Hotel Berlin, Budapest - Smugglers
In 2015, I had the chance to photograph the refugee crisis on my doorstep. People escaping certain doom in war torn Syria arrived in Budapest by the hundreds. Their perilous journey took them across Turkey, Greece, Macedonia and most of Serbia, and when they arrived in Hungary, it was here they had to stop. Headed towards Germany and other financially stable places that had an alluring, magical possibility of a better future and a better life.
While hearing and learning about those refugee's journeys, there was a constant topic of 'The Hotel Berlin' that kept cropping up. We had heard from personal accounts that the hotel, just outside of Budapest, was a well known smuggling drop-off/pick-up point. One specific account told us of the drop-off after being smuggled into the country via the Serbian border with Hungary. He was taken here, and told he would need to wait for a pickup which could be days. They weren't sure. They were sure about the price - 250 Euros per night.
Everyone had their part in this crisis - you volunteered, or you didn't. You donated food, clothes or money, or you didn't. While refugees were given free passes to get to the already overflowing refugee camps, some ticket inspectors were claiming 40 Euros as a fine to each refugee and filling their pockets. The Hotel Berlin had their hand in extortion and so did the taxi drivers and other people driving the refugees to this Renowned Hotel. Refugees and their families had paid upwards of 1000 Euros to get to this hotel, in the dead of night, Just for a chance at a better life. Some were taken from Budqpest, driven around and taken to this hotel, where the taxi drivers told them they had finally arrived in Berlin.
At the behest of the police and my own need to help where I could, I raced around the Hunyadi János út intersection. Capturing taxi drivers who shouted and screamed atrocities to me in Hungarian, tried to hit me with their cars, came up to me swinging or giving me the finger, while refugees poured out of their automobiles in droves after giving hundreds of Euros each.
Not only are these refugees escaping death; leaving their families behind, paying hundreds of euros to get to Hungary; a country they couldn't leave or didn't want to be in.