If I had known about how I would be treated along this journey, I might have never left my country. Better to die under the bombs in my home than to be treated like this in Europe.
–Syrian refugee, Šid, Serbia, February 2016
In January 2016, Nonviolent Peaceforce (NP) deployed a team to the Balkans to assess protection needs of migrants and refugees, with a view to inform possible NP program development in the region. In particular, the team sought to understand sources of violence against refugees and migrants in order to determine how unarmed civilian protection could be used to reduce violence along the route.
(Photo 1: Adrianne Lapar and Lisa Fuller of the NP assessment team interview an Afghan
woman and her teenage daughter in a park in Athens. The women reported fear for
their security, especially at night, in their abandoned airport building shelter.)
Visiting key transit points in Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia, the team arrived during a critical turning point in the so-called “refugee crisis.” We arrived to assess protection needs, stemming from the largest mass migration to Europe since World War II, just as borders were shutting. The team witnessed firsthand how states have been struggling to cope with the massive influx: a fine balancing act between guaranteeing the rights and basic humanitarian needs of arriving refugees and migrants, and addressing the needs of their own citizens, including national security and social welfare.