afghanistan

  • PRI: Refugees are still squeezing through Europe's clamped borders

    The closure of Europe's borders did not stop the refugee crisis, it just pushed it do deep underground that smuggling networks from Afghanistan to Germany are experiencing an all time boom and child refugees face a massive increase in violence and trafficking.

    Read the full report on PRI HERE

  • FSRN: Despite border closures, smugglers move hundreds of refugees through Europe daily

    With over 6,500 refugees stranded in Serbia as of early November, more are able to thread through the nook and crannies of the southern borders than leave. Hence, the Balkan state has become a giant open-air human bazaar, with the trade operating openly in broad daylight.

    Listen to the full story on FSRN HERE

  • THE TELEGRAPH: Hungary and Serbia turning a blind eye to thousands of migrants using 'closed' Balkans route

    The Balkan Route, despite the claims of EU officials, remains very much ope for business. Wait in the barren wasteland for an asylum hearing, or pay €150 for a smuggler's route? Drownings, stabbings, illegal pushbacks and wisecracking Serbian police officers.

    Read the story in the Telegraph HERE

  • POLITICO EUROPE: Europe’s most hostile port of entry

    A glimpse into a terrifying winter's journey of refugees who don't take to the sea, but choose to cross from Turkey into Bulgaria. Though there is no risk of drowning, the path is by far from safe, and if even half of the horrific claims of police abuse are true, Bulgaria would appear to be Europe's most dangerous country for transiting refugees.

    Read the full story on Politico Europe HERE

    Additional photo essay by Nicola Zolin HERE

  • AL JAZEERA: Why is Europe closing its borders to Afghans?

    As the treacherous humanitarian corridor into Europe narrows further, Afghan nationals fleeing the country where almost every European country sent troops become the latest people to be denied a chance at seeking sanctuary and are forsaken onto the streets or into the hands of the smugglers.

    Read the full report from the Greece-Macedonia on Al Jazeera HERE

    Photos by Nicola Zolin 

  • VICE NEWS: Desperation on the Greek Border as Europe Threatens to Shut its Doors

    Back on Greece's border with Macedonia. A lot of the sounds coming out of Brussels indicate that Greece is to be sealed off from the rest of the continent with barbed wire and a heavy police and military presence. Meanwhile, the refugees in no man's land - Iraqi teenagers with their families fleeing targeted bloodshed in Baghdad, Afghans tortured and threatened by Taliban - wonder if they may be some of the last to cross into Europe before the door closes on them.

    Read the whole story in VIce News HERE

    Photos by Nicola Zolin

  • RFI: Destination Europe: Hungary part 1/5

  • VICE NEWS 'Refugees Will Break the Wall': On the Frontlines of Hungary’s Immigration Fence

    By Andrew Connelly

    Mounir pulls out his phone to consult a map and send his WhatsApp location to a friend monitoring his stealth journey through Europe. He is one of over 60 Syrians and Iraqis huddled together taking a brief rest by dense woodland on the outskirts of the Serbian village of Kanjiza, mere kilometers from the Hungarian border.

    Suddenly one of the group leaders runs down the line, ordering everyone to extinguish cigarettes and turn off cell phones, to avoid detection by border police and roaming bandits. Men, women, and children stand up, their raised protective sticks silhouetted in the moonlight, and descend into the darkness.

    Mounir and his fellow travelers represent a tiny contingent of what the United Nations has called the largest movement of forcibly displaced people since World War II, with refugees currently numbering over 60 million worldwide.

    'Now we have reached the point of no return, my friend.'

    Most are fleeing war and tyranny in Syria and Afghanistan, with other sizeable groups from Iran, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The cheapest route to Europe is from Turkey through the Balkans.

    Hungary is the first European Union (EU) state that migrants reach which is part of the passport-free Schengen scheme, hence it has become the second largest recipient of asylum seekers per capita after Sweden with the government logging over 110,000 asylum applications since the beginning of 2015.

    Less than 1 percent of migrants wish to settle in Hungary and instead merely transit across — hoping to reach Austria, Germany, and other wealthier European nations. Despite this, the right-wing Hungarian government led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban has responded to the humanitarian crisis by constructing a 109-mile (175-kilometer) fence across its southern border with Serbia in hope to stem the flow.

