From Hungary to Austria on Foot
By Tamás Richárd Bodoky
On September 4, 2015, approximately 2,000 refugees set out on foot from Budapest to Austria. For days prior, they had been stuck in the Hungarian capital, many of them stranded in train stations with little information. Late that night, after walking about 30 kilometers, they were finally picked up by buses, which drove them to the Austrian border. The chaos of the process, documented in the short film above, was revealing.
The European refugee influx hit Hungary hard this summer, with the country’s inadequate facilities—and the government’s inadequate response—creating a crisis that could have been avoided.
While many Hungarian citizens did their best to help the migrants with food, water, and medical aid, the official reaction around railway stations was limited to some extra mobile toilets and temporary water taps. Indeed, the Hungarian government has spent more money on a new border fence and a media smear campaign demonizing migrants than it spends annually on the immigration authorities that run refugee camps and process asylum-seekers.
Atlatszo.hu is a Budapest-based investigative journalism outlet that has been documenting the situation, focusing on two investigations in particular. First, we revealed that a number of Budapest hotels play a key role in the organized business of smuggling people over the Austrian–Hungarian border, and that the police fail to follow up on these cases.
We also investigated how the police and the authorities have mismanaged the crisis, especially on the southern border following the construction of the fence. As part of this investigation, we highlighted the professional shortcomings of the authorities and the supposedly deliberate police brutality when cracking down on a refugee demonstration on September 16 at the Röszke border crossing.
Atlatszo.hu is a grantee of the Open Society Foundations. The short film was produced by video journalist Áron Halász.
Tamás Richárd Bodoky is executive director and editor in chief of Atlatszo.hu.