Archive for ‘BiH’

maj 28, 2018

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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maj 26, 2018

#NoBorders #Bosnia — The unique solidarity of Velika Kladuša

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Tonight we will travel with people of the Cars of Hope collective to Bosnia. We will hook-up with our friends of the former Soul Food Kitchen. We worked with Soul Food Kitchen before (in Thessaloniki and Belgrade). Here is an article about the situation at the Bosnian-Croatian border. Locals together with international volunteers are warmly welcoming people at the Bosnian-Croatian border and are trying their best to support them and show solidarity.

Originally published by Are You Serious.

Velika Kladuša is a small town known in Bosnia as the rebel city, but also an area where, throughout history, many people have left for other countries, looking for jobs or a better life. Some have moved to nearby Croatia, some to Slovenia or Austria, or to other western European cities.

This year, Kladuša has become a place to which people are coming. Today, hundreds of people on the move are there, many sleeping rough in the streets and park, or abandoned buildings.

There is not much industry in Kladuša, but compared to other regions in Bosnia and Herzegovina—one of the poorest countries in Europe—the city seems to be quite wealthy and offers several supermarkets, restaurants, cafés, bars and hotels.

Velika Kladuša is located right by the border and the region is surrounded by Croatian territory to the east, north, and west. This is why it has become an important point for people on the move. The distance from Kladuša to Slovenia is less than 70 kilometers. However, people have to cross Croatia to get there, and with all the illegal push-back from that side, not many manage to find their way and Kladuša is becoming a bottleneck, a place where people are stuck.

Bosnian government has been reacting very slowly, if at all, and the same is true for the big organizations; people have been left without basic help, including accommodation, food, medical care… So locals, who went through similar experience during the war in this country from 1992 to 1995, decided to be there for all the people who need help.

Click at the image to start the video:

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Unique solidarity

For Europe, the situation is nothing new after having what has been going on in Idomeni, Belgrade, Röszke, Kelebija, Ventimiglia, Paris…just to name a few locations. What makes this situation special and extraordinary in Velika Kladuša, is the response of the locals.

At this point, together with a small number of international volunteers, they are handling the situation quite well. Hotel owners and private individuals have been accommodating people on the move since this winter; hairdressers are giving free hair cuts; restaurant owners are offering free drinks or meals if people cannot pay, and even if they don’t order something, they are welcome to spend a few hours in a cosy place and use the free Wi-Fi.

At the “Kod Latana” restaurant, close to the city center, a group of local people and volunteers of the former Soul Food Kitchen provide a free meal daily. At first, locals were financing everything themselves. Donations started coming in recently, mostly through the small Bosnian charity pomozi.ba, supported by local population and companies, but also personal donations. During Ramadan, when two meals are served each day, and with the increasing number of people, this help is more then needed.

International volunteers recently began coming to Kladuša, too. A warehouse for distributing donated clothes and the NoName Kitchen’s (WARNING: Facebook link) mobile showers were set-up.

Nevertheless, the people in Kladuša and their hospitality toward strangers are impressive.

In the restaurant “Kod Latana” they come not only for a free meal, but to find a place to rest, feel safe, and enjoy quiet for a time. The locals set the rules, and food is served as in restaurant; everybody has a place to sit, people serve them, and unlike in many other places, they use proper cutlery and dishes here for food. The food is domestic, Bosnian.

“If they are here, the situation for them must have been bad,” one local explained their solidarity.

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Image: Impressions from the restaurant.

The region of Velika Kladuša was ravaged by the Bosnian war in the 90s. The memory of war, loss and the poverty that came after has created a very different situation than the situation in most of the other countries where people who have been on the move so far.

Almost everybody in Kladuša felt the war. Now, when they meet with these people who are going through the same things, they are determined to do their best to support them. And the people they are helping feel it. “People here are very good,” is the sentence ofter heard by people on the move in Kladuša. “Also, the police here are very good,” they always add referring to the very humane way they are being treated by the local police. Many are not aware that many of the people among local police officers grew up in war, have themselves been refugees, have migrants in their families, or most probably, are dreaming of leaving Bosnia soon as they are not able to cope with the difficult life in this country.

