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Choke point

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The number of registered asylum seekers in Serbia during 2008 was 77, most of them were Afghans. They were placed in asylum shelter in Banja Koviljača – small impoverished town of western Serbia. Life within local community was peaceful to satisfaction of both locals and asylants.

Since 2010, after Arab Spring and dramatical changes in sociopolitical situation in the Northern African region and in the Middle East, number of asylum seekers in Serbia suddenly started to grow. During that year, 522 of them pass through Serbia, capacity of the center at Banja Koviljača was no longer sufficient, so many of asylum seekers had to sleep in parks and surrounding woods. In October 2011, with people fleeing civil war in Syria, situation in Serbia got out of a control. Another asylum shelter was opened in the village of Bogovađa, in central Serbia. Another crisis took place in winter of 2012, when 2.723 people sought asylum in Serbia. Hundreds of them slept without roof over their heads in woods of Bogovađa. Some of them had invaded abandoned cottages, which infuriated local community and caused protests.

With another 5066 asylum seekers in winter of 2013, Serbian government opened a new shelter in Obrenovac, near Belgrade, and additionally another two. In November 2014, there were 16.490 asylum seekers, 70% of them were Syrians, and media starts to refer to asylum seekers as migrants. European and Serbian public start to describe this crises with terms such as „the biggest migrations of the modern world“, „rivers of people“, „historical phenomenon in our lifetime“…

In October 2015, 180.307 people from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Eritrea, Pakistan, etc. passed through Serbia. During ten months of the current year 335.246 refugees traveled through Serbia. This is 19 times more than in the last eight years all together.

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Text Mirko Rudić, photos Milovan Milenković © Kamerades. Any use of the photos without written permission from the author is strictly forbidden!

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