The Balkan route, from BarBalkans and its guests’ perspective

An overview of BarBalkans’ latest event at Piolalibri “Poveri noi. Tales from Bihać and from the Balkan route”. With Marta Gionco (Apriamo i Porti member), Lorenzo ‘ULULA’ Garofalo and Nicola Veronesi

Today, we do not tell a story from the Western Balkans. We tell our story from the Western Balkans. Last Saturday (November 26), the Italian bookstore and wine shop Piolalibri in Brussels hosted BarBalkans’ latest event, “Poveri noi. Tales from Bihać and from the Balkan route“.

It was exciting, intense and passionate. It was wonderful, thanks to the guests who told us interesting stories, and to all joining with their dragging energy.


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This article has different, but not contradictory, intentions. This is a huge ‘thank you’ to all the friends and curious people who were present in Piolalibri. This is an opportunity to get a grasp on the discussions of the event, for all those who did not have the chance to come to Brussels or had other things to do. This is an invitation to explore the stories of the people trying to reach the European Union along the Balkan route. The story of U Pokretu in Bihać. The story of the many volunteers who are creating something remarkable to give a hope to Bosnian and young migrant people.

And, indirectly, the story of the Kosovar entrepreneur and war widow Fahrije Hoti. Because we wanted to support her project, by collecting donations through the sale of her ajvar, the condiment also known as ‘the popular Balkan caviar’.

Read also: When ajvar is more than ajvar: the business story of Fahrije Hoti and war widows in Kosovo

Copertina Evento Rotta Balcanica

The event in a nutshell

The event “Poveri noi. Tales from Bihać and from the Balkan route” started with an introduction on the migration route crossing the Western Balkans. The Balkan route is the larger migratory movement at the EU external borders, with around 128 thousand irregular border crossings from January to October 2022 (they were 764 thousand in 2015 and 130 thousand in 2016).

Read also: One (human) Bridge to Idomeni. And to Bosnia

But we should never forget that whenever we refer to migratory routes, we are talking about people. About individual stories. About reasons, more or less complex, that lead a person to leave their home. As citizens of the European Union we cannot forget that we have indirectly a role in all the discriminatory policies of our national governments and of EU institutions towards these people, as they try to build a fortress-Europe, impossible to penetrate.

Evento Rotta Balcanica

The bulk of the event kicked off with a conversation with Marta Gionco (Apriamo i Porti Bruxelles), who gave us an insight into the EU border externalization policy and the related implications. Via cooperation with Turkey, Libya and the Western Balkans, the EU tries to prevent irregular migration by outsourcing migration management to third countries with a worrying record of human rights violations.

Read also: Slovenia is trying to tear down the external walls in Europe

Marta explained pushbacks, and why they are an illegal practice. Specifically, pushbacks involve the arrest of a person after or during an irregular border crossing and the return to a neighboring country without a case-by-case assessment of their individual situation. She also told us about The Game, that all the migrant people along the Balkan route try to complete. This is the attempt to cross the EU border without being caught by the border guards, by walking in the woods, crossing rivers, climbing over border fences, jumping trains, hiding in lorries or procuring taxi services through smugglers.

Evento Rotta Balcanica

The singer-songwriter Lorenzo ‘ULULA’ Garofalo and Nicola Veronesi, video editor and script writer of the project in Bosnia, explained their experience between 2020 and 2022 thanks to the Italian non-profit organization One Bridge to Idomeni. They told us about the time they entered the so-called Jungle near Bihać with John, a 17-year-old boy fleeing the Horn of Africa.

Read also: The new album by ULULA & LaForesta is an invitation to follow them in Bihać

They inspired us with the energy and strength of Marine, a French woman who founded the Bosnian NGO U Pokretu [In Motion, ed.] together with her husband Dado, to offer a better present and future to local youth and migrants in Bihać. They depicted the story of Miograd, Daka for friends, the ‘village guru’. Daka is the only resident in Lipa (the place that hosts one of the largest refugee camps in the Balkans). There, he rebuilds farmhouses with the help of migrant people, to give them a little normality beyond the Lipa camp or the Jungle.

Evento Rotta Balcanica

At the end of the event, ‘ULULA’ performed a live acoustic concert, with a great musical power and intensity. BarBalkans highly recommends you to listen to his music and to look for his next concert. His new single – Pazzo Cuoricino Pazzo – has come out yesterday!