Fortress Europe: “It took 37 attempts but I am in Europe now!”

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Last night I arrived in Bosnia with members of the Cars of Hope collective. The Balkan route took a new turn and more and more people are arriving in Bosnia. There is no fence or wall that will stop people from fleeing from war and persecution. Or as one of the refugees I spoke with today said: “It took 37 attempts but I am in Europe now!”

Originally published by Enough is Enough. Written by Riot Turtle.

I woke up in the morning with the news of the clashes on Lesvos. The islands are about to explode because most refugees are kept on Lesvos and other Greek islands. Lesvos is totally overcrowded, about 8000 people live in the Moria camp, which officially has a capacity of 2000 people. I received some videos of yesterdays violence on Lesvos, some people got severely injured and are in critical condition. That was the first thing I heard and saw this morning.

And for what? As I wrote in the introduction of this article: There is no wall or fence that will stop people from fleeing from war and persecution. I am in Velika Kladuša now, a small province town at the Bosnian side of the Bosnian-Croatian border. Velika Kladuša has a long history. It was a frontline town during the war in the times of the Osman empire and it was a frontline town again during the Balkan wars in the 1990’s. In this town many locals know what it is to flee from war and persecution. When the first refugees arrived locals immediately started to help the new arrivals.

There are some international volunteers here, but most of the work is done by local people. Refugees eat in a local restaurant. It was good to see that people got their meal served on plates and on a table. Not in plastic cups like in many state camps on the Balkan route. The owner told me he opened the doors of his restaurant because he personally knows how it feels to be forced to leave home, friends and family. He had to leave his own home during the Balkan wars.

We are working with local people and a few international volunteers here. Bosnia is not exactly a rich country but people do what they can. Refugees told us that locals come to the makeshift refugee camp every day. They bring food, shoes and clothes. The international volunteers support the locals in the restaurant and started a warehouse to collect donations. They also work together with Doctors without Borders (MSF). Organize medical support and installed showers, wash clothes etc. etc. The list what have to be done is long and new people are arriving every day.

During the night many people try to cross the border to get to Croatia and later northern Europe. In Velika Kladuša you see many people with plaster. The Croatian border police is patrolling the border with many cops, helicopters and dogs. When they find refugees they beat them up, steal their money, destroy their mobile phones… Welcome to Europe. Today I spoke with one guy who had a broken foot, broken by Croatian cops. He said: “I don’t know why they did it because they can’t stop me. Okay I have to wait for the next attempt to cross the border because my foot is broken. But it’s 5 weeks ago that they did that and in a few days my foot will be ok and than I will try to cross the border again. When I was in Turkey I needed 37 attempts to reach Greece. Every time I didn’t succeed I start to make plans for the next attempt the next days. I will get to northern Europe. There is no border that will stop me.”

Today the truck that is needed to pump water for the showers was broken. So no showers today. We went there to inform the refugees and to say to them that we’re working on it and there will be showers tomorrow again. We also started to make preparations for a free clothing shop, which will also open tomorrow. At one point a man came with his family and said: “Well maybe we come back tomorrow but maybe we succeed tonight and will leave Bosnia again. Last night we were trying it but there were too many cops. So we will try it again tonight. People are trying to cross every night and others arrive in the border town.”

The Bosnian state can’t handle the situation, the economy is weak and there is no strong infrastructure that could handle the high number of daily arrivals. Although locals and international volunteers do what they can to support refugees here, there is a lack of about anything. Therefore it would be great if people would help to support refugees here with donations. There are enough people supporting refugees here but they need financial support to continue their work with refugees.

 

You will find donation details below.

You can also donate by bank transfer

Bank: Volksbank im Bergischen Land

Name of account holder: Hopetal e.V.

IBAN: DE51 3406 0094 0002 9450 87

BIC: VBRSDE33XXX

or with bitcoins:

18WH8NyyDH6xsXztxFkQW1m3xBK2NLQp3d

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