Felix Thomson - Aid Worker
Felix has worked at Refugee Aid Serbia for over a year, originally coordinating the largest distribution of clothes and other essential items for refugees in Belgrade, Serbia. Previously he worked in press relations, as a translator, a youth worker, and at UNESCO.
"What I love about this film is the opportunity it gave me to engage people with what's going on in their communities. When we hosted our first Routes festival in Belgrade, we got 200 locals and 200 refugees who were sleeping rough throughout the city together for a day of workshops and to share their experiences. They were inhabiting the same city, but different worlds."
Diana Vasov - Aid Worker
A former refugee herself, Diana is a recent graduate with a Master of Human Rights and Bachelors in Psychology. She has been leading distribution of aid, educational and recreational activities in Belgrade since June 2016.
"What I love about this project is the focus on story-telling. You can’t empathise until you understand someone else’s situation, and I really hope that through this film we can begin to see perceptions and discourse surrounding refugees shift."
Samuel Horn - Aid Worker
Belgium born and qualified as an engineer, turned aid worker, Sam has been living in Belgrade for the past year. Samuel is experienced in charity fundraising, festival organisation and corporate/charitable sponsorship.
"As the grandson of hidden-children in World War II, this film is important to me in making sure history learns from it's mistakes."
The route became a popular passageway into the EU in 2012 when Schengen visa restrictions were relaxed for five Balkan countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
In 2013, some 20,000 people crossed the Hungarian border illegally. Nearly all of them applied for asylum after crossing. They were encouraged by a change to Hungarian law that allowed asylum seekers to be transferred to open holding centres, which they absconded soon after. In July, the Hungarian authorities further amended asylum legislation and strengthened their border controls. Migrant flows from Greece tailed off, but overall numbers rose dramatically again in 2014.
Part of the reason for the rise was irregular migration by nationals of the region, especially from Kosovo, who joined the northward march by Syrians and Somalis. On arrival in Hungary, they too requested asylum, and were accommodated in open refugee centres. They left the centres and headed to other European Union countries, particularly Austria and Germany, where many again applied for asylum.
The record number of migrants arriving in Greece had a direct knock-on effect on the Western Balkan route, as the people who entered the EU in Greece tried to make their way via the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia into Hungary and Croatia and then towards western Europe. This led to unprecedented numbers of migrants seeking to re-enter the EU through Hungary’s borders with Serbia. After Hungary completed the construction of a fence on its border with Serbia in September, the flow of migrants shifted to Croatia. In all of 2015, the region recorded 764 000 detections of illegal border crossings by migrants, a 16-fold rise from 2014. The top-ranking nationality was Syrian, followed by Iraqis and Afghans. Earlier in the year, unprecedented numbers of Kosovo* nationals crossed the Serbian-Hungarian border illegally.
*Frontex, (2017), Western Balkan Route, Article Retrieved From
Routes Festivals are community outreach events which aim to bring locals and the local refugee community together. The festivals reflect their local context, so it follows that no two festivals are the same. The aim is to facilitate interaction and foster understanding between these two communities through workshops, cultural performances, group discussions, playful activities, music etc. As in any festival, Routes Festivals are meant to be fun and enjoyable for all attendants.
Local crowds and migrants gather to watch a performance at the Polykastro Routes Festival.
Migrants from Afghanistan participate in an art workshop at the Belgrade Routes Festival.
The first Routes festival was held in Belgrade, Serbia in 2016 as a response to the growing tensions in the downtown area of Belgrade, where migrants were residing.
Over 200 locals and migrants attended the festivals and got to know one another through, art, food, dance and music. The success of the festival sparked the inspiration behind this film and in 2017 Routes festivals across Europe were established in Greece, Serbia, Austria, Germany, France and Belgium.
The aim was achieve the same success experienced in Belgrade and to bring light those initial concepts that were launched in 2016 to wider European community and in doing so raising the profile of Europe's migrant crisis and making it's respective local communities more aware.
Locals and migrants in an African drumming workshop at the Vienna Routes Festival.
Refugee Aid Serbia
Refugee Aid Serbia began as a collaboration of concerned citizens, non-governmental organizations, charities, and local businesses operating out of Miksalište refugee centre, in the Savamala neighbourhood in Belgrade. Here they collected and delivered clothing, food and hygiene items to the hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers transiting Serbia. Prioritising their adaptability, they moved out of Miksalište to focus on the behind-the-scenes work of aid delivery in mobile teams around the country, as well as awareness raising and community engagement.
Since then they have witnessed the official closure of the Balkan route, despite which asylum seekers still arrive in Serbia daily, many of whom stop off in Belgrade city-centre. Many become stuck, sleeping rough in improvised shelters and abandoned buildings. Here, they meet some of their most basic needs and offer them a moment of respite. They provide short term assistance through the delivery of essential aid and long-term educational and recreational programs. They always look to raise refugee issues with the public through external trainings, fundraising events and conferences.