Children in the Game
Assignment for The Guardian - story by Lorenzo Tondo
An Afghan girl pulls her baby sister along in a pram through the mud and snow. Saman is six and baby Darya is 10 months old. They and their family have been pushed back into Bosnia 11 times by the Croatian police, who stripped Darya bare to check if the parents had hidden mobile phones or money in her nappy.
I have followed the journey of Darya and that of dozens of other migrant children who, every day, walk, or are carried on their parents’ backs through the snowy paths that cross the woods around Bosanska Bojna, the last Bosnian village before the Croatian border, in an attempt to reach an increasingly inhospitable central Europe.
Few families are successful. Most of them are stopped by Croatian police, searched, allegedly often robbed and, sometimes violently, pushed back into Bosnia, where, for months, thousands of asylum seekers have been stranded in freezing temperatures, without running water or electricity.
On the road that leads from the Bosanska Bojna valley to the Croatian forest trails, other families leave their shelters and set off again with their entourage of children and strollers. “Today, we go for game!” yells a smiling six-year-old.