Second report from refugee camp Brežice
Between 16 – 29 October, 103.000 refugees entered Slovenia. Austria is now taking refugees in a slow pace, so they are staying longer in Slovenia than initially planned. They remain in the country between 1 or 2 nights. The camp of Brežice was overcrowded some days ago but on Thursday 29 October the authorities were emptying it and sending all the refugees after registration to the camp of Dobova and the camps close to the border with Austria. From the 3 camps built in a hurry after the first days of the arrival of the refugees, Slovenia is now going to reduce it to only one in Dobova. The camp of Brežice will be closed and kept as a back-up just in case of a new emergency and overcrowding of the other camps. Closing down of Brežice camp is good news as the conditions in this camp were below minimum standards – people constantly had to sleep outside, they had to wait long hours (12, even 14) without food or water, hot food or water were not provided, hygienic conditions were appalling, health situation of new arrivals was deteriorating fast, and there was constantly a lack of blankets.It seems that Croatia is now respecting the agreements with Slovenia and is bringing the refugees by train directly to Dobova where they are registered and taken to the camps in land and other camps at the border with Austria.Observations:
In the morning there were about 500 people in the camp. When we left, there were about 200 left, mainly Syrians and families.
The registration was very slow in the camp today and it was done at the last moment. At Opatovac (Croatia), the registration was done when the refugees were arriving to the camp, with 5 tents dedicated to this task, so about 30 police officers. There were only 3 officers doing the registration at Brežice and so there was a long waiting time for the refugees before being able to go to the resting area. The registration included fingerprinting, identity controls and issuing of “permission to remain” on the Slovenian territory.
In the main part of the camp outside, there were only 10 tents for the refugees to sleep and rest. It seems that most of them had to spend the night outside. The police justified this lack of tents by the fact that they were burnt some days ago and that they do not have others to replace them. During the past nights, the night temperature was very low. To warm up people were burning clothes, plastics and blankets.
The police guarding the camp was heavily equiped. There are tensions among refugees caused by long waiting hours and tiredness. Yesterday, one fight among refugees ended in someone being stabbed. Also, heavy police equipment can create a feeling of insecurity.
The coordination between the Red Cross/Caritas, the police and the volunteers is sometime really deficient. For example, as nothing was properly explained about the next destination of the refugees, the volunteers began to pack all the clothes in the containers in order to send them to Dobova as it was announced that Brežice camp would close down. It finally appeared that some refugees were remaining in the camp for one more night but we could not provide them with clothes anymore as they were blocked in the containers. This day, the coordinator of the Red Cross was unable to speak English, making it difficult for foreign volunteers to understand what they have to do and leading to some confusing situations. It was also hard for some foreign NGO to do the food distribution as the police was not letting them in the camp before the Civil Protection and the Red Cross give their agreement.
In general, the situation of the camp was quiet and not as bad as some previous days. Families had access to a protected area where they could rest and sleep, and there were not so many tensions as the days before. One major problem was be the lack of blankets. Refugees were reusing the ones left by the others passing before, posing possible hygiene problem. The volunteers were sorting the ones which looked good. This is probably better than nothing.
It seems that at the moment, there is no special needs for volunteers in Brežice. As the camp should close soon, if you are willing to help, it is better to go to Dobova.