Frame 0004
Asylum: Majd's Perilous Journey
Beirut
By Transterra Editor
19 Jun 2015

When we talk about the problems that face the world, we often discuss them in magnitude and numbers. We speak of millions displaced, hundreds of thousands dead, and many wounded.

However, what is often lost below the melee of statistics and news headlines are the stories of the individuals who endure these tragedies. Their personal experiences are what humanize all of the numbers and talking heads.

22-year-old Majd Bayoush was driven out of his hometown of Kafranbel, Syria by war. Desperate to start a new life abroad, he was smuggled to Europe via a long and dangerous underground railway.

He first travelled overland to Turkey, and then took a dangerously overloaded inflatable boat from Turkey to the Greek island of Samos. Once in Greece, he was registered with the Greek authorities and held in a migrant detention center.

After his release from the migrant detention center he began a perilous and exhausting overland journey from Greece to Germany. He trudged on foot over mountains and through forests in the bitter European cold.

Despite his tribulations, Majd was one of the lucky ones. He reached his destination of Hamburg…alive.

Majd’s story is just one of millions of stories about migrants risking their lives over sea and land to have a chance at a better life.

June 20th marks World Refugee Day. The commemoration is an opportunity to pause and consider that, with 50 million displaced people worldwide, today's refugee crisis is the biggest since World War 2.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story
Kafranbel
By Transterra Editor
30 Apr 2015

Majd Bayoush is a 22-year-old who fled his hometown of Kafranbel in north Syria with the aim of smuggling himself into Europe. After a perilous and complicated journey that lasted for nearly three months, he reached Germany, where he is waiting for the final procedures before he is granted political asylum.

The following is his story as told to Transterra Media.

I arrived to the port city of Izmir, Turkey on September 22, 2014. On the same day, I took an inflatable boat with 47 other migrants and sailed to the Greek island of Samos. We reached our destination after 2.5 hours. The boat deflated and sank after it hit the rocky shore.   

We had agreed with the smuggler Abu Abdu, a Syrian man nicknamed ‘the Tiger’, to surrender to the Greek police once we reach the island. Before leaving Turkey, I deposited 8,000 euros at a money transfer office called ‘al-Saeed’ controlled by the smuggling gang.  [This transfer company has offices in other countries.] Abu Abdu took 2,500 euros out of that sum.

We climbed a mountain on the island of Samos and reached a police station, where policemen confiscated all our possessions, including our mobile phones, and detained us for three days. On Sept. 25, the police authorities placed us below the deck in a cruise boat, which headed to an island near Samos. I do not know its name. There was a camp that held other captured illegal migrants who were Afghans, Asians and Palestinians. However, most of them were Syrians. 

FULL TEXT IS AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 03
Samos
By Transterra Editor
28 Apr 2015

Majd and other migrants at the ferry boat dock before the voyage to Athens after being released from a detention camp near Samos, Greece.

Frame 0004
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story ...
Kafranbel
By Transterra Editor
27 Apr 2015

Majd Bayoush is a 22-year-old who fled his hometown of Kafranbel in north Syria with the aim of smuggling himself into Europe. After a perilous and complicated journey that lasted for nearly three months, he reached Germany, where he is waiting for the final procedures before he is granted political asylum.

SHOTLIST

Shot of migrants on climbing a mountain after reaching the Greek island of Samos

OFF CAMERA
00:09 – 00:16
“This is the boat after UNINTELLIGIBLE."

Shot of the migrants on the boat to Athens

NAT Sound
01:01 – 01:03
“Film where we were staying.”

01:08 – 01:11
“Film the mountain there.” Shot of the migrants walking along railroad tracks from Greece to Macedonia

OFF CAMERA
01:31 – 01:32
“The road to Macedonia.”

Shot of migrant encampment near the Greek-Macedonian border

NAT Sound
01:52- 01:56
“I hope you have not filmed me.”

02:07 – 02:10
“We need light bulb and electricity.”

Shot of a Macedonian soldier overseeing the migrant’s tents on the border after burning them

OFF CAMERA
02:25 – 02:31
“The Macedonian army. The Greek-Macedonian border.” 02:39 - 02:43
“All you do is film.” Shot of burnt tents near the Greek-Macedonian border
Shot of migrants around a fire in Gevgilija, Macedonia

OFF CAMERA
03:16 -03:24
“The Macedonian-Greek border. Syrian and Iraqi refugee.”

