Memoirs, Testimonies

No place to go – detention  in ” Padinska Skela” and deportations                         A testimony of S.

It all started when I heard that in Serbia there is a Camp for refugees and asylum seekers; and they give ID cards. So I started my journey from Greece to Serbia, because life in Greece was getting difficult and dangerous.

I reached a Serbian city, 50km far from Belgrade. I took a taxi and went to Belgrade, where I started to ask people on the streets for the camp. At last, they directed me to a big police station, a rose colored building. I asked the policeman and he showed me the office, it was on the left. I entered inside and I found one lady and I told her where I am from and what I need, which was protection in an asylum center. She said nothing, just gave me a paper and she told me to write my name and my country, and all that information. 30 min after that, one man came and asked me to go with him to another office upstairs. On the 3rd floor this man looked me in a room. After that they took my finger prints, took a photo and then searched my body and my bag. They wrote down everything what I had.

After that the same man with two girls from that office they took me on a car. I was thinking that they’re taking me to an asylum center. But I found myself in big blocked building which was court. The judge was a women, she spoke nice English. She told me that I entered Serbia illegally so I must pay 90 euro and if I don’t have this amount I must go to jail for 9 or 10 days. She said after that, they will give me a paper with which I have a chance of three days to leave Serbia or to go to any asylum center. Well, I spent those 10 days in prison near the closed camp, Padinska Skela. And I found many people from Syria and Palestine who were there before me and then others came from Pakistan. Anyway my ten days finished, but they didn’t free me, they just transferred me to that closed camp -Padinska Skela. It was a place where they put people to fulfill the number that a police car can take – which is around 18 – and then deport them. In that place whatever you speak no one will hear you.  No way, deportation is the only law there…Even they will not let you sleep when you want, you have to make your bad, and sit when it s not time for sleeping. If you ask for a phone call, they won’t say no, but the phone box inside does not work.  Some people started to stop eating. It was Ramadan, they did not take any food. After a few days one of the police officers came and he asked what they want. They said they are asylum seekers and they have the right to be in asylum camp. He was laughing, he told there is no camp, and that they will be deported. After, how time was passing, and we were still imprisoned some of us for weeks, the people started to ask to deport them, just to leave that place and get free.

After staying there 6 days, they took ever evidence from us that we had been in Serbia, even our Serbian money. With that money they bought things for us, like water, coca, biscuits…We had to took off even the etiquettes from the bottles, because it was written in Serbian language. And…they took us back to Macedonia. It wasn’t easy. It was very difficult there, because the police of Macedonia is very brutal, they caught many of us and also take us back to Greece. Any way, it took from me another two months to come here again. But the second time I was lucky, so that I entered Bogovadja camp. I stayed almost 3 months there. Then problems started to rise up again. The manager kicked me out from the camp and the reason was cause as he said I stayed too long in the camp. I asked to transfer me to another camp, he said go alone, even he refused to give me my police paper. So I started to sleep in broken houses near the camp. And it was cold, so after sleeping like ten days outside, I felt if this situation continues like this I will die from the cold. So I went to one hotel. Because I didn’t have the police paper, I went again to that police station and brought new one. The next day the police came to the Hotel and took all of us to that closed camp, Padinska Skela. Me with my new, valid paper and another 17 people who had been in the same Hotel – all the Syrians with their police papers – the police deported us to Macedonia. It was winter and very cold weather.

 I can’t say I am strong and I didn’t lose hope so I came back again, but I can say the truth: I don’t have another place to go, so I am forced to come again. And i don’t know whether I will be deported for the third time or God will help me to settle in a good place, because I feel I will lose my mind.

* After a while S.  left Serbia.

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Behind the darkness there is light                                                                                           written by:  A.H.

