fields, I saw 15 people going to the border from the woods along here. Three of them came back. I think the others managed.” a local farmer.

All Photographs © Cinzia D’Ambrosi