As a volunteer, you quickly get adjusted to the new type of everyday life. In the beginning you are busy with coping and getting used to the whole situation but then you adjust into the course of actions that are necessary for the work and develop a daily routine. Every second day we go out with the mobile showers and in between we plan our actions, repair the equipment and help out in the warehouse or the kitchen. In the evening we provide electricity and water, help giving out the food and talk with the fleeing persons. Though, sometimes it happens that something breaks this routine. Something that awakens you to what this work actually means; a special story, a touching moment, or shocking news.
The forceful eviction of the squat on Thursday morning, the 26th of June, surely was such an event. The squat was an abandoned factory hall on the edge of Sid which provided a temporary home for about 100 refugees. We woke up, looked on our phones and saw all the unanswered phone calls and messages from the people we already got to know a little bit better. We were alarmed right away and after a quick discussion we decided to go to the squat and see if there was anything we could do. The atmosphere there was depressing, as nearly everyone knew someone who was taken away by the police.
During the days before it happened, rumours were circulating that the police was planning such an eviction. People saw police buses in Sid, the closed camp in Presevo allegedly still had some available capacity and the police had been suspiciously quiet the last weeks. Yet probably nobody really believed that this would happen, neither did the refugees themselves. Furthermore, a thunderstorm on Wednesday night forced some refugees who already moved out of the squat to go back and seek shelter there.
Only the police and those affected will know what exactly happened on that night. According to what witnesses told us, the police arrived at around 5 am. They came with three buses and a few more police cars and completely surrounded the area before they began to detain refugees. I was told that the police partly kicked refugees to wake them up and pointed at them with their guns while taking them off. Some, who were sleeping on the roof, risked an up to four meters high jump to the ground and tried to run away. Altogether the police took between 90 to 100 fleeing persons with them. The reputation of the camp in Presevo is not too bad, at least that is what I have been told by people who have already been there and by other volunteers. However, it is a closed camp and it is near the Macedonian border, in the south of Serbia. So even if someone is successful in leaving the camp, the journey back to the croatian border might be a big financial burden and it implies the risk to get arrested again.
Someone who is fleeing does not have a daily routine. They do not know where they going to be tomorrow or whether they get arrested or what else could possibly happen to them. Also for those who are now stuck in Presevo, it will most likely only be a short stopover before their journey continues.
Update: on Wednesday the 28th of June there was another forceful eviction at the squat. Again the police came in the night and detained about 80 refugees.
Written by Felix