Traditional Serbian hospitality is well known. The good old custom says that you should first kiss the guest three time, then move on to rakia, homemade sweets and water, strong Serbian coffee, Turkish delight, hors d’oeuvre, then rakia again, wine, beer and, for the women, juice. Finally, it all ends in arson.
Now, let’s get serious. Things that recently happened near Obrenovac show that it is not a question of convincing good, but confused people to temporarily accept people from distant countries as neighbors anymore, but serious crimes. It has become modish for locals to organize a protest immediately after plans for lodging foreigners are made known. Despite the efforts to present these protests as benign and motivated by fear and distrust, it all points to the fact that the gathered locals are simply racists. This is a serious problem and any attempt to deal with it should start with an acceptance that it exists. Similarly to AA groups, it is necessary to say: I am an alcoholic/racist.
Still, individuals or negative social phenomena shouldn’t be blamed for this. All the “credits” undoubtedly go to the Government. The results of five years of implementation of the Law on Asylum are, at the very least, distressing. The system of asylum has been established due to the pressure of European Union in order to get Serbia on the white Schengen list. After that, everything went very sloppy. The whole system of asylum (admittance, accommodation, processing the asylum claim and post-decision process) is based on the assumption that the asylum seeker will, at some point, illegally cross the border to another country. The result of this tactic is that only three asylum claims were approved and those were made by the persons who were in Serbia legally (it should be stressed that no claims made by the persons we are talking about here, i.e. persons who entered Serbia illegally, who are the majority of asylum seekers, were approved). On the other hand, the media, maybe even unintentionally, support the Government asylum policy by stressing that, for asylum seekers, Serbia is only a stop-station on their way to some country in Western Europe. They do so by publishing their own conclusions or by broadcasting statements of government officials. Let me give you just two examples. Yesterday, president of Municipality of Obrenovac promised to provide accommodation, clothes and food for 20 people and prepare them for further transport. Transport? This is people we are talking about, not goods. Government officials are not expected to prepare asylum seekers for transport, but to enable them to utilize the rights guaranteed by international treaties, the Constitution and Law on Asylum.
Even more picturesque is the statement made by Prime Minister yesterday: Serbia is a part of the modern world, it is not a racist state. Accommodation has to be provided for them, their status should be resolved without delay and they should be sent back to where they came from. Besides the fact that he is suggesting the outcome of the process and emphasizing that they should be sent back, he doesn’t say clearly whether he means to their home states or the neighboring states from which they entered Serbia. As a Minister of police, the Prime Minister should know that Serbia doesn’t enforce return to home countries (Syria, Afghanistan, etc) due to high costs. On the other hand, he should explain to the public how these people are being sent back to neighboring states and whether the legal procedure is being followed. The asylum seekers say that they are put in some vehicle, brought to the border with Macedonia and then sent off to this state on foot.
Commissioner for Refugees and migrations has been announcing the building of new center for asylum seekers very loudly for several years, but the appropriate location, which is close enough, but also far enough from Belgrade or some other city, can’t be found. The ideal location should also be far enough from water system, power plants, powder mills, steel plants and other facilities of national importance, such as ongoing construction of South stream gas pipeline. However, the biggest problem seems to be how to find the location that is far enough from the people in Serbia.
The problem of insufficient accommodation capacities for asylum seekers is not new (remember events in Banja Koviljaca), but it escalated in the last two years. Since summer of 2012, a lot of people have been living in the woods around Asylum center in Bogovadja. The officials reacted only at the beginning of winter 2012 and found Solomon’s solution by putting some asylum seekers in an unfinished building, so called “Stojkovica kuca” in the village Vracevici. Although the Commissioner paid a fair price for renting of this building, accommodation was unsatisfactory. Someone not being diplomatic could say that it is not even fit for animals. By the way, the neighbors of the before mentioned Stojkovic expressed their protest by signing petition and throwing rocks at the house. Certain number of asylum seekers still appears to be housed in “Stojkovica kuca”. Of course, encouraged by the heroic resistance of residents of Obrenovac, locals from Vracevici also barricaded the local road and demanded the state terror to cease. It is interesting to notice certain hypocrisy of the locals. They claim that their demands are partially motivated by the care for welfare of asylum seekers, i.e. that “Stojkovica kuca” doesn’t provide basic living conditions.
We could read how some other people on some other planet reacted to asylum seekers in an excellent text translated and published on Pescanik web site. Football fans organized protests of SUPPORT for immigrants who are at risk of being deported, while the local church provided temporary accommodation for them. There was no such reaction by Serbian Orthodox Church, even though there is a monastery right beside the center in Bogovadja. I better not say anything about Serbian football fans.
Still, don’t worry. The latest news give reason for joy and point to the light at the end of the tunnel and the end of suffering of endangered locals and maybe even asylum seekers. Namely, His Royal Highness Aleksandar I has been informed about the problem.
Translated by Marijana Simić