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The Game: Counter-mapping informal refugee mobilities along the Balkan Route

Project description

Tracing informal migration along the Balkan route

Thousands of migrants (mostly from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Africa) travel every year along the so-called Balkan route. Considered the main overland migration corridor in Europe, this route consists of a complex geography of formal and informal and visible and "invisible" sites that sustain "the Game," the term migrants use to refer to their irregular journeys across the region. Along the route, an archipelago of makeshift camps has emerged, serving as temporary shelters and sites where migrants meet, rest and plan the next steps. The ERC-funded TheGAME project will explore these makeshift camps’ social and political realities while considering them as interconnected, corridor-forming geographical formations which are key to the migrants’ multiple experiences of the Balkan route.


The Balkan Route is the most important overland informal migration corridor in Europe, taken by thousands of refugees every year. Linking Greece to Western Europe across Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Croatia, the Route is a complex geography of formal and informal, visible and ‘invisible’ sites; an assemblage of diverse actors, camps, borders, violence, solidarity, and a multiplicity of micro-routes, constantly adapting and shifting. Across and between these interconnected spatialities, refugees forge their trajectories towards Europe through ‘The Game,’ the term they use to refer to clandestine journeys. Along the Route, an archipelago of makeshift camps has emerged, hosting thousands of refugees as they repeatedly attempt to enter Europe. Key in producing and sustaining The Game, these sites serve as temporary shelters, nodes of services and information, where refugees meet smugglers, wait, and plan the next move. To understand how informal migration corridors work TheGAME aims to: (1) theorize makeshift camps as distinct spatialities with a unique social and political life; (2) investigate the Route’s archipelago of makeshift camp as an inter-connected, corridor-forming counter-geography; (3) produce an archive-in-progress documenting refugee experiences of a corridor endlessly re-invented across space and time; (4) employ counter-mapping as a methodology capable of critically understanding how the Balkan Route functions and propose a novel and replicable approach to studying informal migration corridors globally. TheGAME is the first transnational, multi-sited, multi-temporal, extensive ethnographic research on an entire informal migration corridor, a ground-breaking project with the potential to disrupt how we understand refugee informal mobilities and camps, generate cutting-edge academic work and shape new directions for Camp Studies and Political Geography.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 2 473 760,00
40126 Bologna

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Nord-Est Emilia-Romagna Bologna
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 2 473 760,00

Beneficiaries (1)