Belgrade: Refugees evicted from the squatted warehouses

20170511_eviction_belgrade_8Serbian authorities evicted the barracks behind the main train station of Belgrade today. During the eviction officials of the commissariat sprayed insecticides in the barracks at a time as many refugees were still inside.

The eviction of the barracks behind the main train station started at 07:30am this morning. The ministry of Labor, Social and Veteran Affairs announced the “relocation” of refugees from the barracks on May the 5th. According to Nenad Ivansevic, State Secretary of this Ministry, the plan was to complete the eviction within 20 days. Authorities were misleading reporters by saying that they would not use force to “transfer” the refugees. An eviction is always forced when people don”t leave voluntarily but because of an eviction order.

Yesterday it already became clear that Serbian authorities would evict much faster as Ivansevic said. Several kitchen collectives were told by Serbian authorities to stop providing food to refugees by the weekend and yesterday authorities announced that they will start to demolish the barracks at 07:00am.

Teams of volunteers have been working around the clock to support the people since news of the eviction came in. Local and international activists protested against the eviction. BelgrAid, in collaboration with SoulWelders, No Name Kitchen, Help Refugees, Help-Na, GBGE Galdakaoko Boluntarioen Gizarte Elkartea, Cars of Hope Wuppertal and many independent volunteers have been making distributions of clothes, shoes, back packs, sleeping bags and hygiene kits in addition to our daily lunch distributions.

Most people were taken to 6 “open” camps in central and northern Serbia. These camps are run by the Serbian government. Some people refused to go to these camps. The government has threatened any refugees found in central Belgrade without papers with arrest and deportation. Although for the most part the eviction was peacefully (But than again, an eviction is never peacefully), there where reports of violence by the commissariat.

During the eviction teams of the commissariat started to sprac insecticides inside the barracks, while refugees where still inside. Tents, sleeping bags and other belongings of refugees were also sprayed.

The barracks were squatted in August 2016, after the commissariat evicted the parks around the bus station. Since then the barracks were used in a self-organized way by refugees. The numbers of people who lived in the barracks were always going up and down, but always between 1000 – 2000 people. The refugees are trapped in Serbia because of European border closures, like many refugees who are trapped in Greece for the same reason. During the last winter the people in the barracks attracted a lot of international media attention due to the bad weather conditions. What many people don’t know is that although the people who lived in the barracks have been mainly victimized, the squatted warehouses also have been a place of collective organizing, different forms of solidarity and exchange between people from all over the world were practiced. There was a high level of autonomous organizing which started long before the appearance of international volunteers and media arrived. Local solidarity groups and refugees organized collective cooking groups, a self-organized language school, sports, meetings and exchanged knowledge. The squatted barracks became also the front line, together with the Timotijević-family on that same area, in the struggle against the huge Belgrade Waterfront gentrification project.

Apart from the Belgrade Waterfront project, the eviction is also in line with EU policies to push people out of sight and isolate them, like in other European countries. Serbia is a EU candidate member state and the EU doesn’t want to see refugees self-organization and protests. The EU wants the hard conditions were people are forced to live in to take place in state run camps where the media have barely access to.

After last years eviction of the “wild” refugee camps in Idomeni, Calais and todays eviction of the barracks in Belgrade, the resistance for the freedom of movement becomes even more important. A debate between refugees and independent volunteers is more necessary than ever before. The goal should be the freedom of movement and equal rights for all people no matter where they are coming from.

20170511_eviction_belgrade_1120170511_eviction_belgrade_320170511_eviction_belgrade_220170511_eviction_belgrade_10Written by Riot Turtle. Enough is Enough!