The makers of programmes about refugees scooped the top prizes at the annual Rory Peck Awards.

The awards, which took place at the BFI Southbank this evening, honour freelancers working in news and current affairs.

Director of the Rory Peck Trust Tina Carr said:“Tonight’s winners and finalists clearly show that some of the very best work in today’s news and current affairs is being produced by freelancers from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.

“This evening is a chance to celebrate such diversity and talent. It is also a reminder that freelancers are at the heart of independent journalism.

“With journalism increasingly under attack all over the world we need to support and protect these brave, talented and diverse freelancers for the benefit of us all.”

The winners

The Rory Peck Award for News was presented to Greek video journalist Will Vassilopoulos for Fear and Desperation: Refugees and Migrants Pour into Greece (pictured), which was commissioned by Agence France Presse (AFP).

Judges described Vassilopoulos’ footage as “exceptional”. They said: “Images from the Mediterranean have become so familiar there’s a danger of image fatigue, but these stood out. Will held his shots, let them breathe and evolve, leaving his sequences long so you really got the arc of the story.”

The Rory Peck Award for News Features was collected by Italian freelancer Marco Salustro for Libya’s Migrant Trade: Europe or Die, commissioned and broadcast by Vice News.

The judges said Salustro film showed the moral complexity of the situation faced by the Libyan government and their inability to deal with it. “You got a real sense of the fear, insecurity and lack of hope these migrants have. There’s no UN agency to save or support them. No government to help them either.

“They are trapped in this limbo. You don’t just walk away from this film and forget it instantly, it really stays with you,” said one judge.

The Sony Impact Award for Current Affairs was won by German freelance filmmaker Marcel Mettelsiefen for Children on the Frontline: the Escape, his second film about the family of a leading rebel commander in Aleppo.

The film was part self-funded by Marcel. It was produced by ITN productions for Channel 4 in association with ZDF and PBS Frontline.

Judges said Mettelsiefen’s film was beautiful and timely.

“The way this film draws you into the complex, quite desperate and also quite hopeful inner life of this one family is breath-taking. It’s honest, emotional, intimate and poetic. This is a touching documentary from a mature and responsible filmmaker who has made a film that we all need to see at this time.”

Freelance fixer Angel Istek Alcu was presented with the Martin Adler Prize, which honours the outstanding contributions made by local freelance journalists.