On winter 2017 Adrian Foucher and I traveled in the Balkans, along the so-called “Balkan Route”, the purpose of this journey was to observe the reality of the “migrant crisis”.

As we arrived in Belgrade by train, we realized how this city was a very important crossroads for the migrants, just behind the main train station, between 800 and 1000 people were living in the barracks, former warehouses, abandoned at the time, that where turned in shelter and homes.

We spent most of the time there and its surroundings. The “Bar Peron” inside the station appeared right away as one of the focal point for the migrant community, this was a place to warm themselves from the freezing temperature and to charge the phone, an essential tool to keep in touch with family, friends on the way and to plan the way ahead.

Most of the migrants were eager to tell their story and their attempt at “the game”, as they call it, the several efforts to cross the closed borders.
It was very natural for them, to take us around the barracks, to show us how they lived and how the faced the harsh condition of the Serbian winter.

Many Serbian and international volunteers were bringing food and helping to improve the living condition, also with recreational activities. As the Belgrade waterfront buildings were impending on them, (the barracks will be destroyed and the people forcibly evicted later that year to expand the project), cricket and football games were played on the esplanade near the construction site.
These pictures aim to show the everyday life of the people during those months of stay, the endless wait, the cold, the hunger, but also the resilience and the moments of joy of these human beings in search of a better life.

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An Afghan young man practicing cricket. The stone behind him serves as a wicket, and the many traces of rubbing on the paved area on the ground mark the area which he has to cross to score runs. Partly visible to the right is the Belgrade Waterfront, a huge urban development project that will lead to the destruction of the “barracks” that house nearly a thousand young men from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Belgrade, February 2017.
© Simone Peyronel

Volunteers from Western Europe organize a live show. Most of the spectators eagerly take part. The camp’s population consists entirely of men from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Most of them are aged under 30; some were still minors when they left their country. In the background, the “barracks” of Belgrade town center, where they live, and the Belgrade Waterfront. Belgrade, February 2017.
© Simone Peyronel

A GPS communication and navigation device, a camera, a souvenir box, etc: The smartphone is a precious tool which it is crucial to keep in working order. Thanks to a mobile generator, volunteers in the Belgrade informal camp enable migrants to charge their cellphones and try to set up activities. Belgrade, February 2017.
© Simone Peyronel

The Belgrade waterfront is an imposing urban development project in the heart of Belgrade, on the banks of the Save. It is the object of sharm criticism by some locals due to its funding sources, and is tied to a possible corruption scandal by local and national politicians. The project will eventually lead to the destruction of the “barracks” in which close to a thousand migrants have found refuge in Belgrade town center. Belgrade, February 2017.
© Simone Peyronel

An Afghan man protecting himself from the cold in the informal camp in Belgrade town center. The inhabitants of the Belgrade camp live in the buildings visible on each side, which they nickname the “barracks”. Belgrade, February 2017.
© Simone Peyronel

An Afghan young man posing after a game of soccer. Soccer, cricket and volleyball are the most-played sports inside the camp, and are one of the only activities available to these migrants to fight boredom. Belgrade, February 2017.
© Simone Peyronel

A young man shaving in front of the building he lives in. Belgrade, February 2017.
© Simone Peyronel

After a fiercely contested game of soccer, an Afghan young man poses in front of the hangars where he and a thousand young Pakistanis and Afghans have found shelter. Belgrade, February 2017.
© Simone Peyronel

An improvised volleyball game in the informal camp in Belgrade town center, close to the train station. At the end of March, after a harsh winter, the slight uptick in temperatures and the first sunny days lift the spirits. Belgrade, March 2017.
© Simone Peyronel

This container close to the Belgrade train station was likely used by Serb rail workers for a time. Today, it shelters young men from Afghanistan or Pakistan. Here, they gather their belongings and sleep directly on the ground, bundled up in covers. In the background, the giant Belgrade Waterfront urban development project on the banks of the Save. Belgrade, February 2017.
© Simone Peyronel

Simone Peyronel

Simone Peyronel is a photojournalist and cooperation operator currently based in Sri Lanka.

He graduated in photojournalism at the RESTART School of Creativity, Arts and New Technologies in Lisbon, Portugal. His core areas of interest are migration and social conflicts.

He pursued his main photogaphic projects while volunteering in orphanage in Gaziantep, on the Turkish-Syrian border (2015-2016); while on a trip on the Balkan migration route in 2017 and in high migration areas in Italy.

Most of his work is visible on his website: simonepeyronel.photoshelter.com