A goal to reach, potentially deadly challenges to overcome and just a single resource – a mobile phone. It may sound like the plot for a horror film, but “the game” is now a harsh reality. For young Iranian victims of Sharia law, Kurdish families whose parents have been imprisoned for their political activities, young Afghans tired of living in the midst of war or Pakistani migrants reduced to poverty, arriving at the end of the Balkan route is an enterprise that tests the limits of human possibilities.
“The Game” is the ironic name they have given it, perhaps to allay the dread of exhausting the few resources on their journey or encountering a nightmarish obstacle that forces them to start again from square one.
Sent back to the ravaged condominiums of a Bosnia that still bears the scars of its tragic war. Queuing up to use the toilet they must share with at least two hundred people. In the dank, misty Balkan forests, where you wake up soaked to the skin and disoriented. Another life. Another possibility. Until it’s game over. Slovenia, Italy and especially the central European and Scandinavian countries are the dream for what could finally be a “normal” future. The way out of the labyrinth.
Although Bosnia has few resources to spare for flood of people arriving from the Middle East and Central Asia, it is the only place where everything is still possible – assistance from former refugees, a new route opened by people smugglers who can demand anything up to 4,000 euro per person, maybe the use of free wifi in the local bars.
In Bihac, on the border with Croatia, the final consolation is the river, where it’s possible to wash or shave before trusting to the mobile phones GPS system for the great leap into the unknown. Beyond lies the risk of encountering the Croatian police in the scary tunnels – the police hand out regular beatings when the migrants are caught again on these perilous routes, and deliberately destroy their mobile phones.
Even worse is the insurmountable wall put up by the Hungarian authorities. The first attempt may create a chink, the second a crack. When theres no choice, there is only one direction left: the lands beyond.