At the Gates of Europe

Photographer, Marcus Drinkwater documents Belgrade’s refugee crisis

Words by Marcus Drinkwater

Walking North down Nemanjina Street, past the ruins of the Yugoslav Ministry of Defence building, a noxious scent fills the air, each nauseating inhalation more excruciating than the last. The toxic fires billow into the cold Serbian air, here, in Belgrade, where over a thousand refugees are currently enduring conditions no man in his right mind should never willingly live in. Migrants err like shadows between the city’s main bus and rail station and the Belgrade Waterfront, the controversial housing development which has made waves in recent debate.

Due to a hardening of immigration legislation and heavy border reinforcements, the Balkan route for migrants wishing to gain entry to Europe is currently at a standstill. Whether attempts are made on foot or in the ram-packed lorries of profit-driven smugglers, those desperate to reach Western Europe face sub-zero temperatures and infamously brutal police forces, mostly to no avail; their arduous march has now reached a glacial halt.

Serbia is no stranger to high influxes of refugees, the Yugoslav War having brought hundreds of thousands of individuals streaming though in the 1990s, but tensions between locals and migrants run high nonetheless. With no heat, a single, meagre source of clean water to and finite sustenance to share between such a number of people, every day is a battle for survival in what is informally referred to amongst migrants as ‘the Squat’. To save themselves from frostbite in temperatures known to fall below -15C at night, people burn railway sleepers and flammable products taken out of bins, providing them heat at the cost of toxic fumes. Akin to that of coal miners at the turn of the century, many have skin stained black from the poisonous smoke.

The so-called Squat has become something of purgatory at the gates of Europe; although government funding has allowed the construction of makeshift camps providing water, sanitation, and recreation, many refugees refuse to go there, choosing rather to risk everything to cross the border into the European Union. The lucrative business of human trafficking is thriving in Belgrade. Smugglers loiter in bars around the central train station, charging fees of two thousand euros upwards, bearing in mind that the risk is rarely worth the prize: at the Hungarian border, the fate faced by refugees is hardly an improvement. Many migrants bare the mental and physical wounds inflicted upon them by hard-lined anti-immigration police, who, with their dogs and their truncheons, inflict retribution on people’s will for a better existence.

The complexity and variety of reasons leading to such an exodus are nearby impossible to comprehend in the face of such hardships. Having grasped a mere inkling of their day-to-day struggles, one wonders how the hellish conditions here in Belgrade could possibly be worse than that which these people flee. One could venture that this is the very heart of the migrant conundrum, as the question for many is not about having an idyllic life, but a choice between a rock and a cold place.

As border restrictions in to Europe tighten, refugees, mostly from Afghanistan and Pakistan squat in disused warehouses in the centre of Belgrade. Many opting not to move to state run camps because of fear of deportation back to Bulgaria or Macedonia. They burn rubbish and railway sleepers to keep warm and keep away hypothermia, though this does create a thick black toxic smoke.
Belgrade, Serbia. 24/01/17.

A Pakistani refugee at the age of 14 from the Peshawar region covers his face with a blue scarf to protect him from toxic smoke inhalation.
Belgrade, Serbia. 25/01/17.

With no sanitation activist groups have erected basic toilets so the refugees can have some privacy. It stands in contrast to the locally controversial “Belgrade Waterfront” property development funded by investors from the UAE.
Belgrade, Serbia. 26/01/17

Ahmad fled Kabul Province in Afghanistan as Taliban were searching for his two brothers as they were aiding the American Military with translation. He hopes to meet them in the future in France. As there is no source of running warm water many heat it up on the toxic fires created to keep warm in the sub-zero Serbian winter.
Belgrade, Serbia. 26/01/2017.

Refugees receive aid from Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders for many conditions ranging from general health to smoke inhalation. Recently they have reported an increase in frostbite. This particular case was caused when making the journey to the Croatian Border, and when better he will make a second attempt.
Belgrade, Serbia. 26/01/2017.

