By Marko Djuirca
I had been thinking how cold it was for this time of year to need both my hoodie and my jacket. A cold, strong wind blew over the hills of no-man’s land separating Serbia from Macedonia. I stood quietly in total darkness for an hour or so until the border patrol officer, looking through his thermal camera, said: “Here they are, I think there must be 40 of them!”
Every year, the Serbian border police catches more than 10,000 migrants from Africa, the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, who are trying to reach Serbia illegally. They come from Turkey, through Greece to Macedonia and Serbia before they reach Hungary and with it, the borderless Schengen travel zone.
When I decided to follow this story, I had no idea how strong an impact it would leave on me.
Sasha, a policeman, gave me his thermal binoculars and said: “Look to the left, they are ascending uphill, you can see them beautifully, them climbing in a column one by one.” I spent a full two minutes looking at total blackness until I could make out the tiny white outlines of people hurrying through the forest. It brought back memories of looking at black-and-white film through a magnifying glass.
“Now slowly behind us, we need to be quiet.”
“I’m following you,” I told Sasha, and asked how it would be possible for three policemen in the dark, wide, open hills to catch 40 people. We hid behind a bush along their route and waited. Sasha stayed with me in front while the other two positioned themselves to surround the group. “When you hear me scream ‘Stop—Police’ then you can start taking pictures.”