in the last weeks we provided temporary infopoints at several places, one of them at a petrol station near Adaševci (Serbia), which is 20 km from the official bordercrossing to Croatia. This place is one of the last areas on the Balkan route where independent activists are able to support refugees on their way and to monitor the state-controlled corridor.
#What did we do?
We handed out information leaflets about the Balkanroute in different languages. We put up a big map of the different countries and transition points on our van. We also set up a charging station for mobile phones run by car batteries or generator. We provided WiFi. And of course we answered questions and supported people in their concrete needs (for example buying water when there was none provided by the NGOs on spot etc.).
#Why is this place important?
At the moment almost all the buses coming from Prešovo (Serbian-Macedonian border) or Belgrade are waiting several hours at the petrol station, before going to Šid train station. People usually leave the buses and hang around the petrol station and the parking space, so there is time for talking and phone charging. It is the last chance to spread independent information freely before people enter the ‚corridor‘ to Croatia.
Furthermore European states have closed the corridor to Central Europe for those which are not from Syra, Afghanistan and Iraq some weeks ago. But still these excluded nationalities arrive in Belgrade and Šid. Migrants report about illegal push-backs by Croatian police if they try nonetheless to cross the border to Croatia. The situation for people of the excluded nationalities is very precarious right now, as they are stranded in Serbia and face bad conditions and perspectives. To support these people by direct aid, monitoring and information could also be part of a new infopoint-team.
#How is the situation there?
It was often difficult to maintain this info point, because the Serbian Comisariat tried to forbid not registered groups to stay at the petrol station. We tried to get a registration on our own and also to join other organizations there, which was denied. However, they can only control the space in front of the Motel, not the petrol station, because it is a public space. So it makes sense to be there, because here you have access to almost everyone moving inside the state controlled transit corridor at the moment.
Of course, the numbers of people waiting at the petrol station varies immensely from day to day, always depending on the numbers of arrivals at the Greek islands.
Generally speaking, there is no guarantee that a new info point will not be fought by governmental authorities, it could mean a day-to-day struggle to stay there. But politically-inspired independent observation and information-sharing cannot be just left in the hands of (N)GOs.
The struggle for open borders and freedom of movement will continue. Everywhere on the Balkanroute. The Balkanroute will remain a strongly contested space. And we want to contribute as much as possible to support the amazing ongoing social struggle of refugees and migrants on a daily level. This practically means: To keep the corridors open and – if necessary – to reopen them. For all people, from all countries of origin.
If you are thinking about doing an info point there, we are also happy to answer questions about this.
Moving Europe Info Bus Crew