Fleeing Syria and Stranded in Hungary

Thousands of asylum-seekers, including many from war-torn Syria, continue to arrive daily in Hungary, seeking a path to Germany and other Western European countries. Hungary has detained and at times refused to allow people to continue onwards to Western Europe, citing an EU regulation requiring asylum-seekers to seek protection in the first European Union country they reach. As a result of Hungary's approach, thousands have been stranded at Budapest's Keleti train station, sleeping on pavements and receiving virtually no humanitarian assistance from the Hungarian authorities. Many remain determined to find a way to reach Germany, which has said it plans to accept up to 800,000 asylum seekers this year. The journey to Europe is riddled with dangers, including drownings at sea, exploitation by ruthless smugglers, and abuse at the hands of police. European governments should act to ensure access to asylum and humane treatment for those seeking safety in Europe, increase safe and legal channels for those trying to find refuge, and share responsibility for asylum seekers across the 28 EU member states. All photos were taken by Human Rights Watch researchers Peter Bouckaert and Lydia Gall between August 31 and September 4, 2015.

Jamal Tamin, 49, from the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk near Damascus, with his son Khalid, 8, at the Keleti train station. They want to travel to Germany, and will then try to bring his wife and three other children out of Syria.

Ali al-Dahner, 46, a Syrian with disabilities from Damascus. His son Mohammed, 20, pushed his wheelchair and carried his father on his back during the long journey through Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia to reach Hungary. They want to continue to Germany.

Rezan and Mahmood are a recently married couple from Damascus. They fled Syria when the Syrian authorities tried to conscript Mahmood into the army, following a general amnesty issued in August by President Assad for those who had avoided army service. Mahmood said did not want to serve in an army responsible for killings of his fellow Syrians.

A young girl from Afghanistan encountered at Hungary’s Keleti train station smiles after receiving a pair of shoes.

Doctor Ali, 25, spent four years working in the hospital in Saraqib, Syria, “treating the wounded and also digging out the dead from the rubble.” He fled two weeks ago, after he witnessed a close friend killed in a barrel bomb explosion dropped by a Syrian army helicopter. He wants to go to Germany and continue with his medical studies.

Avesta, 40-days-old, in the arms of her mother Rawan, 23. She was born in Turkey after her parents fled the Kurdish Syrian town of Kobane, destroyed in fighting between ISIS and Kurdish militias. In Hungary, police officers locked the family in a prisoner transport vehicle together with about 100 other asylum seekers for an entire night, with just one bottle of water to share between them, after they refused to be fingerprinted.

Barbed wire and torn clothes at the newly erected razor-wire fence on the Hungarian border with Serbia. Despite the razor-wire fence, more than a thousand asylum seekers continue to cross into Hungary each day.

A Syrian mother tries to cool down her baby with bottled water after walking for two hours in scorching heat to reach the Hungarian border with Serbia. The conditions faced by the asylum seekers on their journey are exhausting and sometimes life-threatening, especially for the young and the elderly.

A family from the ISIS-controlled city of Raqqa in Syria wait to board a Hungarian police bus that will take them to a detention camp for asylum seekers. Mohammed, 6, (right) carried a large backpack. “It is tough, but I will manage,” he told Human Rights Watch. “Back in Raqqa it was worse, just beheadings, beheadings all the time.”

The Roszke detention facility for asylum seekers on the Hungarian border with Serbia. Those who have been held at the camp told Human Rights Watch of inhuman and filthy conditions, abuse, and virtual neglect of their humanitarian needs by the Hungarian authorities.

Hungarian police guard the entrance to Budapest’s Keleti train station after expelling all asylum seekers from the station. Thousands have been forced to sleep out in the open on the streets with virtually no humanitarian assistance from the Hungarian authorities.

Ali Antar, a Syrian from Qamashli, with his three children at the Keleti train station, where they had stayed out in the open for three days. “It was better under the bombs in Syria,” he told Human Rights Watch, “In Syria, when an explosion hits you, you die only once. Here, I die a thousand deaths of humiliation in front of my children.”

Ramis Shehal, 30, from Homs, Syria, with five of her six children, in a tent outside the Keleti train station in Budapest. They are trying to reach Norway to be reunited with her husband, who made the journey three months earlier. She said two of her children had become seriously ill because of the unsanitary conditions at the station.

Jamal and his sister Wahda, Syrian Kurds in their late 60s, from Hasakah, Syria, resting at the Hungarian border. They were traveling without any others to assist them, trying to reach their nephews in Germany.

Asylum seekers, including many children, walk along a disused railway track in Serbia to reach the Hungarian border, where they will be detained by Hungarian authorities on arrival.

Hassan Mohammed, 35, with his daughter Tasneem, 5, at the Serbian-Hungarian border. Two months ago, he lost his wife and other daughter, 8, in a Syrian government airstrike on their home. Hassan fled the ISIS-controlled city of Raqqa, and is determined to take his surviving daughter to safety and a better life in Germany.

Sabah Khanifa, 35, with her six children aged between 1 and 10 years, at the Serbian-Hungarian border. They left from the Syrian Kurdish city of Kobane after fierce fighting between ISIS and Kurdish militia left much of the city destroyed, including their home. They are trying to reach Germany to be reunited with her husband, who made the journey one year earlier.

Mohammed Koussa, 31, gives water to his 9-month old son Jad, after an exhausting two-hour-long hike from Serbia to the Hungarian border. The family fled Damascus to avoid having Mohammed conscripted into the Syrian army, following a general amnesty issued in August and renewed recruitment efforts for the army.