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#overthefortress, on the Balkan route (February 4th and 5th, 2017)

Reports and pictures from Belgrade and the Serbian-Hungarian border

11 February 2017

Between the 4th and the 6th of February, some activists from the #overthefortress campaign went back to the Balkan route. Here, the report and the pictures from Belgrade and Horgos/Röszke, at the Serbian-Hungarian border.

February 5, 2017

In Kalebija (Serbian-Hungarian border), 20 km north from Subotica, the situation is problematic. Migrants constantly attempt to cross the border with Hungary, but the Hungarian police forces continue to stop them, not in a friendly manner though. Migrants are then sent back to Serbia, right beyond the border.

We found a group of 20 Pakistani, at least two of them were minors (one was 13 years old), who had just been sent back. They were camping by a street, waiting for the night to cross the border again. That wasn’t the first time they attempted to do so. They were obviously in bad shape, because of the never-ending walk and the bruises (quite noticeable on some of them).

These people’s conditions are borderline: they look exhausted and beaten, but still well determined.

These kind of attemps are frequent in the area, especially at night.

Ex fabbrica di mattoni a Subotica

In Subotica we had the proof that what we had been told was true: migrants try to jump on freight trains that are about to leave. Behind the train station, near the railway yard, we saw migrants coming and going, quietly but continuously, climbing over the fence to get to the railway area. Hopefully, they will find shelter in one of those abandoned buildings while they wait for the right train. However, we can just imagine what consequences these attempts will have...

One more episode that’s worth mentioning: in Kelebija, we met three French volunteers carrying humanitarian aid supplies stuck for two days between the Serbian-Hungarian border. They weren’t allowed access to Serbia, neither to Hungary, just to give an idea on how volunteers are welcomed here…

The following interview was done with Rehan Khan, 23 years old, one of the Pakistani guys we met in Kelebija:

“I hope I can walk towards Austria, perhaps we will see Europe, but for the moment the situation is hard, borders are closed. Everyday we try to go through the Hungarian border, but police forces deport us back to Serbia.”

When did you first arrive to Serbia and where?

“I arrived 6 months ago in Belgrade from Bulgaria. Ever since, we’ve been trying almost every day. We don’t want to stop in governmental refugee camps because we’re afraid that we won’t be able to move on again. We sleep where we find place to, usually in abandoned houses or in the street. I want to go away. In governmental refugee camps it’s impossible to get the necessary documents, those who’ve been there for six months are still waiting for them. We’re just loosing time here. I’d like to go to Budapest first and then to Austria. Than no one knows where I’ll end up in Europe. Yesterday we tried again, but once we get caught, we are again deported to Serbia. Anyway, we’re going to try again tonight.”

Intervista a Rehan Khan, 23 anni, pachistano

The Serbian-Hungarian border

In Ciglana, near Subotica, at the Serbian-Hungarian border, a hundred of pakistani citizens live in miserable conditions, with no drinkable water, neitherr humanitarian support from NGOs. In the nearby governmental camp of Palic, some two hundred people, many of them children, wait to be “picked” among the ten lucky who can cross the Hungarian border every week.

At the border of Hogos/Röszke the situation is extremely quiet: both here and along the old railway line there are just razor wire and Hungarian police forces ready to attack as soon as we move closer.

Belgrado, ai capannoni della ex stazione ferroviaria

4 febbraio 2017

This morning we visited the abandoned hangars of Belgrade’s railway station that thousands of asylum-seekers have been using as a shelter for months. All of them are stuck in Serbia because European borders are closed and they aren’t let through. For those who are living here, the situation is definitely borderline, or, if possible, worse. There’s no way to heat up the buildings, apart from burning anything possible, from wood, to plastic and Eternit: the air inside is unbreathable.

Serbian authorities offer no services to these people, not even any chemical baths. The few NGOs trying to provide some help are not being encouraged at all. Food for Idomeni (Britons) is working here every day to distribute one meal per day (joined by One Bridge to Idomeni, NGO from Verona): the Serbian authorities just allow one meal in a day, two would be too much...). In addition, a group of Spanish people work to gather wood in order to reduce the risk of intoxications.

Around 550 people are living here at the moment, most of them are from Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, this place used to host around 2,000 people not so long ago. Those who left, unwillingly decided to move to the governmental refugee camp in the south of Belgrade as the living conditions here are unbearable.

The number of asylum-seekers that have been here for a long time is decreasing, while this place is used just as a temporary shelter. Some are waiting to go north, towards Hungary. Others, the majority, are those who were repealed at the European borders.