Photos of the camp, generator and volunteers
This entry gives a blow by blow account of what happens at the Slovenian and Croation border. Its not meant to be shocking or sensationalist as people are trying their best considering the big western powers are unhelpful. There are always rumours of borders closing and in short, the workers at the camps, the police, like the refugees, have no idea what’s really going on.
Collectively Yugoslavia has about a 10% unemployment rate and cannot really afford to fund this very expensive operation, which Britain and its cohorts have created. Besides this, Bosnia is unstable and the rest of the bloc is as fearful of the Islamists as Syria and Lebanon.
I travelled to Slovenia last weekend to give a small donation and ended up volunteering at the transition camp in Dobova. My trip was inspired by an image in a newspaper of refugees being trafficked over the border between Croatia and Slovenia, to the town of Brezice. As I’ve written before I used to go to Calais but as the jungles are such a popular destination for British volunteers, I don’t feel I can make a contribution now.
From what I can gather with regards to Sovenia, the first camp at Brezice was set fire to quite quickly as many refugees did not wish to stay in Slovenia. The new residential camp is near the railway station in Dobova, a neighbouring town, though I didn’t visit it. Trains packed with refugees arrive regularly by day and by night. At the station those who are destined to travel further transfer onto buses and are ferried into the transition camp just down the road.
The site is quite surreal, there is a large tent, which houses the refugees when they arrive. They are given a food parcel and other supplies like clothes and shoes if they need it and receive medical treatment where necessary. After about an hour the refugees are put back on the buses and leave for the Hungarian and Austrian borders, the workers at the camp have no idea of their destination.
Apparently until a week or two ago there was no heating in the big tent but now it is reasonably comfortable as there is a good supply of blankets, which are washed regularly. My job was to clean the tent when a group of refugees returned to their coaches and distribute the clothes and shoes The whole operation is orderly and controlled by the police and the Civil Defence workers. Previously there was rioting at the camp and people were hurt, so now every move is regimented.
Friends and families must stick together
I stayed in the MC youth hostel in Brezice where I met two Tunisian translators who, along with the hostel receptionist, arranged for me to volunteer. Their work is made more heart breaking by families and friends getting separated, one woman had left her husband and children and dashed onto a coach, she is in Hungary or Austria and they are attempting to track her down.
Groups are not separated intentionally but are let out of the tent in groups and cannot go back so its crucial people stay together. I just saw one teenage boy rush out before his mum and burst into tears. The police shouted for him to get on the bus, I shouted that his mum was still inside and luckily they accepted to allow him back into the tent. If there is trouble, then this will not happen.
The Civil Defence Team, Red Cross & Slovenian Philanthropic: workers and volunteers
I mentioned the Civil Defence team earlier, they are called out if there is a state of emergency, after the police they are the group in charge and were lovely. The Red Cross are in charge of the food and the store room but I worked for Slovenian Philanthropic, with Slovenian and Croation volunteers we were the general dog’s bodies. The paid worker was Andrejka, she had been a volunteer previously and unfortunately had her work cut out trying to get the volunteers to keep to the rules.
Some volunteers bring in donations, that cannot be accommodated, the store room is not that big and they give out clothes and shoes when it isn’t necessary. The families can only carry limited amounts of luggage and for the most part seem to have quite nice clothes. We really had to prioritise. The youngsters in particular ask for stuff they don’t need out of boredom in my view. Who can blame them when they are shoved from one country to another with no established destination.
The Red Cross are incredibly strict and register all the volunteers, though they are not keen on other outfits being at the camp. That is why we had to stick to the their rules regardless of our feelings. They insist on distributing the food because there isn’t sufficient goods such as chocolate, sugar and cigarettes to go around.
It’s not fair to discriminate particularly among the children also such differentiation could be a source of frustration to the adults. They have tried to make the food parcels healthy but Arabic people do not drink milk particularly and eat fresh rather than tinned fish, so there is lots of waste.
Not all the refugees are Syrian, many are from Iraq and Afghanistan, though there was a difference of opinion about whether people from Iran are still included as it is a stable country. There was talk of the authorities stopping their migration. The Iranians tended to be the most wealthy nationality at Calais and thus, before the clamp down, were able to buy lorries quite quickly.
The experience was quite overwhelming but the refugees are surprisingly resilient to their plight, still when I think how stable Syria was in 2005, its remarkable how calm people are.
The money I donated went to buy tissues, which were in short supply and they’ve began to give them out already.
Photos of Ljubijana
Photos of Brecize