Chapter Three - The Jungle

The Game is part of an on-going multimedia project that explores specific aspects of migrants’ daily life on Eastern European borders from a visual ethnographic perspective. The goal is to explore life in refugee and reception centers, squats, and in the 'jungle' (the woods), by showing the daily practices used by migrants to survive extreme physical and psychological conditions. At the same time, the work investigates the systems of surveillance used by authorities – such as technical equipment, training of volunteer citizen groups joining the police in patrolling the borders – and their effects on the migrants' bodies and psyches.

Migrants refer to their dangerous trip across the so-called Balkan Route as 'the game'. Independently of their origins and native tongues, all migrants use this English expression. They all attempt to cross the Balkan borders, walking or hidden in trains and trucks, even fifteen or twenty times in a year, taking risky, multiple chances, like in a game. More often than not, the police takes them back to their departure point, not rarely after having physically and psychologically abused them. In most cases, guards beat them, push them to walk barefoot in the snow, send dogs to rip their bodies apart, destroy their mobile phones, and seize their money and the few items they carry. Abuses are widely documented by the international NGOs that every day provide migrants with medical support.

Although the Balkan Route has been declared officially closed by Frontex and the EU authorities, and therefore the mass media have covered it increasingly less, thousands of migrants are still using it every day to reach the EU countries. They mainly come from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and North Africa, through Turkey and Greece. Some come from countries as far away as Cuba and China. After crossing Bulgaria or Macedonia, they all remain blocked in Serbia for an indefinite time. Their wish is to cross Hungary or Croatia and then continue their journey West, but the frontiers to both countries are massively militarized, making the passage particularly arduous. This pushes migrants to live in a physical and psychological limbo. The border becomes their home while they wait to cross states before reaching their destination – a wait that may last even two years or more.

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Subotica, Serbia 2017
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Sid squat, Serbia 2017
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Migrants from Afghanistan in Sid, where hundreds of migrants are waiting to cross the border with Croatia. They live in a abandoned factory or in the 'jungle'. Sid 2017
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Sid squat, Serbia 2017
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Sid squat, Serbia 2017
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Sombor, Serbian-Croatian border. Serbia 2017
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Serbian-Hungarian border, Subotica, Serbia 2017
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Serbian-Hungarian border, Kelebija, Serbia 2016
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Sid, Serbia 2017
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Serbian-Croatian border, Sombor Jungle, Serbia 2017
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Belgrade Waterfront, Serbia 2016
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An abandoned restaurant used as shelter by migrants, along the highway. Adeseveci, Serbia 2017
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Sid, Jungle, Serbia 2017
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Some volunteers provide a meal for migrants living in the jungle in Sid, Serbia 2017
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Subotica, Serbia 2017
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Belgrade Waterfront. Pakistani, Serbia 2016
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Migrants from Afghanistan waiting to cross the Serbian-Croatian border during the night. The next day they were captured by Croatian police and taken back to Serbia. Sid, Serbia 2017
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The Belgrade Waterfront was an abandoned warehouse in the center of Belgrade. It was used as a shelter by hundreds of migrants during the cold winter 2016. Belgrade, 2016
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Serbian-Hungarian fences, Kelebija 2016
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Abandoned brick factory in Subotica, Serbia 2017
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Sid squat, Serbia 2017
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Fires inside the Belgrade Waterfront, an abandoned warehouse in the center of Belgrade. It was used as a shelter by hundreds of migrants during the cold winter 2016. Belgrade, 2016
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The Belgrade Waterfront was an abandoned warehouse in the center of Belgrade, used as a shelter by hundreds of migrants during the cold winter 2016. Belgrade, 2016
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The Belgrade Waterfront was an abandoned warehouse in the center of Belgrade, used as a shelter by hundreds of migrants during the cold winter 2016. Belgrade, 2016
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The Belgrade Waterfront was an abandoned warehouse in the center of Belgrade, used as a shelter by hundreds of migrants during the cold winter 2016. Belgrade, 2016
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The Belgrade Waterfront was an abandoned warehouse in the center of Belgrade, used as a shelter by hundreds of migrants during the cold winter 2016. Belgrade, 2016
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Algerian, Brick factory, Subotica, Serbia 2017
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The Belgrade Waterfront was an abandoned warehouse in the center of Belgrade, used as a shelter by hundreds of migrants during the cold winter 2016. Belgrade, 2017
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The Belgrade Waterfront was an abandoned warehouse in the center of Belgrade, used as a shelter by hundreds of migrants during the cold winter 2016. Belgrade, 2016
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The Belgrade Waterfront was an abandoned warehouse in the center of Belgrade, used as a shelter by hundreds of migrants during the cold winter 2016. Belgrade, 2017
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Some volunteers were providing meals for migrants living in the jungle in Sid. A night they put music and disco lights to dance. Serbia 2017
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Aziz from Afghanistan at the Belgrade Waterfront, 2016
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Adesevci reception center, Serbia 2017
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Subotica reception center for minors, Serbia 2017
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Krnjaca reception center. Mohamed from Afghanistan is living at the center with his wife and their 6 years old son. Mohamed's wife suffers from severe anemia that requires periodic hospital admissions and blood transfusions. Krnjaca, Serbia 2017
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Adesevci reception center, Serbia 2017
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Mohamed from Afghanistan. Adesevci, Serbia 2017
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Krnjaca transit camp, Serbia 2017
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Principovac transit center, Serbia 2017
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A migrant shows RXs of his arms broken with the leg by the Croatian police during an attempted of passage. Sombor reception center, Serbia 2017
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A migrant shows his leg and the blood, after he was beaten by the Hungarian police. Subotica, Serbia 2017
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Brick Factory, Subotica Serbia 2017
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