    VICE News told Mounir about Hungary's immigration solution. He laughed and replied: "Oh? Nice. How much did this fence cost them? We will find a way to cross this, I'm telling you. Don't worry, just let the border be completed and we will find a way. We have a saying in my country: 'The metal will be discovered by the fire.' The European Union entered the fire, they discovered the metal, and it is strong."

    Is the Hungarian government seriously proposing building borders between EU states?

    Earlier in the day outside the Serbian border town of Subotica, Hassan, a printer from Baghdad and his friend Abbas sit under the shade of a tree, perspiring in the 104 degree Fahrenheit (45 degree Celsius) heat.

    They are temporarily camped in the scrubland area outside an abandoned brick factory that has become an improvised resting point with charities visiting to donate food and water and conduct medical check-ups. A group of 10 Pakistani men appear from a field of crops, asking VICE News the direction to Hungary, before walking off into the distance.

    Hassan fled Iraq after he was threatened by a militia when unable to pay a ransom for his kidnapped brother. Now he is making his way to Belgium where he hopes to claim asylum and bring his family across to build a new life.

    He told VICE News: "I never left my country, even during the war with car bombings. I had a good job and a good salary, but now it's enough, there is danger in front of me. Sometimes when I walk in the street with my family, my kids see corpses on the street. I don't want them to grow up with that."

    Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic recently expressed "shock" at Hungary's decision to build a fence across its border and it has sparked fears that Serbia will become a bottleneck of refugees unable to enter its northern neighbor.

    Yet the fence's porosity was already demonstrated last week when 18 migrants were found in the Hungarian village of Assothalom after breaking through using wire-cutters. Assothalom, with a population of just 4,000, has only one police officer so unarmed civilian rangers are employed to monitor the border.

    Driving slowly along in a tiny Lada patrol vehicle, Barnabas Heredi shepherds a collection of apprehended migrants along a country road towards a police checkpoint. Some kind elderly villagers hand out bottles of water from across their gate to the tired masses.

    Heredi told VICE News that he started working one year ago, thinking it would be a quiet job: "I understand why these migrants had to leave but I don't really feel sorry for them. They get treated well here and we still have many poor families in Hungary, why would you help them and not Hungarians?"

    The fence abruptly stops here, with miles of open land surrounding it, affording anyone the possibility to simply walk around the edge.

    On Saturday morning, more than 200 migrants had been apprehended in the fields of Assothalom in the space of one hour, awaiting transportation to immigration camps across Hungary for asylum processing.

    Ali, a wedding photographer from northern Afghanistan trying to reach Finland, walked all night from Serbia to Hungary. He told VICE News: "We should be one land, no border. Refugees will break the wall."

    In Budapest, Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs told VICE News: "If necessary we are going to build a fence on other sections of the border. You have to halt, you have to stop this happening on the borders of Europe. That's it."

    Hungary shares its eastern border with Romania. Is the Hungarian government seriously proposing building borders between EU states? Kovacs replied: "You cannot rule that option out. You have to stop this flood of illegal migration. Austria and Germany is full. Sweden is full. And they have started to send back people to the entry point, and that's Hungary. And that's a problem."

    In villages on the frontier, some officials hold a different view. In Kubekhaza, the site where the fence construction first started, mayor Robert Molnar told VICE News: "This is not about immigration, it's all internal politics. This fence is just an obscene gesture to the far-right and it's causing damage to Hungary's international reputation. It shows the world that we don't care about their problems."

    Won't the fence help to stem some of the immigration into Hungary? Molnar replied: "The possible consequence will be that migrants will follow the fence all the way to Kubekhaza and walk around it."

    Molnar took VICE News to inspect the fence construction across a windswept field. A few meters away, a watchtower stands in Serbia and a church's steeple pokes out of a tree in Romania. A white triangular monument sits on the corner where all three borders meet, symbolizing peace and co-operation between the countries.

    The fence abruptly stops here, with miles of open land surrounding it, affording anyone the possibility to simply walk around the edge. Three rows of coiled razor wire wobble in the wind and the individual sharp edges can be bent by applying pressure with the fingers.

    Back in the woods, Mounir and his group have made it across into Hungary but a baby has begun to cry loudly. The whole group stands frozen still as his distressed wails float out into the still night and in the distance dogs begin to bark. Suddenly ahead a police light flashes and it is time for everybody to disperse.

    "Now we have reached the point of no return, my friend. I don't know the destination, maybe straight, maybe not, let's see. No retreat, no surrender."

