Info Park: Difficult situation with refugees in Belgrade

Info Park said on Wednesday that "one of the most difficult weekends in the history of the refugee presence in Belgrade" was behind them.

Source: B92

The network of volunteers was referring to the Miksaliste center's July 2 "unilateral decision to close its door as a general distribution center for refugees and 'make a break to think about the future'."

"This came as a consequence of increasing issues they had since the new opening about a month ago so they decided to close rather than to tackle them," Info Park said on Facebook, adding:

"We wouldn’t normally bother about such things, however a closure of an important organization that once committed to work with a general migrant population has produced a dramatic increase in risk for the refugees, workers of the humanitarian organizations as well as for the local community in the area. In short, things are now looking worse for everyone."

"Furthermore, we are informed that Miksaliste will reopen soon as a kind of a 'center for families, women and children," the volunteers noted, and added:

"We are confident that no matter how important it is to protect these categories, such a step would mean a further decrease in the protection of one of the largest vulnerable refugee groups - young single men who were beaten, tortured, robbed or assaulted on their long way from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco, Sudan. And for sure, tensions in the parks and problems with maintaining peace and order will not be less, on contrary. These people may soon have no one with a dedicated mandate to take care of them in downtown Belgrade."

During the weekend "a clear showcase what this lack of responsibility and solidarity means," Info Park said, describing the park as "overcrowded with refugees in an increasing state of anxiety due to a concern for own survival."

"Every distribution of meals or non food items was on the edge of a battle, with humanitarian workers put into a very dangerous position to balance between preserving their own safety and providing aid. For many of them, this was the most dangerous professional situation they were put in. Most of them are women," said Info Park.

"The situation is more difficult than any contingency plan could predict. The protection of refugees and the safety of workers/volunteers is now on decline and the only thing on rise is a level of communal chaos: the park again looks like a dump. In the last three months, we have invested a serious time and efforts to build a bond between our operation and refugees so they would contribute to the cleanliness of the parks where they spend most of the days. We shared some ideas how important is to leave the park in a clean state for the others and to throw garbage into the containers," the organization said on Facebook, and continued:

"Now that effort is gone, since we are suddenly dealing with so many people who obviously hasn’t been instructed about this. And all the burden is again on the shoulders of the workers of communal organizations. The new situation and the needs to keep it under control had cost us almost a monthly budget for only two days. Info Park had to employ more workers, increase security of the people, protect the wooden house, fix the damages and cover the losses made by three burglaries in three nights. For us this practically mean that our operation will last one month less, unless someone covers that."

They also released what they said were dramatic pictures you have never seen before in the park, with "hundreds of people deprived of getting aid where they used to get it and a few tens of heroic workers and volunteers of organizations on a frontline to prevent an absolute humanitarian catastrophe."

During the weekend, more than 1,100 meals daily were given to the people, exactly about a double what Info Park distributed before the closure of Miksaliste.

"So now, instead of having two major players sharing responsibility for general population, we have only one, a coalition in the park," said Info Park, adding:

"This weekend we have received an amazing donation through Stefan M Dietrich from Aargau, Switzerland, who collected nearly 6000 Swiss Francs from his friends and neighbours. This money was used in one of the discount stores to get huge amounts of noodles, water, sugar, baby milk and food, pampers, sweets, biscuits, fruits (apples, bananas and oranges), wet towels, shampoo, pens, notebooks, colours, balls, rucksacks, shirts, pants, shoes…. Just amazing. Many thanks, Stefan."

NRC-Praxis, Refugee Aid Serbia, Caritas, JRS, NSHC-Care, Covekoljublje (Philanthropy) are some of the organizations who pushed their work to the human limits to help hundreds of refugees in the last days, Info Park stated.

"If this lack of concern for interest of refugees, safety of the humanitarian workers and communal needs prevail as a modus operandi, we will have no chance than to step back to our original work - sharing information, providing connectivity and communication tools, assisting with the safe travel logistics. There is no way that we can accept the responsibility for the upcoming 'men only in the parks' plan and for its consequences. Thanks but no thanks," Info Park said.

Society

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