Note from the editors: The dedicated activists at Moving Europe have just released a very informative and useful brochure on their migrant solidarity work, Resistance along the Balkanroute. The document is full of reports, histories and practical reflections of several years of activism among migrants passing through the Balkans.
In an effort to further promote this important work, we are republishing the group’s general “remarks” on the project and encouraging our readers to check out the brochure, which can be accessed here.
Resistance along the Balkanroute: A few more remarks about our starting points and some general estimates
Our practices were always based upon an understanding of everyday resistance, a continuous struggle for spaces of movement, and spaces of autonomy. During the Summer of Migration, we saw what has been referred to as the Autonomy of Migration. And yet, the situation along the Balkan route has changed dramatically since the dirty deal with Turkey, and the closure of the Greek-Macedonian border. The demolition of the barracks of Belgrade in May 2017 signified the end of any autonomous movement able to cross the Balkans. Already before, the Balkan route turned back into what it had been in 2014 and in the beginning of 2015: a route mainly managed by smugglers and drivers. There are still several thousand passing monthly, but it is a passage characterised by anxiety and the risk to life, and it is expensive financially. Nevertheless, we should not make the mistake to declare the Balkan route dead. There are all these fences and regimes, but Orbán and all these other regressive structures and tendencies in Balkan politics may just represent an interim nightmare. The cause of liberation and the cause of migration will walk hand in hand.
Our common struggle will survive. After the closure of the Aegean Sea and Idomeni, movements through the passage of the Central Mediterranean route, from Libya to Italy, have increased until recently, and also the composition of migrants has changed, socially and ethnically. Exploitation of migrant labour has, shockingly, increased, but so have forms of autonomous migration across Europe. They have closed down the Jungle of Calais several times, but informal routes and camps pop up all over Europe.
Greece and Italy may become the countries where new ways of solidarity are invented, centred around the Mediterranean. The Palermo Charta is a milestone. Yes, we think that within the Mediterranean European regions stronger connections to the Maghreb and Africa may develop – not by referring to neo-colonial approaches, and not by developing the post-liberal informal labour markets, but by creating strong ties of solidarity from the bottom. We hope and believe that this will crash the European unity as it is enforced by the North.
With this in mind, we have to speak about Germany as the main destination country. There are one million migrants who have reached Germany over the last two years. There are continuous struggles every day, in the camps, at the places of registration, at police stations, and on the streets. Networks of support and mutual assistance are being built. Reproduction in contexts of family and neighbourhood, and communities are most important. Nearly all of the newcomers do have a permanent exchange with their families and friends who are still far away, and there are many who want to follow. One million migrants might be enough to be a basis for chain migration to take place in the near future. We want this and we invite them to come. Europe will be moved in Germany as well, due to the still enduring strength of what was called “Willkommenskultur”, and due to the everyday resistance of the migrants. These are the two factors which we refer to when speaking about the legacy of the great migration movement of 2015. Out of this special mixture there may emanate strong Communities and Solidarity Cities. Europe might become a better place to live.