  • VICE NEWS 'Refugees Will Break the Wall': On the Frontlines of Hungary’s Immigration Fence

    By Andrew Connelly

    Mounir pulls out his phone to consult a map and send his WhatsApp location to a friend monitoring his stealth journey through Europe. He is one of over 60 Syrians and Iraqis huddled together taking a brief rest by dense woodland on the outskirts of the Serbian village of Kanjiza, mere kilometers from the Hungarian border.

    Suddenly one of the group leaders runs down the line, ordering everyone to extinguish cigarettes and turn off cell phones, to avoid detection by border police and roaming bandits. Men, women, and children stand up, their raised protective sticks silhouetted in the moonlight, and descend into the darkness.

    Mounir and his fellow travelers represent a tiny contingent of what the United Nations has called the largest movement of forcibly displaced people since World War II, with refugees currently numbering over 60 million worldwide.

    'Now we have reached the point of no return, my friend.'

    Most are fleeing war and tyranny in Syria and Afghanistan, with other sizeable groups from Iran, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. The cheapest route to Europe is from Turkey through the Balkans.

    Hungary is the first European Union (EU) state that migrants reach which is part of the passport-free Schengen scheme, hence it has become the second largest recipient of asylum seekers per capita after Sweden with the government logging over 110,000 asylum applications since the beginning of 2015.

    Less than 1 percent of migrants wish to settle in Hungary and instead merely transit across — hoping to reach Austria, Germany, and other wealthier European nations. Despite this, the right-wing Hungarian government led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban has responded to the humanitarian crisis by constructing a 109-mile (175-kilometer) fence across its southern border with Serbia in hope to stem the flow.

    VICE News told Mounir about Hungary's immigration solution. He laughed and replied: "Oh? Nice. How much did this fence cost them? We will find a way to cross this, I'm telling you. Don't worry, just let the border be completed and we will find a way. We have a saying in my country: 'The metal will be discovered by the fire.' The European Union entered the fire, they discovered the metal, and it is strong."

    Is the Hungarian government seriously proposing building borders between EU states?

    Earlier in the day outside the Serbian border town of Subotica, Hassan, a printer from Baghdad and his friend Abbas sit under the shade of a tree, perspiring in the 104 degree Fahrenheit (45 degree Celsius) heat.

    They are temporarily camped in the scrubland area outside an abandoned brick factory that has become an improvised resting point with charities visiting to donate food and water and conduct medical check-ups. A group of 10 Pakistani men appear from a field of crops, asking VICE News the direction to Hungary, before walking off into the distance.

    Hassan fled Iraq after he was threatened by a militia when unable to pay a ransom for his kidnapped brother. Now he is making his way to Belgium where he hopes to claim asylum and bring his family across to build a new life.

    He told VICE News: "I never left my country, even during the war with car bombings. I had a good job and a good salary, but now it's enough, there is danger in front of me. Sometimes when I walk in the street with my family, my kids see corpses on the street. I don't want them to grow up with that."

    Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic recently expressed "shock" at Hungary's decision to build a fence across its border and it has sparked fears that Serbia will become a bottleneck of refugees unable to enter its northern neighbor.

    Yet the fence's porosity was already demonstrated last week when 18 migrants were found in the Hungarian village of Assothalom after breaking through using wire-cutters. Assothalom, with a population of just 4,000, has only one police officer so unarmed civilian rangers are employed to monitor the border.

    Driving slowly along in a tiny Lada patrol vehicle, Barnabas Heredi shepherds a collection of apprehended migrants along a country road towards a police checkpoint. Some kind elderly villagers hand out bottles of water from across their gate to the tired masses.

    Heredi told VICE News that he started working one year ago, thinking it would be a quiet job: "I understand why these migrants had to leave but I don't really feel sorry for them. They get treated well here and we still have many poor families in Hungary, why would you help them and not Hungarians?"

    The fence abruptly stops here, with miles of open land surrounding it, affording anyone the possibility to simply walk around the edge.

    On Saturday morning, more than 200 migrants had been apprehended in the fields of Assothalom in the space of one hour, awaiting transportation to immigration camps across Hungary for asylum processing.

    Ali, a wedding photographer from northern Afghanistan trying to reach Finland, walked all night from Serbia to Hungary. He told VICE News: "We should be one land, no border. Refugees will break the wall."

