Arnon Grunberg



On the Balkan route – Der Spiegel:

‘The Balkan route is thousands of kilometers long. In the summer of 2015, when the Germans famously welcomed the newcomers with open arms, the route running through southeastern Europe was fairly straightforward. Most asylum-seekers came to Greece and Serbia via Turkey. From Budapest, they traveled on to Munich by train.

In the years since, however, the EU has erected fences and built walls. When border guards apprehend migrants, they often push them back to the other side of the border. The use of force and the border installations have changed the Balkan route. It now resembles an intricate system of secret pathways. Many people spend months, or even years, trying to navigate it.

For many, the route now often begins in Bulgaria, with asylum seekers eager to avoid Greek border guards, who are known for being particularly harsh. From there, it leads via Serbia or Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia. Month after month, some paths are blocked while new ones open up. The routes grow continuously longer. And more dangerous.

There are no precise figures available for the number of migrants who die on the Balkan route. There is, however, much to suggest that more have lost their lives this year than in previous years. Six select morgues along the route have registered 92 dead migrants this year, significantly more than in previous years.’


‘DER SPIEGEL reporters spent months roaming the Balkan route together with the non-profit investigative organization Lighthouse Reports, ARD, the radio station RFEL/RL Sofia, the British newspaper iand the Greek online outlet Solomon. They spoke to relatives, activists and public prosecutors, visited forensic experts and explored cemeteries.
The research shows that the hostility faced by asylum-seekers at European borders continues even after their death. Countries like Bulgaria, Serbia or Bosnia and Herzegovina make little effort to identify the dead. There is no database and no central portal where relatives can search for them. The dead decompose in fields, fill morgues and are buried in anonymous graves, sometimes within a few days.’


‘Four refugees told DER SPIEGEL that they had to bribe employees so that they could look at the dead. The management of the mortuary claims to have no knowledge of such practices, but many NGOs in the region have heard the same. "We keep receiving such reports," says Georgi Voynov of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, a human rights organization that many refugees turn to for help. The families report that they are exploited at every step of their search for their loved ones.’


‘If Bibars could, he probably would have buried Majd somewhere else, according to Islamic ritual, possibly in Turkey with his family. But the Bulgarian authorities won’t allow that – exhumation isn’t possible for legal reasons, they say. Two days after his arrival, Bibars leaves Bulgaria. Without his son's body.’

Read the article here.

It’s good to remember that Bulgaria is still a member of the EU.

It should not come as a surprise that hostility towards refugees is continuing after the demise of the refugee, after all the biggest divide on this world is something that could be labeled ‘nation state privilege’. What kind of passport do you have? Are you an A-citizen, a B-citizen, a C-citizen, maybe not a citizen at all.

In my opinion the obsession with migrants has a lot do with the fear of being superfluous.

As I wrote recently in a Dutch newspaper, see here.

I noted that it will be AI who will make us superfluous, not the migrant worker nor the refugee. But alas, a migrant, a refugee is a delightful scapegoat. AI is not such a delightful scapegoat.

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