[Macedonia] “Invisible migration” in Macedonia

Like Serbia, Macedonia is one of the main transit countries on the Balkan route. Thousands of people passed through this country on their way fleeing towards the EU. But this route from Greece over Macedonia, Serbia and more north doesn’t only exist since 2015.
After all, with the so called “long summer of migration” and the by that forced short opening of the borders it has become much more visible. In this time one could see thousands of people walking next to the railway line and the highway. The geography of Macedonia is very mountainous, but both of those routes cross the land from South to North and run mainly through the valley of the river Vardar, so in comparison to the rest of the country they are easier to pass. In 2016 the borders of the so called state-run “corridor” over the Balkan route have been closed and basically hermetically sealed by radical militarization which led to making the migration nearly invisible. Repression and criminalization by the state towards refugees and those, who offered support in any way, increased heavily. Macedonia as a transit country became a huge and dangerous challenge for many.
Also, the self-organized and independent activist groups, that were active in Macedonia for months, moved back because of the repression. Only NGOs like Legis still can work at the official transit camps Gevgeljia and Tabanovce. The people crossing Macedonia on their flight don’t want to stay there but move on as fast as possible.
Since 2015 only few people asked for asylum in Macedonia and even less were approved for it. There are still illegal pushbacks to Greece or imprisonments of refugees. In spite of the unfavorable circumstances, people manage to pass the country unseen. On their way, they risk their lives. In March 2019 a person died when a group of refugees had to jump from a driving truck to avoid a police control. 14 more were hurt. Tragedies like that were more frequent especially before the opening of the “legal corridor” through the country.
Besides the situation for migrants, the social-political situation in Macedonia is tense and repressive in general and many people live daily in precarious conditions. Next to Bosnia, Macedonia is one of the poorest countries in Europe. The social system doesn’t offer any financial support, so everyone depends on wage work. In the same time, the wage is so low that people need to work an extremely high number of hours every month to be able to afford the life. For left activists that means, that next to wage work there is only very few time for political work. Additionally, the financial resources for the political work are missing: money for the monthly rent for the Social Centre, for printing flyers, posters, the travelling expenses to important meetings or the organization of actions and protests. Most of the spending is covered by crowdfunding campaigns or supported by other European groups that show their solidarity. Because of that, the left movement in Macedonia is mainly based on single persons that manage to be politically active besides their jobs. According to them, the number of active people, apart from NGOs, is sinking. For example, one of the few radical left groups in the Macedonian capital Skopje lost several members in the last years. With that, the few activists especially get in the focus of the police and the repression from the state. In spite of everything, they manage to maintain structures like the Social Centre Dunja in Skopje. Right now, there is crowdfunding campaign running to support this project: https://de.gofundme.com/social-center-dunja-a-call-for-support