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On the other, Croatian, side of the border, the police treatment is much different. This is glaringly visible almost every time when people come back after another “game” and another push-back. The chance that they will make it over the border into the EU is so slim that they call every attempt “a game”.

“The Croatian police are a big problem,” everyone in the park in Kladuša will say. Some are coming back with wounds, even broken bones, smashed phones. The displays and sim-card slots are broken, the memory cards and batteries removed, the photos and info deleted. This makes it harder to verify their stay on Croatian soil or record evidence about the push-back.

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Image: Testimonies of phones allegedly destroyed by the Croatian police.

Recently, the park where most of the people have been staying for months, has been cleared and now the municipality is trying to prevent people from staying there during the night or putting up tents. They are trying to create a camp close to the city, in a field surrounded by two rivers.

The field is about 15 minutes walk from the city center. On the day of eviction, the people were able to carry all their belongings, while the tents were transported by a truck. Additionally, the transfer was not conducted by the police but by a communal service, so it was done in a humane way.

By the new rule, the people are welcome in the city during the day, but at night they should sleep at the camp, if not in hostels, hotels or private accommodation.

However, the eviction was not well planned in advance — as happens during most evictions. The camp was not ready for the people. There is running water, but no electricity, toilets, showers or Wi-Fi. The municipality promised all these things. Toilets arrived on the day of the eviction, but many problems persist. One is that it is an open field with almost no shade, and the weather is becoming very hot in Kladuša.

However, the municipality is trying to coordinate with local and international volunteers to meet the needs of the guests as best as possible. Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of the residents, even after more than four months, the situation is still calm.

Before the eviction, an estimated 50 to 100 people were sleeping rough.

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Image: People unloading their belongings at the field.

With the growing number of people coming to Velika Kladuša, it is feared, that the opening and welcoming attitude may shift. Long-term volunteers might remember the pictures and stories of the locals in Serbia and Croatia from 2015. When the borders were (more or less) open, locals were providing clothes, food, showers in their houses, sometimes in tears as they were reminded of their own plight as refugees. Many are afraid now that, if the situation in Velika Kladuša becomes a permanent one with even more people arriving, the mood may shift.

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Image: The park after the eviction.

Hence, international volunteers should be prepared to respond to calls and needs quickly. For now, the locals are managing quite well, but are in need of financial donations to be able to continue feeding the people. When coming from abroad and trying to install structures or to support, volunteers should coordinate with the local groups and join forces to avoid parallel structures and tensions with the locals.
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In the long-term, Velika Kladuša might end up like Röszke, Kelebija or Šid, or, even worse, like Idomeni, as a part of an ever-changing route to Western and Northern Europe and the last stop before reaching an EU country. But for now, its guests will remember the big hearts of the residents and the support they get there.

(Written and all photos by: Niklas Golitschek, AYS volunteer)


The Cars of Hope collective will travel to Bosnia tonight and will arrive in Bosnia tomorrow afternoon. They will work with friends of the former Soul Food Kitchen in Velika Kladuša. Cars of Hope activists worked with Soul Food Kitchen before (in Thessaloniki and Belgrade) and had very good experiences. Enough is Enough will join them to document the situation at the Bosnian-Croatian border. Cars of Hope will need your support to finance their work with refugees on the Balkan route. You can donate here:


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

You can also donate bitcoins:

18WH8NyyDH6xsXztxFkQW1m3xBK2NLQp3d

maj 21, 2018

The Balkan route took a new turn: Next stop #Bosnia

The Balkan route took a new turn , more than 3000 people came to Bosinia since January. On Saturday Riot Turtle will travel to Bosnia with people of the Cars of Hope collective.

Published by Enough is Enough. Written by Riot Turtle.

After almost all European states closed their borders, the Balkan route once again took a new turn. European state leaders seem to think that walls and fences will keep people away, but they underestimate the creativity of human beings. They only thing the policies of European governments produce is more suffering and more deaths.