Shot of migrants in the outdoors in an unnamed area near the Macedonian-Serbian border
Shot of migrants walking railroad tracks near the Greek-Macedonian border

OFF CAMERA
03:54 – 03:56
“The Macedonian border.”

Shot inside the central prison in Gazi Baba, Skpoje

OFF CAMERA
04:30 – 05:14
“This is the bathroom. This is where we wash. Even animals are washed in a better place. Animals are washed in a place that is better than this. These are the sinks. We are in Skopje.[SHOWING A WATER HEATER] They have cut the wires so that we do not shower with hot water. This is the toilet.”

Shot of migrants arriving to a house owned by a Pakistani smuggler who called himself Ahmad.

OFF CAMERA
05:18
“The Macedonian-Serbian border.” 05:34
“The Macedonian-Serbian border.”

Shot of the courtyard of a house owned by a Pakistani smuggler who called himself Ahmad
Shot of migrants walking at night in the outdoors in Serbia

NAT Sound
05:57
“-Are you filming? -Yes.”

Shot of migrants being transported by tractor in Serbia

Shot of migrants walking at night in the outdoors in Serbia
Exterior shot of the house in which Majd lives in the village of Tönning near Hamburg

06:38
OFF CAMERA
“This is the house to which I was moved in Hamburg. They gave me this house until my residency permit is issued. This is a village called Tunning to the north of Hamburg.”

Traveling shot of a street in Tönning, near Hamburg

Frame 0004
Remembering the Vukovar Massacres
Vukovar, Croatia
By danubestory
03 Feb 2015

During the war for the former Yugoslavia, the town of Vukovar was among the most devastated by fighting between Serbian and Croatian forces. Houses bear clear signs of the fierce shelling that took place, and the town’s now bullet hole-ridden water tower rests as a reminder of the siege and the cruel fate that befell the town and its citizens until now. The battle of Vukovar lasted for 87 days, during which many people were stuck in the town, finding refuge in cellars or public bomb shelters that also hosted makeshift hospitals. After entering the city, Serbian troops were alleged to have taken civilians and wounded soldiers from these hospitals into the Ovčara farm where they massacred them.

Today, Vukovar remains a divided town. War crimes committed there remain unsolved and the people who committed them, unpunished. Steve Gaunt, a former Croat mercenary who took part in the fight for Vukovar, now works as a historian and explorer for the local museum. He talks of his experience of the war, of Vukovar's troubled present, and of the struggle for normality faced by people who still live side-by-side with those they used to fight.

On February 4, 2015, the International Court of Justice dismissed claims of genocide committed by Serbia and Croatia during the Yugoslav war, that took hundreds of thousands of lives in the early-1990s. The court cited a lack of evidence that the massacres constituted genocide - a difficult claim to prove because the prosecution must be able to prove the intentions of the perpetrators.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 22
Lojane
By Transterra Editor
28 Nov 2014

Migrants gathered in the house of a Pakistani smuggler called Ahmad in Lojane, Macedonia.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 19
Skopje
By Transterra Editor
27 Nov 2014

The Moroccan smuggler nicknamed The Desert Man (al-Sahrawi) appears on the right, wearing a white sweatshirt, inside a camp for illegal migrants in Skopje, Macedonia. This smuggler had bribed the guards to allow him to move freely in and out of the camp.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 06
Gevgelija
By Transterra Editor
08 Nov 2014

Migrants pose for a photo at their makeshift camp inside Macedonian territory near the border with Greece.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 15
Macedonia
By Transterra Editor
08 Nov 2014

A tent in the makeshift encampment in Gevgilija, Macedonia where the migrants waited for a smuggler on their second attempt to cross into Serbia

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 05
Polykastro
By Transterra Editor
07 Nov 2014

Migrants walk along the railroad tracks starting from Polykastro, Greece. This was their second attempt to reach the border with Macedonia.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 14
Polykastro
By Transterra Editor
07 Nov 2014

Migrants walk along the railroad tracks starting from Polykastro, Greece. This was their second attempt to reach the border with Macedonia.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 12
Gevgelija
By Transterra Editor
27 Oct 2014

Migrants waited in this makeshift encampment in Gevgilija, Macedonia for the smuggler who would escort them to Serbia.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 13
Gevgelija
By Transterra Editor
27 Oct 2014

