For Refugees on Serbia-Hungary Border, ‘the Game’ Goes on

Piles of empty energy drink cans in Radanovac forest. Photo: Sasa Dragojlo/BIRN

While Western public attention focuses on refugees from Ukraine, non-European ones are still on the move, squeezed between violent police tactics and often ruthless smugglers, who hold the key to their successful passage to a new life in the West.

According to data up to April 18, obtained by BIRN, some 3,679 migrants and refugees are currently staying in Serbian state-run camps, but many more are in squats, hostels, private homes or camping in forests, like Radanovac.

The people smuggling operation does not stop. BIRN sources in the Serbian security services report smugglers' gang wars in the last months, noting at least two murders or disappearances of persons involved in this lucrative illegal business.

BIRN saw photos of several wounded migrants who had been attacked with machetes, and the doctor's report, which stressed they had been attacked by a group of "opponents".

Vuk Vuckovic, from Klikaktiv, an organisation which helps refugees outside state camps, told BIRN that around 4,000 people are camping in squats or private accommodations in northern Serbia.

He says crossings have got harder since Russia invaded Ukraine, as EU countries neighbouring Serbia strengthen border controls.

"Police brutality, according to statements of refugees, has become even more brutal, and border crossings are almost disabled due to the growing number of police patrols. As attempts to cross the border by refugees do not succeed, this pushes them even deeper into the hands of the smugglers," Vuckovic says.

He condemns what he called "EU hypocrisy", in creating a a sort of hierarchy of refugees in the Ukraine war, calling it "selective...

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