Chapter X: Freedom



It is 4 pm, at the border between Serbia and Croatia, known as Babrak transit zone. It’s raining. People huddle under trees. They sleep in the mud. They cover themselves with plastic sheeting. Refugees who had earlier let journalists photograph them now cover their faces—they do not want their despair to be seen. They do not want their vulnerability to be known. They want to retain their dignity.

An Afghan woman sobs and laments her situation as her four children look on. She is on the doorstep of the European Union, on the border. She wants to cross. She begs to. She says she’s been waiting for two days - but nobody pays her any attention.

Her children shiver in the damp cold.

A refugee is reunited with a family member. She is suffering a panic attack. She screams, she cries, she can’t breathe. She says the Serbian police hit her family. Doctors come. They try to calm her, In vain. She wants to leave this border for behind.

What’s going on? Refugees continue to arrive in their thousands to the Greek island of Lesbos. They continue to come by ferry, landing in Athens, then setting off on the Greece-FYROM-Serbia-Croatia-Hungary route...

But Hungary has decided to close its borders. The flow of people has been diverted to Slovenia. But Slovenia is only accepting a limited number of refugees. There’s a complete lack of coordination. Chaos.

The individual decisions of  EU member states causes has caused 3,000 refugees to be left stranded on the border between Serbia and Croatia, until it is decided how they can go through Slovenia. There are scenes of despair everywhere.

Tension rises. The refugees crowd in front of the Croatian fence, the flags of Croatia and the European Union behind them. The police try to calm them. There are people in wheelchairs asking to pass. Elderly people. Babies in the rain. Elbowing. Hours pass. “Freedom! Freedom!” shout the crowd.

"Freedom! Freedom!" shout the crowd  

When it stops raining, the Croatian police open the fence.

Eventually, everyone passes through.