The squalid conditions where the refugees call their home, some have been there several months.
Belgrade, Serbia. 25/01/2017.

Matiullah, 16 just arrived in the Belgrade squat with some friends. It has been a long arduous journey via foot and smuggler though Macedonia, leaving Nangarhar Province in Eastern Afghanistan 8 months ago.

The Garden

Photographer, Marcus Drinkwater captures quintessentially ‘English’ towns in the county of Kent

Words by Marcus Drinkwater

The Garden started when I moved from London to Kent in June. For the last three years I have been studying Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication. Living and working in London as a freelance press photographer, I experienced a culture shock when I moved back to Whitstable, a small seaside town I grew up in on the Kent Coast. I don't think I ever particularly felt at home here and being away so long made me feel even more detached.

I have always used photography as a way to explore the world. As a press photographer I was covering newsworthy events, such as protests, but I found this never really caught my imagination, what really interests me is everyday life. You can find amazing moments in the most mundane situations if you learn to observe.

The Garden was born out of the desire for me to try and understand where I had come from. Whitstable seemed so monotonous when I was growing up that I barely wanted to photograph it. As soon as I returned I saw it in a whole new light and wanted to understand it as much as I could. To me, it could be considered a quintessentially 'English' place. Many of its towns have seen their heyday in the past with the rise and fall of tourism in Britain, so they seem in an awkward purgatory between the past and the present. The idea of society has always interested me greatly and I often face my lens to the most traditional places of English social customs such as the pub or the beach. Places such as this hold a timeless tradition for the English and are a place where people truly show their eccentricities and I love that you can gain an insight into their lives only using a camera.

I interact very little, if at all with my subjects, which goes against my normal method of working. If I am honest I don't want to interact with them at all, as I don’t want this to influence them in any way. In my head, I create narratives for these people and they become someone completely different entirely. I feel if I do get to know them in some way this will change the way I photograph them. To me, they are everyday people just living their lives and this is the most interesting entity of all. I don't know the subjects in my photographs, I probably never will know them, but when I print their images to me they become more than just a stranger I photographed.

To me, it's a collaboration.

112 Years

Marcus Drinkwater documents West Ham United’s final season at Upton Park

Words by Marcus Drinkwater

You can’t manufacture community or build unity; it’s something that comes with time, over 100 years in this case. The blood runs claret and blue over in the East End and its streets deafened by the roar of over 35’000, soon to be silenced.

112 Years follows an event that will soon end, match day at Upton Park. 112 Years is an intimate documentation of a place and community brought together by one passion, soon to be altered indefinitely by London’s unstoppable redevelopment.

With West Ham United’s move to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium in the summer comes Upton Park’s eventual demolishment, leaving an area of East London steeped in tradition quite. From East Ham Working Men’s Club to the Boleyn Pub on the corner of Green Street, there is no telling the effect the move will have. If one thing is certain, it is the sense of togetherness that has been forged over a century, the sadness of leaving and the optimism for the future.

Uncertain times lay ahead for the fans of West Ham United, they have known good times and bad over the years, players and managers come and go. Through all this has been the ground, standing like the ironworks the club was once founded on. 112 Years follows match day at the Boleyn, for one last season.

As a publisher and Community Interest Company, TRIP is dedicated to showcasing unconventional stories that may otherwise be overlooked. We aim to give a platform to the unseen and a microphone to the ignored. Expression is a right and should not be confined to those that can afford to work for free; which is why we strive to support a diverse range of creatives in their work, commissioning exciting projects and creatives to visualize them.

Founded as a magazine in 2013 by photographer, Dean Davies, TRIP was born from a desire to provide opportunity and exposure for image-makers across multiple platforms and medias. With a focus on people and place, in 5 years TRIP gained a loyal readership, and became known for its honest image output and representation of the underrepresented, featuring over 800 image-makers from across the world through a website, 5 magazines and 3 free zines.

As TRIP C.I.C. we are not interested in profiting from the activities of the organization, and re-invest all income back in to consecutive publishing projects.

Dean Davies
Alfie Allen

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