We are delighted to announce that “Welcome to Refugee Purgatory on the Hungary Border”, a 2017 film by Jaime Alekos for IRIN News, has won first place in the Migration Media Awards’ video category.
The Migration Media Award (MMA), given annually by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, recognises and rewards the journalistic excellence, relevance, and newsworthiness of press pieces dealing with migration in the Euro-Mediterranean region in all its aspects. Funded by the European Union, the awards provide €750 to €7,000 towards the production of a second story.
The film already won an Award of Excellence in the Pictures of the Year International competition by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.
How the film came about
Thousands of migrants and refugees trying to reach northern Europe became trapped in Serbia when neighbouring countries sealed their borders in early 2016. After months of living in squalid conditions in abandoned buildings or overcrowded reception centres, many attempted to cross into Hungary.
Filmmaker Jaime Alekos spent two months capturing the testimonies of migrants in a no man’s land near the Hungarian border where they try to retain their human dignity and the will to move on and start new lives despite repeated abuse and pushbacks. His raw and atmospheric film shows young men shivering in blankets in the snow, huddling around forest fires, washing themselves in near darkness in disused warehouses. The migrants, many of them unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan and Pakistan, describe being caught near the border by Hungarian police, beaten brutally, and forced back into Serbia.
These were not isolated incidents. Médecins Sans Frontières teams working in Serbia regularly treated migrants for injuries inflicted by Hungarian border patrols and the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture recently published its own findings that the abuse appears to be both systematic and ongoing. Noting this, Jaime wrote us to say, “They still report the same kind of treatment that I found when I was working on the story. And with the recent EU moves to impose sanctions against Hungary, this issue has become even more relevant.”