This project reflects on the management of the ‘refugee crisis’ along the Balkan Route by Serbian authorities. The project highlights how, with the exception of the dramatic months of the second part of 2015, when over 800,000 refugees crossed with largely no opposition the entire region to reach the rest of Europe, the presence of refugees in Serbia and their related mobility have been somehow normalised. The project investigates how Serbia has been long prepared to provide humanitarian support to the refugees using the informal Balkan Route, since their presence is not considered contingent but rather constitutive of the mutated European geographies of irregular migrations. The ‘refugee crisis’ also has put Serbia under a positive light internationally compared to some of the neighbouring countries thanks to the relatively unconditional humanitarian support that guides its policy towards these families and individuals on the move. While this may place Serbia in a stronger position when negotiating its present and future relationship with the European Union, our research also reveals that the permanent presence of the refugees and of the related network of hospitality camps is important for the impact that they have on some local economies but also for the streams of funding coming from the rest of Europe. We have thus problematized the idea of a permanent ‘refugee crisis’ along the Balkan Route, and in Serbia in particular. At the same time, we emphasize how the role of Serbia in the new European geographies of humanitarian management of displaced people is thus increasingly important for its integration into the broader economic and political geographies of the continent.
Keywords: Refugee crisis, Balkan Route, Serbia, refugee camp, geopolitics