Migrants waited a day at this makeshift encampment in Gevgilija, Macedonia for the smuggler who would take them to Serbia.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 11
Gevgelija
By Transterra Editor
26 Oct 2014

Macedonian soldiers burned these tents, in which the migrants stayed on the Macedonian-Greek border.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 09
Polykastro
By Transterra Editor
24 Oct 2014

Migrants had to walk along this railroad track for 11 hours as they attempted to reach Macedonia.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 10
Polykastro
By Transterra Editor
24 Oct 2014

Migrants faced an 11 hour trek along this railroad track as they attempted to reach Macedonia for the first time.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 20
Athens
By Transterra Editor
10 Oct 2014

Majd took this photo of fellow migrants in Athens, Greece.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 02
Samos
By Transterra Editor
05 Oct 2014

Majd on a dock near the ferry boat that will transport him with other migrants to Athens after being released from a detention camp near Samos, Greece.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 04
Samos
By Transterra Editor
05 Oct 2014

Migrants who traveled with Majd inside the police vehicle that was taking them to a port near Samos, after being released from a detention camp.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 21
Samos
By Transterra Editor
05 Oct 2014

The detention camp for illegal migrants on an island near Samos, Greece.

Frame 0004
Danube Story
Bratislava
By danubestory
23 Sep 2014

DanubeStory tells stories of people and their relationship to the second longest river in Europe, the Danube. Slovakian filmmakers Jana Cavojska and Vladimir Kampf traveled on and along the 3 000 kilometer-long river several times, upstream and downstream, in search of people and practices to tell the story of their country and region. A colorful mix of their lives and livelihoods is beautifully intertwined with the simple story of the river. Despite of the fact that the richest are close to the source of the Danube, and the standard of living goes down with the stream of the river, none of the stories lament a destiny, but rather celebrate this unique mix of lively cultures and practices.

In part 1 of the film viewers will flow downstream in the summer and meet a biofarmer and guardian of a river spring in Germany, a traditional wooden ship builder in Austria, a biologist and underwater photographer in Slovakia, a bridge maintainer in Hungary, an ornithologist in Croatia, a gallery owner in Serbia, a distiller in Bulgaria, a musician in Moldova, a photographer in Ukraine and a frog hunter in Romania.

In part 2 of the film viewers will head upstream in wintertime and meet a hotel manager in Ukraine, a speech pathologist in Moldova, a choir master in Bulgaria, a kayak trainer in Romania, a ferry operator in Serbia, a mercenary soldier in Croatia, a mask maker in Hungary, a shipman in Slovakia, a café owner in Austria and a hat maker in Germany.

This film may also be viewed as a series of 5 minute videos on each character.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 07
Samos
By Transterra Editor
22 Sep 2014

Majd takes a 'selfie' with a friend after reaching the Greek island of Samos from Izmir, Turkey.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 08
Samos
By Transterra Editor
22 Sep 2014

Migrants climb a hill on the Greek island of Samos following the voyage from Izmir, Turkey.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 16
Samos
By Transterra Editor
22 Sep 2014

Majd and two other migrants on an inflatable boat sailing from Izmir, Turkey to Samos, Greece.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 17
Samos
By Transterra Editor
22 Sep 2014

Migrants pose for a photo on an inflatable boat sailing from Izmir, Turkey to Samos, Greece.

Thumb sm
Human Trafficking: A Migrant's Story 18
Izmir
By Transterra Editor
18 Sep 2014

The receipts Majd received after depositing 8,000 euros at the money transfer office run by the smugglers in Izmir, Turkey on September 18, 2014.

Thumb sm
Young Serbians Skeptical about Serbia...
Belgrade
By mattia.marinolli
25 Aug 2014

Serbia’s bid to join the ranks of the European Union has led young Serbians to question whether their country could live up to EU regulations and political commitments. Some even question whether or not membership would bring the long awaited benefits they hoped for.

Serbia went through sweeping changes in the last fifteen years. The country's borders were altered many times, and even if the nation closed the chapter on the Balkan wars of the 1990s, the effects of the past still echo in contemporary Serbian society.

Rejhana, 21, is a third-year art student at the State University in the southwestern city of Novi Pazar. She was a successful tennis player, but an injury stopped her career.

"I quite hope I will go somewhere else to live,” she says. “I would like to attend postgraduate studies somewhere in Europe and try to stay there. I think there’s not much perspective for people who are keen on art in our country, especially our city.”

