Second report from Šentilj

Second report from Šentilj

We were in Šentilj on Thursday 12.11.2015.

Refugees were arriving frequently. At 8 am the train arrived, three buses with approximately 150 refugees arrived around 9.30 am, and another five buses with approximately 250 refugees (from Dobovec) arrived at 10 am. At 10.30 am the train with 600 refugees arrived. At 11.50 am two more buses arrived with 100 people (from Gruškovje) and around 3 pm another three buses with 150 people. Around 4 pm, we heard that 500 more people were expected shortly.

At 9.45 am the police escorted 500 refugees from the lower campsite to the area between the borders. At approximately 10.30 am they escorted 700 refugees from the upper campsite to the mentioned area; they escorted 700 more from the lower campsite at 1 pm and another 700 from the upper campsite at 3 pm. Just before 4 pm the lower campsite was empty, there were only a few people there, waiting for their family members receiving medical care. There were only the refugees who arrived at 3 pm by three buses at the upper campsite.

It was announced in the morning that Austria was accepting refugees quickly, having them waiting in the area between the borders for only half an hour or 40 minutes. However, a group of 700 refugees who were escorted there at 1 pm were still there at 3 pm when the police brought a new group of 700 refugees. At that time, there was nobody in the area between the borders – the police left after they had brought the refugees there. There is only a group of Austrian soldiers in front of the fence just before the entrance to Austria. The Are you Syrious initiative has not had access to the area between the borders since November 11, since the authorities have apparently banned them due to the misbehavior of individual volunteers (source: Facebook, Are you Syrious). The UNHCR was raising tent in the area between the borders, but it has not yet been completed.

Occasionally, there were scared refugees running back towards the campsite, having lost their family member. The police again occasionally rushed people when they were leaving the campsite, which led to confusion and separation of families. A woman with two children was desperately looking for her husband. Since we could not find him at any of the campsites, nor in the area between the borders, he had most likely already crossed the border to Austria, so she did not have any other option but to wait to be allowed to cross the border herself and hopefully meet him there. Another woman was likewise searching for her brother.

There was some unnecessary yelling from the police when people were getting out of the buses and forming the lines upon departure from the campsite. When a police officer addressed the refugees by saying “Leave the bus, please”, another officer loudly reacted by saying “What please, no please”, so that the refugees were also able to understand it. We heard some loud conversations among the police, which consisted of derogatory and sexist remarks.
Separation of families remains a big issue. Many families are separated in Dobova, since the registration of the refugees, which arrive by one train, is taking place at several different locations. Hence, they do not leave Dobova at the same time nor are necessarily transported to the same place. The search for family members that got lost in Dobova, which we witnessed, was not successful, although we contacted Dobova. The Red Cross RFL (Restoring Family Links) staff is confident that people will find each other more easily in Austria. Exceptionally, only underage children and immediate family member are being searched for, but not the members of the extended family.

One story of separated family ended tragically today. The family was looking for the father, an elderly man, from whom they got separated in Serbia, where he was taken to hospital for surgery. We found out afterwards that he was in hospital in Maribor. Later, we found out that he died. Then the Red Cross took the family to the hospital, where there was a translator waiting for them. However, all of the loud conversations about the logistics and laughter beside the grieving family were inappropriate.

In general, meals are still being distributed at certain hours. The police with the help of translator informed the refugees that lunch will be served at 1 pm. There is still unbearable smell at the upper campsite, in a food distribution/dining room tent, despite the fact that the cleaning team is present at all times. Distribution and consumption of food in such environment are completely unacceptable.

One family was traveling with their pet dog and, since he had a passport, there were no problems with it in Slovenia. A few days ago, one of the refugees allegedly had a cat with him, but he was not allowed to keep it. It is unknown what happened to the cat.