Four voices of refugee solidarity along the Balkan Route: An exploratory pilot study on motivations for mobilisation

Investigation details

During the months of November and December 2016, I travelled across one of the most common paths along the ‘Balkan Route’; the migration route made infamous during the 2015 European Migration Crisis. The desire to pursue this field investigation emerged as a result of several factors. Most notably, while living in Turkey, I had the chance to meet incredible refugee solidarity activists from every corner of Europe and beyond. They had come to Turkey to lend a hand in response to the mass influx of forced migrants from the Middle East and North Africa. Simultaneously, media outlets sensationalized the crisis while political discourse managed to wedge itself as a divisive force to which citizens could latch onto. The voice of host community residents and refugees was nearly absent in all of this. Being part of several broad and organized activist networks, I knew that a great deal of solidarity with migrants and refugees existed within the Balkans. I was curious, however, as to how this solidarity materialized in situ, and how people with no prior interest in migration or experience with activism decide to become engaged with refugee solidarity actions.

In total, 32 individuals in six countries were interviewed over a six week period (see map below).

Hotel City Plaza (Athens, Greece), an abandoned hotel turned into a free housing complex for refugees. For more information, visit: (Source: Parent, 2016)
Train tracks passing through Veles (Macedonia), one of the hotspots of humanitarian response during the 2015 European Migration Crisis. (Source: Parent, 2016)
Area map of central Savamala (Belgrade, Serbia), an area with a high concentration of informal refugee settlements. Mapping based on field observations and interviews conducted. (Source: Parent, 2016)
Inside the ‘Barracks’, an informal refugee settlement (Savamala, Belgrade, Serbia). (Source: Parent, 2016)


Investigation output: Migration Letters


Four voices of refugee solidarity along the Balkan Route: An exploratory pilot study on motivations for mobilisation


MigrationLettersScathing critiques of the European response to what has been widely called a ‘refugee crisis’ are not in short supply. However, as many activist mobilisations and solidarities emerged along the Balkan Route, this is only one facet of the European response to forced migration. Having interviewed four migration activists from four countries along this route – Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary – this exploratory pilot study sought to investigate possible motivational factors for mobilisation in light of the fact that the participants had no prior experience in activism nor interest in the politics of migration prior to the European migration crisis. Through content analysis of interview transcripts, two factors emerged as having potential implications for mobilisation: media coverage and visibility of refugees. Hence, theories about the media effect and intergroup contact are used to explicate the findings. Possible future research avenues are proposed.


refugees, perception, media, intergroup relations, mobilisation, activism, Balkans.


This article can be in Migration Letters vol. 15, no. 3 (pp. 423-436). Currently, the article is not open access. Please feel free to contact me.