MAN ON THE ROAD (Seen through the eyes of his reluctant hosts)

Cultural Center REX

21. 04. 2013 18:00

As part of its Talks Programmes and the Crossroads East-West project, Cultural Centre REX organizes a debate focusing on the public’s attitude regarding the immigrants passing through Serbia on their way to Western Europe and the institutional treatment they receive.

The attitude of the state and the citizens towards transit migrants travelling through this country the only way they possibly can, which is routinely and commonly considered to be illegal has become a hot topic in Serbia, over the past few years. Asylum seekers, migrants are both subjects and objects of human trafficking, faced with inhuman conditions, subjected to scrutiny and persecution by border guards, the police, the public and the media and left to the mercy of those who smuggle them and numerous moguls making money from their misery. Few human rights organizations and activist groups show concern for the position of these people, who not many believe have the right to discover the world travelling, improve their knowledge and skills and find a better place where to live and work. They are mostly treated as unwelcome intruders, while tendentiously ignoring the fact that they very often leave their countries of origin and come to Europe because of the neo-colonial economic and political relations, wars, persecution or catastrophes caused by the climate change. In the circumstances where ubiquitous dehumanization and stigmatization of these travellers is the precondition and the consequence of their exclusion from the domain of universal human rights, everyone who is nor willing to resign themselves to this disastrous daily situation that these people are confronted and cope with, faces the question of how to view such issues from an angle which is free from stereotypes and rises above the logic of "legality", avoiding the traps of stigmatization lurking in the dominant language and terminology, widely used in the field of the media and the law.

Sara Preradović's documentary, shot last winter at a location occupied by immigrants, in the vicinity of Subotica will offer an introduction to the debate. The participants / speakers will include activists, theoreticians and journalists currently exploring said issues. The guests from abroad will try to throw additional light on the topic, based on their experiences and practice.


Vladimir Petronijević

Serbia as a Divided Society - What is the position of Migrants?

We are witnessing a paradox that the countries, namely, political elites, advocating globalization as a relentless process, often resort to borders, limitations and bans, when it comes to the mobility of peoplei.e. migrations. Serbia, a country that was built on the ruins of the war-torn Yugoslavia, found itself unprepared for an increasing number of migrants on its territory. After more than 500,000 refugees, internally-displaced persons it accommodated and tried to integrate in the society, Serbia is faced with an influx of Afghans, Pakistani and others looking for help. It is has never been successful in integrating different ethnic groups with their diverse characteristics into an acceptable social system and yet, the country is now confronted with a phenomenon of the new new-comers. Where there is no such social system, the populism of political elites, whipped up by the media, comes to the fore and creates the conditions necessary for the emergence of new conflicts and divisions.

Vladimir Petronijević, executive director of Grupa 484 (Group 484) graduated from the Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade. He was a legal advisor in the Cabinet of the Deputy Prime Minister for EU Integration Bozidar Đelić,where he was in charge of the legal issues related to the process of integration into the EU and visa liberalization. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE). Moreover, he was s on the list of UNCP consultants and is an expert on human development reports (refugees and IDPs), consultant on IDPemployment issues and consultant on the position of the diaspora in the Serbian legal system. He joined Grupa 484 in 2005. He is responsible, among other things, for the development of the organisation, fundraisingandproject management.

Marta Stojić Mitrović

Dehumanization of Migrants

Dehumanization describes the denial of "humanness" to others, those who are not members of a group that we belong to. Having researched the systemic discrimination of migrants through legal practices, I would like to talk about the universal human rights paradox, that is, the rights which should be applicable to all human beings, but in practice, are granted only to members of some categories, while being denied to migrants, because they committed the offense of crossing borders illegally.
Marta Stojić Mitrović, ethnologist-anthropologist working at the SASA Institute of Ethnography. She has recently begun researching the phenomenon of migrations, focusing more precisely on the stigmatization and institutional discrimination of migrants.

Ela Meh

"The Illegals", "AsylumSeekers" and "FalseAsylumSeekers " - Which Reality Do These Words Cover up or Attempt to Justify?

Based on the principles of the freedom of movement, my contribution will be focusing on the observation of the dominant types of transit migration discourse in Serbia: the safety-oriented discourse that views "illegal" migrants as a "threat" to safety and the rule of law and the humanitarian discourse that considers migrants to be vulnerable victims requiring resources that are scarce in Serbia anyway. I will suggest that these discourses should be critically examined and seen as a tool for masking and distorting the realitythatmigrants face, as well as for legitimizing the repressive measures that bring such a reality about. From the point of the freedom of movement, the problem lies in the borders and processes that turn people into migrants.
Ela Meh earned a degree in philosophy and became involved in a form of activism that links the fight against climate change to the fight against capitalism. Since 2010, she has focused on the no borders activism, advocating freedom of movement and opposing the border system. She has lived and worked alongside different autonomous and no borders collectives on the French-English border in Calais. In 2012, she was a Migreurop volunteer living in Belgrade and researched the consequences of the externalization of the EU migration policy and the position of migrants in Serbia.

Moderators: Jovana Vuković and Nebojša Milikić

Guests at the debate:

Activists and journalists currently focusing on these issues, including Aleksandra Galonja (Athens), Peđa Obradović(RTV B92), Radoš Đurović (Asylum Protection Center)and others.
The following special guests from abroad will attempt to reflect onsaid issues from the point of view of their experiences and practice:
Eva Ottavy, lawyer has been working on migrant issues for 8 years now. Four years ago, she became a coordinator at Migreurop (, an European-African network based in Paris (France). The main themes of her work are readmission agreements, the Frontex European agency and the international coalition Boats 4 People (

Christophe Laluque is an actor and theatre director whoexplores the work of B. Brecht, R.M. Rilke, G. Stein, A. Daudet, H. Miller, etc. in the context of his research into the theatre available to everybody. He directed two plays on the topic of migrants intended for young audiences: The Manuscript dogs III: What Misery! (2008) and To the trash paper! (2009). He organizes meetings, discussions and public readings about foreign cultures, in collaboration with the networks CIMADE and RESF,as part of the Strange Strangers programme that he launched.



The debate is part of the three-year intercultural dialogue programme Crossroads East West, implemented within the framework of the Engine Room Europe project by Cultural Centre REX/B92 Fund, together with eleven cultural centres from all over Europe. The project focuses on independent cultural workers and their field of activity. Its main aim is to enhance the capacity and sustainability of independent culture in Europe and it is carried out with the support of the European Commission, while the Crossroads East West intercultural dialogue programme received additional support from the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia.

The debate MAN ON THE ROAD is one of the Cultural Centre REX Talks Programmes, held with the aim of fulfilling the general goal of stimulating public examination of the current issues and possibly generation of a language allowing formulation of a better definition and treatment of some topical social issues.

It is carried out with the support of the Open Society Foundation Serbia.