Rather than staying in her native Serbia, Rejhana would like to devote herself to traveling and “meeting the world and its gifts.”

“I can see myself as a painter in the future, for example in five years, not in Serbia but in some European country, having individual exhibitions and a permanent job,” she said.

The biggest and most populous country in the western Balkans seems to be the furthest one from Europe. Serbia began its membership talks with the European Union last January. The arrest and extradition of the last of the country’s indicted war criminals and talks with Kosovo to normalize relations were the two key points demanded by Brussels as conditions to EU membership.

“Even though I think we are quite far from EU in terms of our mentality, our attitudes,” Rejhana said, “we [the youth] hope this will change in the future with entrance into the EU."

Serbia's situation is fragile. The unemployment rate is above 20 percent, and a lack of foreign investments has slowed down economic growth in the country. Furthermore, Cyclone Tamara, the worst of its kind in 120 years of recorded weather measurements, hit the region around Belgrade in last June.

Marko, 26, is the local youth representative of the Democratic Party of Serbia in Raska, a small town in south-central Serbia. Although he studies in the Faculty of Security in Belgrade, he spends a lot of time in his hometown and expressed concern for the situation of the youth there.

"There are a lot of problems getting a job in my hometown,” he said. “Over 50 percent of the youth is unemployed here. Politicians easily employ people they want, no matter if they are qualified for the job or not, and we often see situations where unqualified people work in places are normally reserved for those who graduated and are experts, but do not have political connections.”

Marko looks forward to better times if Serbia gets closer to the EU, attracting more investments and improving the country’s economy. “I worked on projects which were funded by the EU, and because of this experience, I can certify that the means of the EU would contribute to the faster development of our country and employment of the youth.”

However, Marko is also worried that being part of the EU could lead many young qualified people to leave Serbia, as “opportunities will undoubtedly become much easier than before.”

“The bad side to entrance [into the EU] is that if highly educated people leave the country, then unqualified people will remain and be left only to perform unskilled labor,” he said.

Others remain skeptical about the European Union, considering the less-than-stellar performances neighboring countries that passed through the integration process, like Romania and Croatia; and the 1999 NATO bombings in Belgrade that indelibly marked many Serbs.

Marija, 23, has just finished her BA in German language and now is attending an MA program in Kragujevac.

“I have to say that EU is not held by the whole European members, but only by some countries within it,” she said. “It is not known that the EU commands the living conditions of other countries. Small countries like Serbia were just dropped into a system of aristocratic rule. Countries like Germany or the UK actually command the economic flow and get the credit.”

Serbia has its own fight against the corruption in the political system that has contaminated the economic sector. Membership of a political party seems to be a prerogative if someone wants to get a job, and the salaries are too low to ensure proper living conditions.

Milanka, also 23, comes from Blace, a town in southeast Serbia. She studies Literature and Literary Theory in Belgrade.

"Unemployment is a huge problem,” she said. “People work for very little money. I did not have any perspective there (Blace), and I moved to Belgrade just because I was convinced I would have more opportunities here. The university is better. I could make some contacts with people who could help me to go abroad. I had a dream to leave Serbia; because, being a disabled person, I am aware that my chances for having a normal life in Serbia are small.”

The young Serbian says that many employers don’t employ a person with disabilities. “Some employers were very kind with me, and they told me they would call me, but they did not,” she adds.

“Political factors will decide if Serbia will enter the EU ,and I do not have a defined attitude towards the EU,” Milanka said. “Neither do many people. Even if we entered the EU, we would hardly get used to the tasks which they would require from us. Standards are quite different, and it would take years for Serbia to adopt their way of thinking and acting. We are simply not at the same level. Our nation is really specific. We are quite stubborn, odd and focused on personal ideas more than on work. Garrulity is one of our defining personal characteristics."

Many young people are conscious of the lack of prospects awaiting them once they finish their studies. Some look for better perspectives abroad, with Germany and Northern Europe among their preferred destinations. But the same youths, mistrustful and critical of the Serbian system, may be the generation that will lead Serbia out of its past.

Thumb sm
Balkan migrant route 14
Bogovadja
By Mauro Prandelli
25 Jul 2014

The population of Bogovadja has different opinions on the presence of the migrants. Some of them accuse the migrants of small robberies, others see them as an economic source. In the winter of 2014 the citizens, also supported by extreme right wing groups, made a demonstration in Bogovadja to ask for control and safety against the migrants. After some months the citizens have got used to their presence.

