Third report from Brežice
On thursday we were in Brežice.
- Emptying the reception centre in Brežice
Since Tuesday, there were announcements that the centre will be emptied (it is not known whether this means complete shutdown or only renovation/reorganization). Today appeared that emptying will indeed happen. According to information from the police, refugees will be moved from the centre that day (by train, either to Šentilj, Jesenice or, as we found out later, to Gornja Radgona) and new people were not expected, except if there were so many new arrivals that the reception centre in Dobova could not provide for all the refugees to be admitted. A group of approximately 350 refugees was taken away by bus just that morning. Another group of 450 refugees was taken away later that morning and around 3:30 pm more buses arrived to move the last group from the centre. Since morning until 3:30 pm there were not any new arrivals of refugees in Brežice.
According to the information from the police, there were approximately 500 people placed in the covered part of the camp who had already registered. There were approximately 1,000 people placed in a fenced area behind the Brežice police station (where few tents that have not burnt are) according to the police. They all spent the night in Brežice. Information about the duration of their stay there differed. Police told us that they had been there since the day before and the refugees and also few volunteers told us that they were there since Tuesday. During the day they took the refugees from roof covered part by buses and after they had the place cleaned, they were moving smaller groups of refugees from pens to register and back to the fenced area. It occasionally rained on Thursday, so volunteers distributed plastic raincoats. Around 3:30 pm there were approximately 50 refugees left back in the fenced area.
- Food/water and access of self-organized groups to refugee care system
Refugees that were in the roof covered area who have already registered, told us this morning that they got food at 1 am. In the morning, volunteers distributed tea and milk to the refugees back in the fenced area. There were two groups of volunteers on the lawn in front of the fences with larger amount of food to distribute. They were trying to organize at the moment, to distribute the food tothe people behind the fences, just as they did the previous day. After discussing it with civil protection representatives, they were allowed to distribute cold meals to refugees moving in line on their way to the registration area. Even though they had 2,000 portions of soup as they did the previous they when they had managed to distribute it, they were not allowed to distribute hot meals today. Police directed the issue to the civil protection, but civil protection and the Red Cross did not allow the distribution. There is no system established regarding the integration of self-organized groups, situation is changing on a daily basis and the volunteers have to discuss the authorization of food distribution again and again. Sometimes they are more, sometimes less successful with it. Integration of self-organized groups must be ensured – currently present staff should not decide on it on a daily basis.
- Non-distribution of aid, despite its availability in the centre
Even though there was a large quantity of clothes and footwear available in the centre, volunteers were not allowed to distribute it. The refugees who came from the fenced area were wet because it was raining and asked for clothes and shoes. Some children were even completely barefoot. Volunteers started to distribute clothes and shoes, but the head of the Red Cross at the site prevented them from doing so. We heard that the reason for preventing them to distribute it was that the refugees will apparently dump the clothes and come back for the new ones, saying, who will clean it up afterward. It is not necessary to further emphasize how unimaginable and inhumane to hold up the aid which is on the site, with enough volunteers to distribute it and who have already started distributing it. Also, people did not donate clothes for them being locked up in containers and refugees being soaked wet. Such behavior is intolerable.
- Separation of families and search for the lost family members
Still problematic. We have detected some cases where police allowed family members who have already been transferred to the area where registration is taking place to wait for their family members who are still back in the fenced area. On the other hand, the police has claimed that they are all going in the same direction, i.e. they are all being transferred from the fenced area to the registration area from where they will travel onwards in the same direction and therefore it does not matter whether they are moving at the same time. However, it is possible that part of the group has already been taken away by buses, while another part is still in the back behind the fences which would lead to separation. It would be commendable, if families moved together, if only from one part of the reception centre to another, in order to avoid the risk of separation of families. We have detected a case of parents with small, ill children who were told to wait with health professionals outside of the fenced area. The medical staff made the arrangement with the head of police at the site that they will have a priority when transferring from the fenced area starts and, as they were traveling with other twelve family members, the rest of their family will be transferred with them. When the transfer started, the police officer did not allow for family members waiting behind the fence to have a priority, despite the fact that the head of police at the site told her that it is all arranged – she started to yell at him that she cannot move one family out of turn, whereas the rest of the refugees would go mad. Eventually, things went her way. Then there was a case of three lost children whose father had been waiting for them in Austria – volunteers wanted to check whether they went through Brežice and where to. The police told them that they can only check for the surname of an adult they were traveling with (which was supposedly their grandmother whose surname volunteers did notknow, but they had the information about the father and children) and that they have to review the records manually (even though registration is done through computers). The children were otherwise later found, however, the police need to clarify whether in search for missing child’s records have to be searched manually or the computer search by using the names of the children is possible.
There was a full registration process ongoing in Brežice today – including taking photos and fingerprinting.
- Police and army overcrowding the centre
There was maybe even more army than the police. Soldiers in full battle gear were guarding the group that stayed behind the fence the longest this afternoon, their entrance was quite frightening. We did not notice army carrying out humanitarian work. There was a paralyzed man in one of the groups that were being transferred from the fenced area to the registration area – two refugees, probably family members, barely carried him. It was wet, they were not able to hold him because it was too slippery, eventually they used blanket that served as a stretcher. There were many policemen, soldiers and the Red Cross medical personnel around them and nobody even thought of helping.
- Government employees
There were also government employees who have responded to calls for help among the volunteers at the site.