     Finally we’ve arrived to Slovenia.- Wait a minute; has the Slovenian phone signal disappeared again?- Impossible!?- My friend, we’re lost.- After two days of hiking in the mountains and sleeping on the top of the hills, is it possible that the result of all this is that we are still in Croatia!?- Look around you, all the evidences indicate that: cigarette packs, car number plates, phone signal, everything…- So, let’s climb to the mountain again.-Absolutely not, I don’t have two lives to live, look around you: it is snowing and we’ve spent everything that we’ve brought with us -cigarettes, food … Let’s walk on the paved road and maybe we’ll encounter someone who can guide us or give us some cigarettes and food.          My friend was tall, skinny, with volatile temperament and fast anger. He carried in his pocket a dream of returning to Italy where he had lived for more than 10 years. Myself, short stature, brown skin, broad eyes and with nose that is bolder than the rest of the features, rather spearing with excitement and always trying to see the things in a logical and realistic way. Unlike my friend, I’ve never left my country before, but this time I had to.You could see signs of fatigue on both of us after two days of walking in the woods and mountains. Our clothes were very dirty. We followed a way surrounded by high mountains covered with virgin forests and decorated with snow. Because of exhaustion and frustration we didn’t see the astonishing sights on this romantic picture. At that moment we saw a house with smoke emitted from the chimney, and it was located two hundred meters from us. Instinctively without consultation we headed toward the house. All the stuff near the home indicated that the owner was working as a woodcutter. We gave a light knock on the door but it was covered with the barking of a dog which made us smaller again.  A man with a short stature opens the door. He says some words but we don’t understand them so the role of the sign language wins in the situation. We ask which way takes us to Slovenia. In this moment it is snowing heavily. The man draws exclamation marks on his face as he says:                                                                                                                                                      -Are you crazy!? Which way to Slovenia in this weather and with these bodies shivering!?    He invites us to enter and we respond to his invitation quickly. We enter in the house and we are introduced to his beautiful wife. She points us to take off the gloves and the coats and she puts them above the traditional campfire with a light movement of hands.  It was a modest house of wood, quite messy but only because of multi-purposness of the things and on the left wall of the door to the living room, there was a picture of the Virgin and directly under it a wooden cross. With the looks filled with surprise and curiosity the two children were looking at the unexpected guests. The owner of the house askes us if we want to eat and we answer without  hesitation:                                                                         -Yes.                                                                                                                                                                 He makes a move toward his wife and returns to ask us something but again we didn’t understand. He tries again, but this time he says a word in German which sounded like the first part of the name of one of the players from Bayern Munich (this things were introduced to me by my brother, but this was still in Morocco). I could also understand when he asked us if we eat pork. My friend answered:                                                                   -Yes.                                                                                                                                                      And I said to myself:                                                                                                                            Actually an empty bowel/stomach appeal is stronger than the logic of Halal and ill-gotten, and all religious myths. The man offered us a drink, some wine for my friend and some coffee for me and I couldn’t believe I could drink quite a few cups of them instantly. Moments later my friend started to show the first signs of being drunk and he entered in a conversation with the owner of the house about Libya, al Gadhafi, petrol…Meanwhile I lit a cigarette and sank in thinking about the history of Yugoslavia, Marshal Tito’s position toward Stalin and his strained relationship with Anwar Hoja. And Yugoslavian position of the Prague Spring and   so on…                                                                                                         I only became aware of the moment when the owner called me to follow him in the direction of the bathroom and gave me the towel and clean clothes. After that I washed and changed my clothes and I felt I actually became a man again… I will never forget who brought me back my humanity. This man than emptied the school begs of his two children and began to fill them with food and clothing. We were heading toward the door when suddenly a call from a little girl surprised me. I turned to her and she gave me a chocolate bar as I imagined her mother was giving her every time she went to school. I felt the desire of kissing her on the forehead or cry but instead I just said:                                                            -Thank you.                                                                                                                                                   We went to the truck and the man took us almost to the Slovenian Border. We were walking than for eight hours when we’ve finally found ourselves in the first Slovenian city.  I will never forget these moments of the human nobility, where there is no place for intolerance and where every corner is filled with solidarity. Despite the darkness of the place and its distance from major cities and its noises, I found all the brightness of the world there. Finally, we entered into the European Union, more than two months after the start of our trip from Turkey through Albania and all the other Balkan countries… Accelerated after the events we reached the Slovenian capital and got stopped by the police. We found ourselves imprisoned in Centre for foreigners in Postojna. We first thought that it was for a day or two but the prison guard told us that it will take some long months. The dream continues despite of the bitterness…

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  بارودتي

written by: F.Y.

