Hope on the edges and hopelessness within the Fortress of Europe

Last week hundreds of refugees left camps in Greece, in which they have been staying for a long time, to join the “March of Hope”. They headed north of Greece hoping to leave the country forever because of the current situation in which some are supposed to wait until 2024 to have their interviews in the process of applying for international protection – a situation that leads to a state of total hopelessness and lack of perspective for their future. Many media reported that this movement is triggered by fake news about an opening of the border, but these reports ignore the conditions in which these people live which are the main reason for leaving the camps. We need to put ourselves in the position of people living in tents and barracks and waiting for these conditions to change in order to have a dignified life; then it’s easier to understand that there is nothing left for refugees to do, but to change these conditions themselves. In Greece, that is exactly what happened – refugees came out of the camps and showed that they are against the policy of the Fortress of Europe. This is not the first time it had happened and probably won’t be the last if the EU policies do not change.

Although refugees hope for a better life in EU countries, the integration policies of many EU countries, including Croatia, are inadequate and often force refugees to handle it themselves. States clearly define the obligations of refugees, but often forget to define their own role in the integration process. The most recent example in Croatia is document regulating the condition of accommodation and obligations of persons accommodated in Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers (Pravilnik o izmjenama i dopuni Pravilnika o ostvarivanju materijalnih uvjeta prihvata). The document is available for public consultation until April 27th. Refugee integration system is part of Croatian social system, which has numerous challenges including difficulties for users to navigate through the complex system. For this reason refugees need additional support from the state and society, such as integration workers and intercultural mediators. For years, one of the problems emphasized has been difficulties in finding adequate accommodation for refugees, as well as difficulties finding landlords who are willing to have them as tenets. It is important to advocate the improvement of housing system for the whole society, which is why the campaign Housing for All has been launched, sending the message that flats must be affordable and that housing is a social issue we must engage with.

Last week, a session of the operational group for coordination of activities and supervision of the migration crisis in the Una-Sana Canton (USK) was held in Bosnia and Herzegovina, requesting the BiH Council of Ministers and the IOM to move the migrants from “Bira” facilities in Bihać and “Miral” in Velika Kladuša within 30 days. They warned of an increase in violence among migrants and refugees, and stated that, if the state authorities did not move migrants and refugees, they would themselves shut down the migrant centers. Some participants of the session addressed the issue of illegal transfer of migrants and refugees from Croatia to BiH, as well as the ways EU funds have been spent in dealing with the current crisis. This is another indication of the inadequate conditions in BiH and the fact that EU countries must take responsibility for refugees together in cooperation.

EU migration policy also has consequences in Africa, a continent many people are fleeing in search for safety. On their way to Europe, some of them end up in inhumane conditions (for example, in Libyan detention centers), while very often those who get the EU are deported back by organized flights to the African continent.  The situation in various African countries receives practically no media coverage in European mainstream media, even though this context is very important for understanding the situation of migrants and refugees. This is why it is important to highlight the visit by the coordinator of the Togolese Association of Deportees – ATE,  Aboubakari Razakou – who will visit Germany, Austria and the Netherlands in the next few days. His arrival was initiated by the German daily newspaper TAZ and the Afrique-Europe-Interact network that covers the state of human rights in African countries. Cooperation between European and African initiatives for the protection of human rights is extremely important, not only because it can provide insight into the causes and consequences of migration movements; but also to  prevent human rights violations and the abuse of the externalization of the European asylum system in African countries.

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