20. September 2015 · Kommentare deaktiviert für „Refugee crisis: young migrants blaze new trails through Europe“ · Kategorien: Balkanroute, Kroatien, Serbien, Ungarn · Tags:

Quelle: The Guardian

Families are being left behind at closed borders in the race to navigate Europe’s changing border rules

When the refugee route to the European Union swerved west into Croatia last week, some of the first people to blaze the trail were the three Ahmed siblings from Deir Ez-zor.

After Hungary, the gateway to Europe for more than 170,000 refugees this year, closed its border on Tuesday, thousands of the Ahmeds’ compatriots simply stayed put, unsure of where to go next. But Mohamed, Noor and Ali Ahmed didn’t waste time. After just one day, they paid for a taxi to the last Serbian town before Croatia, and then began marching through the flat farmland that stretches across the Serbo-Croatian border. The eldest, Mohamed, a 26-year-old doctor, admitted they had no idea of what to expect. “We just heard about this route,” added Ahmed. “We thought we should check it out immediately, see if it is a route or not.”

It’s impossible to say how refugees collectively shift direction, or to specify which of them are most responsible for forging or popularising a new path. But the fastest movers, and the most daring (or foolhardy) decision makers, are often small groups of mobile twenty-somethings like the Ahmeds. When the Hungarian route was first used by sizable numbers of Syrians late last summer, the first accounts of the trip on Facebook appeared to be written by young people for other young people. “Wear nice clothes, hair gel, and perfume,” advised one page that offered early tips on how people could enter Hungary. There was nothing on how to do it with children.

When that route finally closed last week, the last people to give up on it were the large families who waited in hope at the border gates, even after most others had left to take a punt on Croatia. “We will stay here until we hear that Croatia is a safe route,” said a cautious Kawa Uso, a Kurd travelling with his extended family.

If you’re not trying to carry several children across a continent, you can move faster and take more risks, explains Zahraa Daoud, a 23-year-old trying to navigate Croatia last week with a group of similarly aged friends. “It’s much better this way,” says Daoud, a Syrian literature student. “We’re all young guys and girls, we’re all healthy, we can walk and run and do anything.”

For Nooreddine Hamed, a 38-year-old Syrian engineer, every calculation he makes along the route is that much harder because he has five children with him. “It’s much slower,” Hamed says. “Your children have luggage, not just you. And you have to look after them. They need more rests and toilet breaks.” His family left home in Syria two weeks ago, a week before Daoud. Now both groups are at the same place in the trail, and the Hameds are about to get overtaken again. “The crowds we walk with change all the time because we go so slowly,” Hamed says.

Much has been made of the refugees’ hive-mind on social media, the sharing of information on Facebook and WhatsApp between those who have successfully made it to northern Europe, and those in their wake.

Social media helps to explain how the Hungarian route went from being a niche in 2014 to a full-on refugee superhighway this year. The more the word spread about the trail – and the more tips that were shared about routes, smugglers and tactics – the more it became a viable option.

However, what last week’s events have shown is that there are limits to the speed at which the hive-mind works. Information can only be shared as long as people have the internet. And as they hop between countries, most refugees get online only fleetingly. So the news that Hungary had closed its border took a while to reach people.

Even on Thursday, more than two days after it was shut, refugees were still arriving there, shocked that the path was now blocked. “Are you sure?” asked one late Syrian arrival, Alaa Eddine, after being informed that Hungary was closed. “This is the route they told me to come.”

With no Facebook groups or successful refugees to call on, people have had to rely on other methods of information gathering – a process that takes longer, and is more uncertain.

In the absence of a new known route, Daoud says she started asking UN officials and local policemen. “You don’t just ask one policeman,” says Daoud. “You’re looking for the policeman who says, ‘Don’t tell anyone I’m telling you, but you should do this …’ ”

Others rely on smugglers to plan the route. Interviewed earlier this summer in Serbia, an Afghan surgeon described how he had paid a smuggling network around €10,000 to plan every stage of the journey for him. “Sometimes they give me GPS, sometimes they give me a map, sometimes they send me a car,” said Yama Nayab, who fled Afghanistan with his family after being stabbed near the heart.

Last week, even the smugglers were struggling. Asked about possible alternative routes through Croatia, one Belgrade-based smuggler initially seemed surprised. Others kept taking refugees to the Hungarian border, even after it was closed.

In the end, it was an intervention from the Serbian government that ultimately forced the biggest change in the European migration route since last year. After the Hungarian government was unmoved by requests to reopen its border, Serbia simply began bussing people entering from Macedonia in the south to Croatia in the west.

It was a decision that most refugees didn’t properly understand. One asked if they were going to have to cross another sea. “What’s the name of this country?” asked a second man, 40-year-old Ali Sadoun from Iraq. “Croatia?”

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