#refugeecrisis – offical Europe fails to provide accurate human aid

Author: Birgit Wolf

We – the volunteers –  did night shift in Zákány, Hungary, when refugees a last time had the chance to enter Austria via Hungary and the last train left the station. Then I volunteered two days and one night in the new transit camp in Petišovci, Slovenia (border to Croatia). This time it is really hard to cope with pictures still in my mind, and the daily news on disaster in Sid/Bapska (Croatia/Serbia) and many more refugee spots, knowing about individual stories of experiencing war and armed conflict while ignorance, inhumanity, the closure of borders and the inability to provide safe routes and reception for refugees show up as answers by the official Europe. European values like humanistic thinking – the Latin word “humanus“ means “humane, people-friendly, educated, cultured“ and the Latin word “humanitas“ means “humanity“ -, characterized by an awareness of the dignity of the human being seem like thrown overboard by the Official European Union, and sometimes it looks like as if Angela Merkel is the only politician willing to stick to this former European value – a core value for European identity. Politicians and governments with all their comfort and high standard of living in Europe seem to have no problem with leaving refugees without accurate hygiene measures, without enough food and water supplies, without sufficient safe, dry and warm space to sleep, without sufficient medical care… all this basic human aid and primary care is virtually only provided by some established NGO and private volunteers – the big civil community to welcome refugees, caring for protection seeking humans on the Balkan routes, investing their time and money, providing food, clothes and human warmth in transit and reception camps… whereas official Europe fails.Open borders are just fair and the right answer with respect to economic inequalities caused by the so called “first world”.

The protection seeking humans had to walk in the dark  one kilometre from the border to the train station. The path was only mud,  their feed got sunk in 20-30 cm of mud – some volunteers with head lamps helped that at least old persons, women and children didn’t fall down.

_91A8090 - copia _91A8098 - copiaPhotos: Martin Valentin Fuchs, Zákány | Hungary, 16/10/2015

Shoes wet and muddy up to the ankles, they entered the train –  I couldn’t make any photos because this would have meant not to help carrying children, supporting pregnant or elderly people at least the last 50 meters so that they could enter safely into the train.

The next day we headed to Petišovci, Slovenia (border to Croatia)
– a camp just opened due to the closure of Hungarian borders, capable to provide shelter for 200-300  refugees. When we arrived at about 12 am, some 80-100 persons still were there. We distributed food, as they were already here since 7.30 in the morning and Red Cross gave them only once packed lunch (sandwich, apple, juice) and that’s all because  “they won’t stay longer than 1-2hours”, stated one of the responsible managers of the Red Cross – which was simply not true.  We had to fight to get the permission to provide hot tea for the refugees arriving late evening for the same reason – no longer stay than 1-2 hours, and because offering tea could be dangerous, they could get injured by hot tea ! Again, Red Cross ignores facts, for instance that refugees stay at least 4-5 hours, and one third up to 7 or 8 hours, they disregard the effects of cold stress and lack of sugar, and the fact, that people have been 24 hours without food and couldn’t get sleep for 3 to 4 days.

Where is accuracy and diligence of the Red Cross on the Balkan route? After long medical explanations, Red Cross said “we do not support that you bring the tea, but you can if you take full responsibility for it.”  In the end, people arriving at 8 in the morning stayed until about 3pm, as there were only two buses, the transport takes a lot of hours because buses go to and come back from Sentilj /Spielberg (Slovanian/Austrian border) and give ride to the next two hundreds still waiting. The refugees arriving at 6pm had to wait at least 4-5 hours until first transit started, the last third of the 300 until 3am at night – 7-9hours in an open tent, no warm beverages and only one sandwich from red Cross. At least nearly all had warm blankets from UNHCR. During the night, police and Red Cross have been unable to care that all families with small children could enter the first buses for transit. Red Cross remained in the registration zone all the time, with no further task carried out.

_91A8361 - copiaIt is heartbreaking not to have enough food for all – so children are always served first with a big smile. Photo: Martin Valentin Fuchs,  Petišovci | Slovenia, 18/10/2015

When I talked about the failure of taking all families with very young children onto the first buses to the Red Cross manager  – with the official mandate to care for refugees! – she only said “nobody told me”, I answered, “I wasn’t told about it as well, but I have a look at the refugees and their needs!” I have been in three countries now, volunteering in different refugee spots, and I don’t understand why Red Cross has the official mandate everywhere although the responsibles mostly administrate their tasks in an ignorant way, say that they do 24 hours shifts at a place, but leave at 6pm – and if press is present, you see a lot of them smiling to the camera. In Tovarnik (Croatia), three weeks ago, I informed the UNHCR about there absence although they were responsible to provide food and water on the train station, where we did night shift from 6pm to 3am. The next morning they bashed me for distributing water and food I have bought, and said that they have been there all the time and are the responsibles here. Fact was, that not them but some German volunteers, then substituted by a colleague and me from Austria, cared during the night for about 1000 refugees on their transit from bus to train – which for them is an exhausting process of many hours, lining up in the transit camp, lining up for the bus, lining up for the train and waiting many hours in the train.

12022337_1168501476500504_969153655784977230_o 12029704_1168501483167170_2550656830205321253_oPhoto: Martin Valentin Fuchs,  Petišovci | Slovenia, 18/10/2015

Often Red Cross (RC) show a passive and ignorant attitude instead a pro-active one, and some of them are pretty good in non-cooperation and refugee bashing. Sorry to say that, but non-stating it does’t make the situation better – and questioning the accuracy and diligence of the Red Cross on the Balkan route does not diminish the great work of hundreds of Red Cross staff.
In general, in Petišovci, Slovenia (border to Croatia) the first two days – Saturday and Sunday – of new refugee routes on the Balkan at least have been under control, people had a roof over their head, some food, and also first aid sometimes was provided, but situations got worst in other refugee spots – as the below shows.

Still, I am ashamed about the official Europe, the rich Europe, not able to care about humans on their flight from war and armed conflict! And I am grateful for every helping hand demonstrating that human dignity is still a value in Europe and a universal right to all humans.

YOU WANT TO ENGAGE – updates on volunteer convoys – see IHA – InterEuropean Human Aid @iha_help

About birgitstoeckl

gender & communication expert, researcher, networker, activist.
This entry was posted in asylum, equal rights & social change, human rights, migration, refugees /ayslum and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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