Life in Limbo: thwarted mobility and aspirations among refugees and migrants on the Balkan route.


  • Introduction by Simon Turner (AMIS) and Alice Anderson-Gough (DRC)
  • Presentation by Megan Passey of Danish Refugee Council’s/Mixed Migration Platform's report
  • Discussants, Zachary Whyte (AMIS) and Anja Simonsen (Anthropology)
  • Q & A



“I don't know where I'll be one year from now. Already I've been travelling and waiting for more than a year. Sometimes I feel like I'm crazy…I'm just so tired, I'm really so tired. I don't know what tomorrow will bring." —Afghan woman, interviewed in Vranje Reception Centre, Serbia

 Eighteen months on from the EU-Turkey Statement, the people once described as ‘on the move’ in the Balkans are largely immobile. Unable to continue their journeys, yet with no certainty that they will be able to stay, the wait is becoming intolerable.

This study, conducted by the Danish Refugee Council and the Mixed Migration Platform, examines the role of two important influences on mixed migration in this context. The first is the availability of support prior to and during travel, a crucial factor encouraging and enabling people to make journeys to Europe in the first place. The second is the role of closed-border policies, which intended to prevent irregular migration, but in practice have succeeded in slowing, rather than stopping irregular movement. The effects of closed-border policies on the vulnerability, needs and intentions of those in limbo remain under-explored, as does their effect on integration in the longer term.

Focusing on the situation in Serbia, where over 4,000 people were stranded en route to Europe due to closed border policies at the time of research, this research places particular focus on the economic aspects of forced migration, the growing phenomenon of indebtedness, and the strategies used to cope with everyday life in a situation of thwarted mobility. Based on 60 qualitative interviews with refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in centres across the country, the research sought to gain a better understanding of the nature of support provided to people who leave for Europe; the challenges they face when ‘stuck in transit’; and how situations of thwarted mobility affect both people in limbo, and those who supported them.

Everyone is welcome!