Thumb sm
Balkan migrant route 15
Bogovadja
By Mauro Prandelli
25 Jul 2014

The contacts with the taxi drivers who bring the migrants to the Hungarian borders take place at the cafes, one of which is at the begging of the wood and the other at the end of the wood, along the road which passes through the whole country. To reach the Hungarian borders the taxi drivers ask the migrants to pay from 50 to 300 Euros. Many drivers work for the immigration racket, others prefer to work alone with their customers.

Thumb sm
Balkan migrant route 12
Bogovadja
By Mauro Prandelli
24 Jul 2014

During the Ramadan groups of migrants meet in the wood in the evening to share the Iftar, the only allowed meal during the Ramadan. Each migrant shares with the others what he can afford. After the Iftar those who stay at the reception camps go back to the center, the others seek shelter in the wood.

Thumb sm
Balkan migrant route 13
Bogovadja
By Mauro Prandelli
24 Jul 2014

In the evening the migrants who do not stay in the reception camp go back to the wood in Bogovadja. S., a man from Sudan, was sent away from Macedonia, where he lived with his fiancée, due to legal problems and he is now trying to reach Europe to have a new life and start the legal steps to meet his son.

Thumb sm
Balkan migrant route 16
Bogovadja
By Mauro Prandelli
24 Jul 2014

Afghanistan and Syrian migrants wait for the taxi to go to collect the money from a bank which is at few kilometers from Bogovadja. The day after they will leave for the Hungarian borders with the help of a taxi driver for 50 Euros per person.

Thumb sm
Balkan migrant route 11
Bogovadja
By Mauro Prandelli
23 Jul 2014

The migrants on the Balkan route use the reception camps to rest before continuing their journeys. After signing some documents at the police office they can get a permission lasting for three days; after the three days they can either leave Serbia or ask for political asylum. Some centers offer legal support to start the requests.

Thumb sm
Balkan migrant route 10
Bogovadja
By Mauro Prandelli
21 Jul 2014

Minors and families are admitted in the camp of Bogovadja. If the weather is bad some migrants, who are not accepted in the camp, are allowed to sleep under the portico to protect from the rain.

Thumb sm
Balkan migrant route 18
Banja Koviljaca
By Mauro Prandelli
21 Jul 2014

M., 20 years old, is North African but he declared to the authorities to be Syrian to be accepted by the reception camp and seek shelter in Europe as a refugee of the Syrian civil war.

Thumb sm
Balkan migrant route 19
Banja Koviljaca
By Mauro Prandelli
21 Jul 2014

An Iraqi refugee has been given hospitality by the center of Banja Koviljaca. After staying in the center for some years he applied for the political asylum in Serbia and got it. Anyway, he can neither expatriate nor ask to join his family in Serbia. He is stuck in this bureaucratic limbo and, in the meantime, he helps as cultural mediator the people working in the center.

Thumb sm
Balkan migrant route 20
Banja Koviljaca
By Mauro Prandelli
21 Jul 2014

S., 22 years old, has reached Serbia from Niger after three months and he is now waiting for some friends and relatives to get some money to continue his journey. Many migrants, especially if they are political refugees, fear to be recognized by the police and by the secret services of their origin countries and consequently fear possible retaliations on their families.

Thumb sm
Balkan migrant route 21
Banja Koviljaca
By Mauro Prandelli
21 Jul 2014

In the center of Banja Koviljaca, as in many others reception centers, the migrants can use the internet access and thus maintain the contacts with their friends and their families.

Thumb sm
Balkan migrant route 22
Banja Koviljaca
By Mauro Prandelli
21 Jul 2014

At Banja Koviljaca, at the border between Bosnia, Herzegovina and Serbia, the migrants are received in a center which was opened in 1991 to offer help during the Yugoslavian wars. In 2006 this center was renewed with the help of the UNHCR and of the INTERSOS and can now receive about 85 people.

Thumb sm
Balkan migrant route 23
Bogovadja
By Mauro Prandelli
21 Jul 2014

The camp of Bogovadja accepts minors and families. The migrants who are not accepted by the center report that although there are available rooms the operators refuse to accept them even only to take a shower. The center director says that some rooms are kept free to eventually receive minors or families. The migrants also report that there were some cases of extortion and of request of sexual favors by the operators in exchange for hospitality in the center.