“The views represented in this opinion piece do not necessarily represent those of the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy.”
You might have heard of the migration crisis since the war break in Iraq and later in Syria in 2013. The Balkan route became famous because people are fleeing their homeland in search of peace to Europe. They thought Europe is a place of democracy, peace and human rights. What they did not knew was that it is not easy to make it there.
Let’s do not forget that the migrants loved their country. They did not want to go to Europe before the war started in their homeland. All happened after the war and bloodshed in their home country. Even now, thousand people still live in Syria and Afghanistan, believing that they belong there, that one day the situation would change. They want to make that change.
Most of the migrants wanted to take the Balkan route to go to Western Europe such as Germany in search of peace. I came from Germany to Balkans in search of what has happened with migrants throughout this journey. Not only me; youths, activists, and volunteers from Hungary, Serbia, Germany, Macedonia, Kosovo got together to talk about what solidarity means and define what humanity means in the twenty-first century.
We met Humanitarian Organizations and their staff who actively responds to the current refugee crisis in the border between Serbia and Croatia to Hungary- an entry point to Europe. They provide food, cloth, laundry services and even bath taking facilities across the closed border to Hungary for refugees still stacked there in jungles outside cities. They use their own terminology while talking with us.
“The Game” refers to the hard journey to try to cross the heavily secured border from Serbia and Croatia to Hungary. It is protected with fences and barricades, with a heavy presence of police force at both sides of the border. The migrants live close to the border, not in camps provided by the Serbian government for refugees to stay. The reason is that they want to go for “the game” as much as possible with the hope of being successful one day. A migrant who left a camp once is also not allowed to return. Most of these refugees are now from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
A volunteer from Germany in an organization which provides food for such migrants across the border named “No Name Kitchen” explained the situation there. She said that when the new migrants arrive at these Squads (informal camps/ settlements near the border), they are very much optimistic that they have made it so far, and that they can cross the border. But after they go and fail to cross the border, they are more sad and depressed, because they learned that they couldn’t make it anymore.
It takes three to four days of continuous walking in cold winter of Serbia to go for “the Game.” Mostly they do it in groups. There are numerous reports of acts of violence and physical violence against migrants who want to cross the border by the police. There is a website which tracks and records such incidents.
I met a German girl who is a volunteer in the “No Name Kitchen” organization near the border with Croatia in Serbia. After she learned that I am originally from Afghanistan, she surprised me by saying “Senga Ye” [How are you] in Pashtu, a local Afghan language, and “Ma sara me lagega” [ don’t bother me]. She had a small dictionary of Pashtu words in a big paper, their pronunciation and their meaning in English, Germany, and Serbian. Most of those migrants who are still stuck in the border are from Afghanistan, and they speak Pashto. The words she learned also indicate how the situation is there on the ground. She wanted to learn more Pashtu, and I tried to teach her a bit.
Later, this situation reminded me of all the Afghans who made it to Germany and how difficult it is for them to learn the language. As difficult as it was for this German volunteer to learn Pashto and for me to explain it to her. It also reminded me of some unwelcoming situations in Germany against immigrants. On the other hand, you see the courage and the great job that this and other German volunteer do in Serbia under very harsh condition. You feel that the world is divided, but there still exists humanity out there.
“The project “Solidarity Architects” (https://www.cge-erfurt.org/solidarity-architects/) is funded by the Erasmus Plus programme of the European Union, and organized by CGE Erfurt e.V. (www.cge-erfurt.org) together with project partners: Volonterski Centar Vojvodine (Serbia), Association “Peace Action” Prilep (Macedonia), Service Civil International Hungary Utilapu Halozat (Hungary). CGE Erfurt e.V. is a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Erfurt, founded in 2005 and run by young professionals, who are designing and implementing local and international youth projects. Through the years, CGE has been striving to develop and implement initiatives, which are interdisciplinary in nature employing different non-formal education methods. The organization tries to address current societal issues, at local, national and international levels.”