بارودتي ذات الفتحتين غزة والقدس
قنصت بها يهودي يقود جرافة
كان ينوي هد دار حبيبتي
عند تل الهوي…
عانقتها حملتها البستها قلنسوة
إحتمينا وسط غزة في إنتظار العروبة
المميتة لنرجس الحب والزيتون…
من بين شظايا إنهمار القذائف تلوذ في حضني المتخشب
من جديد تنبتين وسط ركام الانوروا
تزدهرين ترسمين وردة النصر
بطول الشريط الحدودي
لرفح و لنعلين…
تقولين لإختلاط البارود بالدم
الذي علي سترتك ايها الفدائ
عبق اللقاء الاول ستكون شريكي
لحصارات قادمة في الغيهب القريب…
جمجمة الماسوني علبة مجوهرات
حبيبتي بعد التجويف
جدار الحصار الذي شكل
زمان الانتظار بددته بعقد عنقها
كي نلتقي…
سيبي ليفني ايتها العاهرة
الوضيعة هل رحمك العبري ناضجا
لتفرخين مثل تلك الحمائم
رضيعات غزة اليانعات…
تسلبين روحهن بغتة هن نائمات
وسط حضن الامهات
ليت ربي يحييك صدام غزة وحيدة
في بركتها الدموية
مضرجة بدماء صغارها
متخثرة في عيون الامهات…
تتوسل اليك ان تعود مسرعا
انت الوحيد الذي رشق جفون صهيون
بالحسين اثنين…
غزة مشدودة في انتظار بندقيتك
المحشوة بطلقات إنتمائك
للقبلة الاولي
منذ اعتلائك منصة رحيلك بذاتك
لم يتوقف صهيون السفك فينا…
برفقة قادتنا المفرطي الشذوذ اللصوص
ننتظرك عند دجلة
معقودة كل الاشياء عليك
انه ليس حلما ينقشع فجرا…

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Refugee riot in the closed detention camp Békéscsaba                                                     A testimony of M.

“Many times we made some small protests inside the camp in order to improve our conditions inside. For example we organized to reject food collectively.

It started all when they took us to the closed camp. After our asylum application we were brought there. In front of court they extend the cases for at least 2 months. Afterwards they keep us waiting. The closed camp is like a prison. In Békéscsaba there were about 200 people, distributed to 2 buildings. The conditions were quite bad. We couldn’t decide when to take food, or how much. It was also often bad food, or cold.

Then we heard that if one stays in the camp for 6 months they will deport us back [to outside of the EU/Serbia]. We didn’t know exactly what would happen after this 2 months that our case was extended. During this period I have seen that they deported people who have been there for 4 months (from Pakistan, Algeria, and other countries). They [the wardens, the police] would just come, without informing before and deporting them the same night or the early morning of the next day. The people were angry that they just deport us back. We came to seek for asylum and they would just push us back to Serbia. Some of the people who were deported didn’t even have a negative asylum decision.

We talked about it and what to do. When some refugees from Mali came new to the camp, they asked around what is going on. Why we are kept in detention: we are not criminals we are refugees. Then they started hungerstrike for freedom. It started the 10 of October 2013 and lasted for 8 days. On the 14 of October about 55 people from different countries joined the hungerstrike. The camp authorities came and said they should stop the hungerstrike immediately. The director promised that if they stop their hunger strike, he will accelerate their asylum procedure. But they didn’t trust these empty promises. After the 8th day of the hungerstrike- one on the guys fainted. He was brought to hospital. I also saw that there were people from the media, trying to get access to the camp for interviews.

After that they stopped the hungerstrike. 

Surprisingly after one week 7 of the 8 Malians, who had first started the hungerstrike, recived a negative asylum decision. To one of them they gave a positive answer. It was a direct reaction on their protest. If you get a negative decision in your asylum case you have 3 days time to make an appeal against that, in order to achieve that your case is checked by the court again. This means you have to wait one month more in the closed camp. But many of us don’t know that. Only one of the 7 made an appeal, the other 6 guys got deported to Serbia 4 days after. 