    In Budapest, Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs told VICE News: "If necessary we are going to build a fence on other sections of the border. You have to halt, you have to stop this happening on the borders of Europe. That's it."

    Hungary shares its eastern border with Romania. Is the Hungarian government seriously proposing building borders between EU states? Kovacs replied: "You cannot rule that option out. You have to stop this flood of illegal migration. Austria and Germany is full. Sweden is full. And they have started to send back people to the entry point, and that's Hungary. And that's a problem."

    In villages on the frontier, some officials hold a different view. In Kubekhaza, the site where the fence construction first started, mayor Robert Molnar told VICE News: "This is not about immigration, it's all internal politics. This fence is just an obscene gesture to the far-right and it's causing damage to Hungary's international reputation. It shows the world that we don't care about their problems."

    Won't the fence help to stem some of the immigration into Hungary? Molnar replied: "The possible consequence will be that migrants will follow the fence all the way to Kubekhaza and walk around it."

    Molnar took VICE News to inspect the fence construction across a windswept field. A few meters away, a watchtower stands in Serbia and a church's steeple pokes out of a tree in Romania. A white triangular monument sits on the corner where all three borders meet, symbolizing peace and co-operation between the countries.

    The fence abruptly stops here, with miles of open land surrounding it, affording anyone the possibility to simply walk around the edge. Three rows of coiled razor wire wobble in the wind and the individual sharp edges can be bent by applying pressure with the fingers.

    Back in the woods, Mounir and his group have made it across into Hungary but a baby has begun to cry loudly. The whole group stands frozen still as his distressed wails float out into the still night and in the distance dogs begin to bark. Suddenly ahead a police light flashes and it is time for everybody to disperse.

    "Now we have reached the point of no return, my friend. I don't know the destination, maybe straight, maybe not, let's see. No retreat, no surrender."

  • Afghanistan

    Jordie Montevecchi just came back from his job in Afghanistan! He was working on assignment for Raw-News and Sky News Italy as camera operator and editor and living in the military base of Herat. Here below he collected some thoughts. And here you can see some of the work done while embedded with the Italian Army

     I had been searching for spectacular imagery, labouring under the illusion that it was compelling, observable tableaux that somehow justified my presence, absolving me of responsibility to understand the events at hand.
    How did this spectacle come about? What do this scenes of destruction, replete with shouts and blood, mean to express? What forces brought them about? And who will monitor them? We, the correspondants and reporters? No. The dead will barely have been buried, the wrecks of incinerated cars will have just been cleared away and the streets swept of the broken glass, and we will have already packed our bags and moved on, to where others are burning cars, shattering shop windows, and digging graves for the fallen.
    Ryszard Kapuscinski, Travels with Herodotus, 2007

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Herat - Afghanistan
    I arrived on the luxury flight bringing the President of the Italian Senate, so I dodged the 18 our and famously uncomfortable army cargo to Camp Arena. But flying on the cargo gets you an introduction to what it means being embedded. You see the soldiers, their combat jackets, the machine guns, you sit with them and try to communicate through the noise of the plane. I got there without having this introduction.

     We landed early in the morning and the job started immediately with its running around. Film the president, film the general, film the soldiers, film their parades, drop your bags and run into the helicopter. Noisy. Packed with soldiers and journalists following the president. All the cameramen sitting at the back, trying to get a clean shot through the other cameras.
    Thats how it started, one single event over-covered by and created for the news, and many other stories that remained untold. Working as embedded camera operator has been one of my most exciting experiences, it has enriched me personally and professionally, but it also got me closer to the world of how news are created.
    With the army you can not tell or show whatever you want, just because you are in a war zone and can only go where they go (so you are told), or you go with the car of an Ngo, but stay just long enough to film their project and leave for security reasons, so you don't give time for someone to organise a kidnapping. You never stop at the side of a long road with a couple of compounds sitting on its edge. You never go into one of these cob houses lying in the dust.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Afghanistan is a fascinating country, when you fly low over it on a helicopter you can get a quick grasp at how magnificent its mountains are, how dry its deserts, how green the valleys around the precious water. But what lives in it you don't see. You see shops, kids and motorbikes from inside the armoured vehicle, and look at them through a grid, because children have fun throwing stones at the military convoys. They know the soldiers wont react, their machine gunner on the top is instructed to wave his hands whens he sees people. "The kids always reply - told me once a young commander - When they grow up, they stop; instead they look at you, intensely.

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