Merel

September 2015

“And the rain kept pooring down.

We continued to the checkpoint in Tabanovce. We got a volunteerpermit for one day. It was a very muddy rainy day. We walked around and observed. There are some open shelters, toilets, a redcross tent, further on a shelter where they donate food and sometimes some material. On this spot, the train stops. One train can hold thousand people. At a certain point we were asked to receive the arriving people and assist them to desent. Volunteers spread themselves to the doors. We had to inform them about the facilities on the checkpoint and how to get to Serbia. I was standing at a door when some youngsters opened a small window and forced themselves to climb out. It was a pretty high fall so i went down to them and offered my help. I tried to advise them to wait a bit and come from the doors. But they acted bewildered to get out. So i ran over the door which was still closed. There were a lot of people resting in the corridor of the train. They reacted shocked when i opened the door. Then looked at me confused and surprised. Puzzled they looked outside. We have to get out? The train doesn´t go further? It seemed hard for them to trust me. I tried to help them. Altough i noticed that they often prefered to organize themselves. It looked like they were used to. Many families of all generations passed the door; grandparents, parents, youngsters, children, many babies on mothers arms. Some were only few months. The young helping the old and even younger. It was incredible how people kept coming out of that train. It was uncomprehensible how many people fitted in. They must have suffered overcrowdness and poor hygiene for many hours. But what was ahead of them, might be even worse.

The first question was often: Where is Serbia? The answer was always: you will have to walk 4,5km along the railways. 500m to the illegal bordercross, 2km to the next checkpoint, 2km to the village where you´ll take a bus to Presevo for registration. The first reactions were mostly shocked, later followed by thank-you, thank-you. I advised them to first grap some food & maybe there might be a raincover available.

The walk to the Serbian border leads trough muddy fields. It is hard to believe they are on the right track. Suddenly, they encounter a ditch of 2 meters deep. It´s very easy to slide and fall, certainly when it´s dark. My cousin was standing in that ditch, warning and helping the people to cross-over. He saw elderies and babies passing-by his arms.

After the train i went to offer my help around the shelters. There was a young man looking confused around him. I go to him and he brings me to his young wife and baby of less then 1 month. They have to sit on a dirty floor in the back of a shelter. Some families have to sleep overnight in this conditions. The young father tries to show with gestures that they need hot water to make milk. We go to the red cross. Later-on i check on them if everything is alright. The mother gestures that the baby is cold. I went to look for something warm, and i was so lucky to find it in a box in the donation corner, among only useless summerclothing. The young parents were grateful and i saw a single smile appearing on their faces. The moment changes when a doctor comes and asks the young father to translate if he speaks Arrabic and English. A pregnant woman suffers from pain in her belly.

Later, some boxes with rainjackets and umbrellas arrive from the UN. I end-up helping the UN to donate. There is a fence of tables between us and the refugees. The people were acting very anxious to get rainjackets. Then the umbrella-box opened. The crowd managed to push-over a table. When pushed-back, the UN tells me that we don´t have enough and we can only give to women and children. In the crowd, the same young father that i helped before reaches out to me. He shouts and begs for an embrella. I turn to a UN worker and tell him that he has a baby. He looks at me doubtful to give-in, but then does. When i gave the umbrella, i see him surrounded by many other young fathers just like him.
Many people before and after the donation moved-on without any raincovers.

And the rain kept pooring down when they walked into the dark,
along the railway in the muddy fields to another illusional border.”

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September 2015

“We were welcomed by some volunteers & coördinators in Presevo. We left our donations in a collecting area. The coordinators plan to keep everything for the winter, because then the situation will be worse. I talked with a volunteer who seemed to be confused with this decision. This volunteer saw children shivering cold getting ill because they don´t have good clothes. It´s a hard situation. The people clearly need more emergency material. Mostly raincoats, embrella´s and shoes. What i heared from the refugees, they need it more then food. Some arrive with sandels. Mostly they dont have anything against the rain. They seem to have come very unprepared. Later Aharon tells me a story from a man arriving in shorts. When asked why he came with such poor clothing, he replies that he had to give everything to the shipperman from Turkey to Greece. He asks a lot of money. They couldn´t pay the price, but they were allowed in exchange for their quality clothes. Later-on, those clothes are expensively sold to next refugees among others. Besides he was very rude, shouting orders & cursing. The man got slapped in the face by the shipperman in front of his wife and kids. He was in the verge of crying telling about his humiliation.

In Presevo, people have to wait and sleep in the streets, sometimes for days. Recently the situation became a bit better, now they got 20 computers instead of 5. So the registration goes relatively faster. Some people try to go on without the registration, but have high risk to be send back at the Croatian border. If they are lucky. The recent news is that they are send to a prison-camp in Jezevo. This prison can hold-up 150 people for upto 5 months. According to the information-source, the treatment is inhumane – as if they are criminals. Later on our trip we passed-by this place. We could not go close because of ´private territory´. We saw a guard in the distance. Just to look at the place gave me cold shivers.

So, it is advicable to keep waiting in Presevo. Even if that means sleeping on the streets in the rain. They need shelter and raincover. But above all, humane treatment. Which is made almost impossible because it is illegal to invite refugees in the house. A volunteer in South macedonia pretended to be a refugee. She witnessed that they can not enter local places or bars & cafés, “because it could keep the costumers away”. In shops they are looked at as if they are criminals ready to steal. I don´t know how they are treated in Presevo. But these are people just like me and you, that once lead an every-day life. They went to their work, raise their familly. Wash the dishes. Then they are confronted with a corrupt government, drought because of climate change, terrorism, treathening of death. They flee to save their children, from the worse evil we can imagine. They risk their life to cross the ocean, to end-up being discriminated in the arrival countries. Where is the humanity? If you can, go to the refugees restplaces in your local city & just be present. Sit with them, listen to their story. It does not matter if you got nothing material to give.

The volunteer in Presevo also mentioned the problem of illegal taxi´s. The taxi-drivers ask way too much money & lead people astray. They make huge D-tours and leave people in random places where they get lost. Lying that they arrived in a city where they are not. She told me that volunteers can not interfere, because it is a matter for the police. It was very hard for this volunteer to watch the people drive away.”

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