The situation now was the same as before. I only saw 2 people who had the possibilities to change from the prison camp to an open refugee-camp. In their case it was because of health problems. Girls are generally put to open camps. 

After about 2 weeks we organized a protest against our deportation and for freedom. It was after an incident, where they deported 3 Pakistanis that had been there 4 months.  The same happened to a group of Senegalese. It was without reason.  Some time after we heard that because of the cold in Serbia where they have no place to stay, one of them died. He froze to death, sleeping outside in the Serbian forests. Almost everyone participated in the protest. We stood outside in the yard, holding up signst were we wrote “no deport” and other slogans. It was a tense atmosphere, people were annoyed, standing up, protesting, shouting but everything stayed peaceful.  Our action was to invisible to the ‘o– it was directed to the authorities of the detention camp. The chiefs of the camp and the staff came and they told us they cannot do anything. They said, that they are like prison keepers. The order comes from Budapest and our protest wouldn’t change anything. Even they recommend us to cancel our asylum and leave Hungary. They told us our fingerprints would then only be registered in Hungary and we could claim asylum in another EU country. Even though we were peaceful many police came with dogs and stayed inside the camp until 3 am of the next day. I remember the police commissioner (head of police) of Békéscsaba city saying: if he would be in our position he would do the same.

We refused to give our names to the camp authorities and police, when they required a list of refugees who made the protest. The 8 hungerstrikers had done this before and we knew what had happened to them. During this protest there was no media present. But how could we address the public with our demands?

On the 11 of November, again 3 people got informed that they would be deported. I know it was a Monday. They reacted very angrily. The majority of refugees in Békéscsaba stood behind them. It was too much this time. Everything happened fastly. There was a meeting and after the lunch the riot started: things inside the prison were destroyed, glass broke, people were breaking the cameras and one of the buildings was set on fire. All the time everybody was saying ‘we need freedom’. I don’t know it exactly, I guess around 100 people from many different countries participated in the uprising. 2 people escaped at that time. 

All the staff from the camp, they ran away, even the security-guards. The reason why the asylum seekers did not run was that the detentions center authorities kept all our belongings and our money. Also the camp is far from the city. Some of us tried to break the gate to go out, so people outside could see them and hear their demands, simply make their feelings heard, but after one hour the police came. They kept people from going out. At first they evaquated the people that had not taken part in the riot. I saw many many police, completely armed, with dogs the entering, shouting that everybody should stop.

The same day the police transferred all of us to other closed camps all over Hungary, saying that the camp was not secure anymore. They didn’t allow some of us to pack their personal belongings. After one week we were were brought back to Békéscsaba. In the meantime one of the buildings had been renovated. When we came back the security-guards were behaving much stricter than before. The conditions had not changed, it had gotten worse.  Now they don’t tell people anymore in advance that they are facing deportation.  Before the riot, a person would be informed the same day about the upcoming forceful replacement, but now they just come, pick the asylum seekers up and deport them. 

For some time it seemed as if they would treat us better, maybe to prevent another protest of asylum seekers. The milk in the morning was now warm, and not anymore served cold. But still, the situation inside the detention is very bad. Even they forbid you to take another meal if you are still hungry.”

Everything happened without public attention. The riot and its revolutionary potential did’t leave the walls of the asylum-prison. The few reports focused on ‘the good work of the hungarian firefighters’, reproducing racist views on the migration issue and not contextualizing the refugee-riot as a as a collective and self-organized step to fight the border system. The border can be anywhere for illegalized people. It is a cruel system that divides people into those that have papers and those who have not, leaving the last group completely marginalized. But a dehumanisied society is a society that harms everyone. The fact that asylum seekers that are kept in closed detention-centers needs more critical attention. To scandalize the bad conditions can’t be enough.

*M  decided to stay in the detention center, but he, like many other  refugees arriving in Hungary, didn’t get the chance to have a fair  asylum procedure. He was expulsed of the country by the Hungarian police  illegally, not having received the final negative asylum decision.