Hello This is Hell! weirdos,
Zurich correspondent Ed here with an important message about autonomous solidarity efforts along the Balkanroute in Europe.
As many of you may have seen in my Truthout piece about conditions for refugees in the Balkans (haha shameless plug), in the absence of any positive action among European governments or international NGOs, self-organized citizen initiatives have sprung up across the continent and have been scrambling to pick up the slack and prevent a humanitarian disaster the likes of which hasn't been seen on European soil since World War Two.
Though conditions along the route vary from country to country and from day to day, one thing has been constant so far: Serbia sucks. They haven't made the big headlines for their suckiness the way Hungary or Macedonia have, because they haven't put up big barbed-wire border fences (the Greek-Macedonian border was recently described to me by a well-traveled border security expert as the tightest and most aggressively patrolled he had ever seen).
But the Serbian authorities have played a much subtler game, the logic of which isn't entirely clear unless they are simply trying to wish away the refugees bottlenecked in their country by ignoring them out of existence meanwhile hiding them from public view. Because border controls on relief supplies coming into the country from the northwest have been so maddeningly strict, the improvised, extra-institutional solidarity organizations most active in the Balkans so far have all almost entirely given up. There are, after all, plenty of refugees in dire need elsewhere.
The organization I am working with in Switzerland, Stand Up For Refugees (SUFR), has worked some magic through fervent organizing and using the presence of citizens of the former Yugoslavia here to our advantage. We have scraped together the credentials necessary to transport relief supplies into Serbia and distribute them, and have the infrastructure necessary to house activists in the border town of Sid (pronounced "Shid," sorry FCC) and to warehouse regularly arriving shipments of donated winter clothing and camping equipment there as well.
Aid and solidarity will be delivered daily from there to the completely unattended, cold and desperate camp in Adasevci (pronounced a-DAH-shev-tsy) where thousands of Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis, and sub-Saharan Africans are waiting for buses or trains over the border into Croatia. About one or two thousand people make this trip every day, depending on how the Croatian authorities are feeling.
We are all a bunch of overwrought, sleep-deprived anarchists, hippies, squatters, mothers, snowboarders, artists, and computer nerds; some among us are former refugees as well (remember what I said about Yugoslavs in Switzerland). Our first shipment to Sid leaves on Tuesday. I will be going ahead of it with a team to set up the flophouse and get things rolling otherwise.
None of this is cheap. We have been financing it all ourselves and relying on donations from guilt-ridden Swiss people. Money you guys send from the United States and anywhere else will be spent to erect a field kitchen in Adasevci, and to pay for the 18-wheeler we just got offered to us at cost (still not cheap).
Since these kinds of calls seem to have worked for This is Hell! correspondents in the past, I figured it was worth a shot. Please visit Stand Up For Refugees' website, www.sufr.ch, to donate. One dollar pays for one thousand, you heard that right, one thousand rescue ponchos. Three hundred dollars gets us a generator, so we may be able to offer refugees internet and a chance to recharge devices and find their own ways to circumvent the awful European regime of internal border controls rather than simply be ushered onto trains. No one likes to see masses of people ushered onto trains.