For weeks, Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees had followed a familiar route in the hope of reaching Austria, Germany or Sweden: from Turkey and Greece to Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary, and thus into the European Union. But when Hungary sealed its border with Serbia last week, thousands of migrants were forced to find a new path towards asylum—the path through Croatia.
Visual journalist and photo editor Patrick Witty has spent the last four days following these refugees as they crossed the Serbian border into Croatia, where they hope to board one of the few trains dispatched to the eastern city of Tovarnik.
“The situation here has been chaotic and confusing,” Witty tells TIME. “Many refugees board trains and buses with no idea where they are headed. A couple of Afghan refugees asked me if we were in Hungary. I used Google Maps on my iPhone to show them that we were indeed in Croatia.”
Witty has been using a variety of social media platforms to document the situation for TIME – from Periscope, which allows him to broadcast live from the Croatia, to Twitter, Vine, Instagram and Facebook. “Because the situation is so fluid and ever changing, I really feel like documenting what’s happening through social media is most telling,” he says. “Hopefully it’s offered a small window into this enormously important story. Hopefully it’s offered a glimpse into what it feels like, not only looks like, to be on this epic journey.”
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