Finding Refuge: Stories from Serbia

“I have interviewed a few people here. The situation here is a lot different from Greece, Turkey and the rest of the countries. The Border Police is torturing the refugees and  taking their money, mobile phones,etc.

What sort of a story are you looking at?”

A story from the borders of Serbia Photograph by Anubhav Syal

A story from the borders of Serbia
Photograph by Anubhav Syal

I wrote to Anubhav on Facebook when I heard what he was up to. Anubhav and I went to college together. We were flatmates for one of those three years. He was always one of the funny men around. Kind, aloof and talented, usually seemingly content. I found out yesterday that while he was studying in Madrid, he decided to go to the Serbian border to work in the refugee camps. Harrassed at the border, after working with the refugees for the entire day, he sits down and types down a part of his experiences for InPRA

Given how time is another resource they don’t have, I’m glad he could pen down his experiences. Here’s one of of the stories he heard from the refugees.

“I was  walking towards a tap to wash the pot in which I planned to cook soup for the refugees, ‘Shorba’ as they called it.

A young man walks up to me and asks me where I’m from, I introduce myself and ask him the same question. He  worked as a civil engineer in Afghanistan with the American forces. He spoke about his life and how he ended up in Europe. He was blaming himself for the misery his family had to face, and with that he started his story.

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He received a call one day, a man asked for the work timings of his supervisor. When would he be coming and going out?

He suspected that something was wrong, he refused to answer the question and immediately changed his SIM card. A friend advised him to not tell the Americans that the Taliban was after him because he might lose his job. He panicked and didn’t inform anyone.

He received another call after nearly two months, with the same question, and an additional warning. If he doesn’t help, his family would be murdered. He refuses again.

A few days later, his father hears a knock while Ashraf is away. He opens the door to be asked  about the whereabouts of his son. After they get nothing from him, they shoot his father in the chest twice. His brother came out to fight and was shot too. Ashraf realized that to save the life of his wife and mother, who still live back in Afghanistan, he needed to vanish. Like so many others who needed to protect their loved ones, he runs from his homeland and hopes to find salvation in the west. Hopes that eventually it would all be okay. Ashraf talks with strong eyes as his voice weakens


I finish washing the pot, invite him for soup and  walk back towards the camp.”

On being asked about the general troubles faced by the refugees and the volunteers.

Anubhav: Just yesterday, the Serbian police started charging them at least 10 Euros for registration, sometimes going as high up as  100 to 150 Euros. the registration is supposed to be free.

When I expressed my shock, he went on to explain the gravity of the situation.

Anubhav: They are registering in the nights now, not in the day, so that they can get away with it. But the refugees come and tell us about it.They say they were beaten up  for refusing to pay. Each of the cops that came at night seemed to be drinking and once they get drunk, they would start beating up refugees for refusing to pay. For now, we’re trying to get at the bottom of this 

More from him soon.

In light of the attacks in Paris, Beirut, Turkey and the dozens of other locations where the likes of the ISIS or the Talibs have carried out acts of terrorism, it is important to remember that there are millions living in parts of the world where these forces rule them.


Anmol Soin

Anmol Soin

Managing Editor at InPRA
Anmol Soin has finished his post-graduate education from the University of Oxford and the University of St.Andrews. Anmol will always credit his academic growth to his time at St.Xavier’s College, Mumbai.

Formerly engaged as a consultant and a researcher for the 14th Finance Commission (Government of India), he has also worked for the Knowledge Partnership Program (IPE Global and UK Government’s Department For International Development).

He was also the Professor for ‘The Economics of International Relations and Geopolitics’ for the final year undergraduates at NMIMS. Having worked at multiple think-tanks, he brings his experiences as a professor and a consultant together to try and frame a comprehensive overview of International Economics for InPRA.
Anmol Soin