Syrian migrants cross under a fence into Hungary at the border with Serbia, near Roszke, August 27, 2015.[Photo/Agencies]
Bernadette Szabo: Rail tracks, unguarded, line the border with Serbia. Most refugees used the tracks, a few miles long, as a highway into Hungary. I arrived at the border every day at 6.00 AM. The crossing was the only spot still not blocked. A triple coil of razor wire was up everywhere else as Hungary prepared to fence off the border. The rail crossing was easy enough but many migrants chose to jump the fence to avoid the police waiting a few hundred metres inside. The razors were not too sharp to handle with heavy gloves.
Dozens of other photographers and I paced the fence, some way from the rail tracks. Among the shrubs we could make out the contours of migrants waiting for the right moment. Everyone watched everyone else. We watched the refugees, who watched the police, who watched us. It was like an elaborate board game. It was more than just waiting. The people on the other side of the fence filled the atmosphere with strange, unspeakable tension. This family decided they had waited enough. They started for the fence. Aware of the stakes, they lifted the razor wire, looked around, then went for it. Once across they vanished in the woods. I never saw them again.
Photographing the migrants was the ultimate test of staying out of the story: observe keenly, wait, shoot. Don't cut the wire, don't invite the refugees in, don't alert the police. There was little human contact with the thousands of refugees scaling the fence. You learnt nothing about them. They came and went. But those who walked along the tracks stopped and talked. They accepted water or the odd chocolate bar. They even shared stories - stories that will haunt me forever. There is no way to shake the emotional impact. Once I put the camera down and had time to reflect it all came back. You have to let the story wash through you to remain human.