An Interview with No Border Serbia
Banners with slogans against borders, NATO wars, and racism are today coloring the small park next to the train and bus station in Belgrade. People are standing together in groups, cups with sweet tea and information leaflets about the ‚Balkan route‘ in their hands. The ‚No Border Serbia‘ collective is inviting everyone to ‚Chai not Borders‘. We are meeting one of their members for a short chat about their political work, the current situation in Serbia and transnational solidarity.
Could you first of all briefly introduce the work of the No Border Serbia collective?
No Border Serbia collective exists for more than three years. We work as a non-hierarchical, non-profit, self-organized group. We cooperate with all activists and grass-root groups, all around Europe, especially from Croatia, Slovenia. Also from Germany, as a lot of German activists come here to support the local groups. Now in Belgrade and in Serbia it’s more visible that a lot of people are arriving. Three years ago also many people arrived but 70 kilometers outside of Belgrade, in a small village named Bogovođa, and that was really a catastrophe of police and state repression. Because people were sleeping in the woods – they called it ‚jungle‘ – during the winter time.1 They were sleeping on the snow without food, without water, without any shelter. That’s how we started with the direct actions of solidarity, not from a humanitarian side, but just direct actions of support. Also, we had one No Border camp in that small village during the winter time. Also No Border had a lot of activities in Subotica near the abandoned brick factory, when a lot of people stayed also in the jungle for over one year. And in Belgrade we started with activities. For example six month ago, with ‚Chai not Borders‘.2 We want to spread awareness and solidarity with all people, no matter for which reasons they fled their home countries. Some of them are escaping from political persecution, some because they are poor, some escape from war zones, like Syria, Iraq, Lybia, Afghanistan and so on. It is not just about giving people chai but to speak with people and share our perspective on freedom of movement, right to dignity, right to travel, for a world without borders and racist controls, a world without police and state repression, violence and border management. We are strongly against FRONTEX, EURODAC and border repression.
What is your perspective on the current politics of Serbia and the European Union concerning migration?
Well, Serbia is now following the tactics of the European Union, because Serbia is hoping to get in the European Union after few years. And it is now pretending that everything is okay here, creating some corridors, a so called ’safe route‘ for the people. But we all know on the ground how the corridor looks like: It’s not safe, of course. Along the corridor there is a lot of police and army presence, a complete militarization of border patrols and border points. We traveled a lot on the border, for example at the Croatian-Serbian border, or to Horgoš at the Hungarian-Serbian border. There we spent three days during the demonstration time in September. We saw a lot of police and army repression on the Hungarian side, you know, tear gas, shock bombs, water canons. But on the other side we saw a great spirit of resistance among all people. They refused to be enslaved. The protests and demonstrations took place for three days, because the Hungarian police used a lot of violence. People who broke through the fence were beaten up badly and arrested. Then the Serbian police came and promised them: We will create a new route, a new corridor, the Croatian corridor, just stop with demonstrations. And this is how the new corridor is created, it is just to push people back from the Hungarian border. In the past, just two or three months ago, there was a lot of police repression in both of these parks in Belgrade. They used to do police raids and controls, 20 times during day and night. They have forbidden people even to sit on benches, to sleep in the park. They checked their papers all of the time. They were very rude and very violent. Most of the people didn’t have papers during that time. All of the people waited in front of the police station, and they just didn’t give them an explanation, they just told them: Go out, go to Austria, go to Hungary, without papers. People without papers couldn’t enter nowhere in Serbia, particularly in hostels, in hotels, not even in refugee camps. It was very hard for people, because they really felt strong repression here.
What do you think, what will happen in the next weeks and months? Do you have any strategy to react on it?
We will see what will happen after Slovenia started to built a fence, like Bulgaria did, like Hungary did. We will see what will happen. We are always prepared for direct actions of solidarity, we are also prepared to raise political awareness so that all organizations – grass-root organizations or some other self-organized groups – must have united, political stance about freedom of movement and the right to travel. And not only right to travel, but also right to stay in the country they want to stay. It’s about fighting against the Dublin-regulation, which is very racist. We will see what will happen, but I believe that all groups, especially self-organized groups need more support and mobilization, so that we can act together. When we act together, we are stronger to oppose these anti-migration laws, these fascist and racist policies, this propaganda in whole Europe.
If you speak of standing together – how could transnational solidarity look like?
There are a lot of ways, through internet communication, through sharing information. If we know something is happening somewhere, we should be able to mobilize within few hours, or at least within one day and go to the borders directly, for example to Evros. There were demonstration taking place, which didn’t have much support from other parts of Europe. It was like on the Hungarian border, in Horgoš, we didn’t have much support on the border from international communities during that time. So we need to find some mechanisms to mobilize on a very quick way. On blogs we could share information about the migration routes, about protests and demonstrations. It’s a good way for spreading awareness and calling out for direct actions.
At the moment there are many autonomous groups and kitchen collectives from Germany and other Western European countries that go to Balkan countries, cook tea or spread information.
That’s a great way! We cooperate with all grass-root and self-organized groups. We really don’t cooperate with NGO organizations. It’s a great way, to come on the Balkan route, for example to start with cooking chai and at the same time share information. In this way, we can have more contact to migrants and get to know more deeply about their problems.
Almost all autonomous groups had some kind of problem with local authorities or NGOs (Commissariat for refugees, UNHCR or Red Cross). They have basically denied access to places where migrants have to stay more time. Of course because anybody who is doing independent monitoring and share independent information is not welcome. Also many self organized groups with donations could not enter to Serbia, again because of the damn bureaucracy and border regime. In the current situation on the corridor it’s very hard for independent groups to find a good way how to act. We all know that all these registrations are a big non sense. People stay in lines for days in order to get a piece of paper, which they can throw away in few hours when they reach the next border, and they can start with a new registration, again the same bullshit in every country. What we are doing now is just alleviating a madness, often doing what the humanitarians failed to do. We need to strengthen more our actions and find a way how to act against this militarized war machine, be braver and better organized to create a new dimension where “people not papers” will be really applied. Groups can contact us to share their information about what is going on on each route. But we are a small collective with limited capacities and little local support.
But the most important really is to have a united political stance and to push it before all of those humanitarian reasons – because we all know that humanitarian organizations are just supporting this racist and fascist system. So first of all we should have a very loud and clear political stance o freedom of movement and the right to travel for every person, no matter for which reasons they are here. Why they are here, we all know: Because of imperialist wars!
Is there something you want to share, that I didn’t asked?
I have hope, really, that we will be much stronger in the future and that more people will realize that the biggest problem is that the border regime prevents freedom of movement and the right to travel. What the NGOs are doing is just trying to improve the conditions in the camps. All camps are prisons, to be clear. We also need to put more focus on the deportations now, the detention centers, prisons, also on hunger strikes in the prisons, on resistance, because people are often presented as a weak group. But they are not weak, they are really very persistent, brave, well organized and they have the strength to resist and refuse to be enslaved.