Last week, 2nd of August, a refugee has been attacked by a group of fascists near a refugee camp in Sombor. Around 9pm the man walked some meters out of the camp to get his things which he left in the forest near the camp where the residents of the camp use to sit together, wash their clothes and where they also sleep sometimes. Around 15 meters in front of the camp he had to face seven men who started to beat him with metal weapons. He tried to run away and just one meter in front of the camp he was caught again by the group who followed him with a motorbike. Suddenly five of them attacked the man with knives. He was injured very badly and had to go to the hospital. A group of refugees went to the responsible person of the camp the same night and told him that what happened made them feel very unsafe and that the camp and the place around it should be a safe space for the people living there. In their daily reports AreYouSyrious wrote that the boss of the camp said that it “wouldn’t be a problem for him if the residents should die”(1) . This incident was also confirmed by another person we know in this camp. The next evening again fascist men came to the camp and this time many camp residents went out to defend themselves. One of our contacts told us that they don’t feel safe and need protection.
These attacks happen in a period in Serbia when citizens’ fascism is growing. For more than one month there are regularly, sometimes every evening, protests happening against the existence of the camp and the refugees, with around 70 – 110 people in front of the Sombor camp. One of the residents told us that during these protests the refugees cannot leave the camp to go for example to the market because these racist people do not let them go.
Besides this extremely terrifying fascist violence it is worrying that the control of and repression against refugees is growing all over Europe. In May refugees and migrants who were living in barracks in Belgrade were forced into buses and brought to camps by police which was supported by active local NGO’s. Additionally, raids happened all over the capital after people were found sleeping in the streets. A message was spread that it would be better for the refugees to live in camps because it is supposed to be saver. Obviously, this is not the case. Living in a camp does not only mean to be dependent on a state which doesn’t want you to stay for economic and racist reasons.
Firstly, it takes the refugees’ autonomy by forcing them to adopt the rules of the camp such as closing times, sleeping place, foodtimes and foodlines. There is no possibility to feel safe or self-determined instead people feel scared and subordinated.
Secondly, it means being controlled by the state through registration and identification. Because most people have to sleep in camps, it is very easy for the state to illegally deport people back to other countries such as Macedonia, Bulgaria or Romania by night. From camps like Sombor and Sid there are regularly cases of police showing up at night, taking around 100 people. They bring them to the Preŝcevo camp in the south of Serbia from where people are deported very regularly.
Thirdly, camps make refugees and migrants invisible and isolated. Most of the camps are far away from the town centers. Not everyone can afford travel costs and sometimes they even get kicked out of the bus or train. Since the camps have strict closing times, freedom of movement is very restricted. The possibility to get in contact with local people is very small although it is very important to feel more as a human being, make friendships and be able to access help. Because of the invisibility, a lot of things can happen unseen, like for example bad living conditions, lack of medical care and legal help.
The fourth reason why it is not safe at all for people to live in camps is because they are gathered at a certain place. By this, it is not only easier for the state to find them, but also for fascists who want to attack refugees, like the horrible examples of last week. Fascist attacks are not only happening in Serbia but in Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary and Germany as well as in several other countries. Furthermore, there are a lot of camps which seem to turn into closed camps, by implementing more and more rules (e.g. closing and opening times). The whole idea of the existence, structure and practices of camps itself is an embodiment of structural racism and violence. Because of the difficulties to get in contact with local people, they become alienated. In consequence, the division between ‘us’ and ‘them’ is growing in people’s minds facilitating fascism.
On the 29th of May, an activist group in Serbia, Solidaritea, wrote on AreYouSyrious daily reports that: ‘Police presence here is terrifying and fear of deportation is high. They regularly destroy tents and dwellings in order to discourage people from living outside the camp system. Many camps are full and the ones with space have such inadequate facilities people don’t want to be there.
Many camps are in the middle of nowhere, completely isolated with no access for volunteers. What happens inside is hidden and unregulated. We are told the food is awful, and some camps don’t even give out a hot meal. People are not receiving adequate support, care or access to legal help and advice. There is no quality of life; it is no better than prison…’ (2)
So, what happened last week is unfortunately only an example of fascist and repressive structures which are growing everyday all over Europe to control refugees with money and policies of the EU. Together with the coming Common European Asylum System (CEAS) which includes the reform of Dublin III into Dublin IV, Fortress Europe is growing and militarizing its borders.
Therefore, we should organize ourselves and act against Fortress Europe!
Solidarity with refugees and migrants, we live in one world and fight in one struggle!
Inform yourself on websites like noborderserbia.worldpress.org and https:/medium.com/@AreYouSyrious.