LIPA - On April 13 2020, the number of deaths due to the Coronavirus in Italy exceeded 20,000. That same afternoon, Saeed carefully packed his bag in the migrant camp of Lipa, Bosnia. Three portable charging batteries, a box of cigarettes, a sleeping bag, and a picture of his two children back in Pakistan. 

This was the fifth time he would try getting smuggled to Italy since the pandemic hit and security measures increased. The hope this time round, was to avoid being caught by Croatian police, avoid the beatings and torture, avoid the pushback...

At the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, Frontex indicates that irregular migration to the EU is at a long-time low. There is only one place where numbers of irregular border crossings are increasing: the Balkan route, connecting Turkey to central Europe. The article investigates how Covid-19 transformed the migrant route across the Balkans, and why violence has become the new norm of migration management, with police forces in Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia establishing a mechanism of undocumented collective chain pushbacks of migrants and asylum seekers outside of Europe.

Personal testimonies and direct accounts from both people on the move and law enforcement are sided by photographic forensic evidence, as well as the use of maps, satellite and digital illustrations needed to reconstruct and visualise key testimonies.

Team members

Hannah Kirmes-Daly

Hannah is a reportage illustrator based in Germany.  

David L. Suber

David is a journalist and researcher, working on issues of organised crime, human trafficking and smuggling. 

Roshan De Stone

Roshan is a journalist and illustrator based in the United Kingdom. 


Nancy Porsia

Nancy Porsia is an award-winning freelance journalist and acknowledged expert on Libya, based in Italy.
A grant of €5,000 was allocated on 10/05/2020

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