More than 3000 peoplecame to Bosnia since January. From Greece more and more people pass through Albania, where autorities normally don’t register people after they arrived. From Albania they move to Montenegro. Are You Syrious (AYS) reported earlier this month that a Small local feminist activist orgaization Bona Fide in Pljevlja, Montenegro, provides support to those who are travelling. This small local group started helping people who were crossing through their city in February this year.

“We noticed a group of young men one evening, and after we approached them we learned that they are coming from Syria, over Turkey, Greece, and Albania,” Sabina Talović from Bona Fide told AYS.

Most people leave Montenegro again and travel to Bosnia. The other route for people to enter Bosnia is from Serbia. Some of them come from camps in Serbia, but most people come from Bulgaria and only crossed Serbia on their way to Bosnia.

For most people it’s getting increasingly hard to get to northern Europe. The massive police violence of the Croatian police at the border with Serbia and Bosnia continues.

In Saturday May 26th I will travel to Bosnia with members of the Cras of Hope collective. We will organize and support already existing mutual aid for people in Velika Kladuša at the Bosnian/Croatian border. But I will also report about the situation there. We will distribute food, clothes and other things people need for their daily life.

Especially during the Ramadan a lot of support is needed. Local people from Velika Kladuša and two activists that worked before on other spots at the Balkan route, cook and serve hundreds of meal every day after sunset. The fasten-break or Ifthar is more than just eating for many people. The number of people continues to grow and the inititiatives are running out of money.

We will need your support to finance our work with refugees on the Balkan route. You can donate here:

Mutual Aid: Support Refugees in Bosnia

marec 14, 2018

Urgent: Refugees in #Sarajevo need Support

In Sarajevo, mostly locals are helping to all those who are arriving daily. Every kind of help is needed medical, food, clothes, shoes…Volunteers are needed too, including doctors or nurses. If you can come to Bosnia, please get in touch with Are You Syrious.

Originally published by Are You Syrious.

Note: Presence Counts is not organizing any of  these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

Full update on situation in Sarajevo

On Friday evening, over 40 people entered Bosnia from Serbia, mostly families with children. For now, all of them have been placed in a local hostel paid for by the local volunteers in Sarajevo, but soon they will be moved to Delijas, the only existing asylum center. They will be forced to stay at this center in the mountains, where they are not given adequate food or any kind of help, far from the city. It is a twelve-kilometer walk to the closest gas station where they have a phone and an internet signal. No volunteers are allowed into this center.

Nevertheless, groups of local and international volunteers are trying to help all the people who are arriving daily in Sarajevo. Several hundreds are now on the streets since no shelter has been provided by the government, UNHCR or any organization that exists in the country. The only available help is coming from the small, local groups of international volunteers.

Two groups that are working in Sarajevo need your help.

One is Pomozi.ba, a local charity that supports volunteers in the field. The volunteers are working to provide accommodation for all, giving priority to the mostly vulnerable people. So far they are taking care of about 300 people, but many are still on the streets.

Locals are also providing food, medical help, clothing and everything else. But they desperately need help to continue working, while the number of people who are arriving is increasing every day.

You can help by donating to Pomozi.ba

Name of the bank: Intesa Sanpaolo Banka BiH
SWIFT CODE:UPBKBA22
IBAN: BA39 1541802008533048
Receiving: Udruženje “Pomozi.ba”, dr. Fetaha Bećirbegovića br. 8, 71000 Sarajevo
Purpose: help for refugees

If you want to send financial support from Austria:
ERSTE BANK
IBAN: AT64 2011182266475400
BIC: GIBAATWWXXX
Wien, Oestereich
Name: hilfhelfen-pomozi.ba

If you want to volunteer in Bosnia, please get in touch through the AYS inbox on Facebook. Experienced volunteers only.

The other group  (Warning Facebook Link) are international volunteers who are working at a private property with a local family who has offered shelter for about 80 single men. But every day new people are arriving and they are struggling with financing food, blankets, and other essential items.