TheGAME – Counter-mapping informal refugee mobilities along the Balkan Route

European Research Council (ERC) – Advanced Grants 2021

The Balkan Route is the most important overland informal migration corridor in Europe, taken by thousands of refugees every year. Linking Greece to Western Europe across Bulgaria, Romania, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Croatia, the Route is a complex geography of formal and informal, visible and ‘invisible’ sites; an assemblage of diverse actors, camps, borders, violence, solidarity, and a multiplicity of micro-routes, constantly adapting and shifting. 

Across and between these interconnected spatialities, refugees forge their trajectories towards Europe through ‘The Game,’ the term they use to refer to clandestine journeys. Along the Route, an archipelago of makeshift camps has emerged. Key in producing and sustaining The Game, these sites serve as temporary shelters, nodes of services and information, where refugees meet smugglers, wait, and plan the next move.  

To understand how informal migration corridors work TheGAME aims to:  

(1) theorize makeshift camps as distinct spatialities with a unique social and political life;  

(2) investigate the Route’s archipelago of makeshift camp as an inter-connected, corridor-forming counter-geography; 

(3) produce an archive-in-progress documenting refugee experiences of a corridor endlessly re-invented across space and time;  

(4) employ counter-mapping as a methodology capable of critically understanding how the Balkan Route functions and propose a novel and replicable approach to studying informal migration corridors globally.  

TheGAME is the first transnational, multi-sited, multi-temporal, extensive ethnographic research on an entire informal migration corridor, a ground-breaking project with the potential to disrupt how we understand refugee informal mobilities and camps, generate cutting-edge academic work and shape new directions for Camp Studies and Political Geography. 

Project duration
November 2022 – October 2027 

Principal Investigator
Prof. Claudio Minca 

Eur 2,473,760.00 

Level II ERC sectors **
SH7_1 Human, economic and social geography; SH7_2 Migration