During the last few months, the situation for migrants in southern Europe has gotten worse and worse. More are coming. Governments are treating them like criminals rather than people fleeing from war and poverty. In Croatia, the president has admitted that she has instructed the police to ignore international rules, and so the police are acting violently at the borders to push them back. We continually are hearing of serious injuries. Furthermore, the conditions within the official camps are getting worse, and ngos are not being permitted to enter them, particularly to give psychological assistance. People who assist migrants also are being treated as criminals. What we are seeing and hearing is that migrants are harming themselves, attempting and committing suicide, and committing acts of violence in greater and greater numbers. This is hardly surprising considering that they cannot move further, nor can they return to their regions of origin. They also are ashamed to go home, as their families expected them to succeed and to bring them out of the horrors of what they have experienced.
For ethical reasons, I cannot give the case of a real person. What follows is a typical story.
Let us call the young man Ahmad. He is now 18. He comes from Afghanistan. He has been traveling for about two years. He has a few years of secondary education. He left Afghanistan after having been conscripted by the Taliban. He watched an uncle being tortured and killed. His parents managed to find the roughly € 4000 that the smugglers asked. He spent about year in Turkey trying to work and get a little money. He then got onto a rubber boat to Samos. The boat sprung a leak and several others in the boat drowned, including a child. After a number of months on the island, he managed to get to the mainland. Again, he was smuggled through North Macedonia to Serbia. He ended up in Belgrade.
There, he lived in tents and parks, with other migrants. He was forced by various smugglers to work for them under difficult conditions and was not paid. Several times underway, all of the things he had with him were taken from him by police and smugglers. He then decided to try to go further. His ultimate goal is Germany or perhaps Sweden.
The next country on his route is Croatia. However, he hasn’t gotten that far yet. He now is in Šid, on the Serbian side of the border. He is in what is called a “squat”, which is a destroyed factory with a few tents. It is maintained by volunteers from an organization called No Name Kitchen. The volunteers try to help as best they can. However, most are young students who stay for a few weeks, or a month or so at most. They are untrained, and they easily become secondarily traumatized.
They also form relationships with the residents of the squat, which then are broken when they leave. Frequently, they do more harm than good. In the squat, there is a hierarchy, with the smugglers at the top. They order around the remaining residents, almost of them young men like Ahmad. They also sexually abuse the young men, and Ahmad has been raped several times. He has gotten no treatment, as the psychologists in the town will not go to the squat.
People like Ahmad must go to a place where the smugglers will not see him if he wants treatment. He hasn’t yet gotten any. Every few nights, a group of residents of the squat go on “the game”, that is, they try to cross the Croatian border. However, a large amount of electronic detection equipment has been installed. Ahmad has been hurt several times.
The last time, it was serious enough for him to have to stay in bed for a number of days. He was afraid to go to the hospital. Even when people do go to the hospital, many doctors refuse to treat them. Thus, a number of people die.
This is a very short version of Ahmad’s story. We would like to tell you more. We would like to set up an office in Šid and another in Velika Kladuša in Bosnia near the Croatian border. Yet, we don’t know if we will survive into 2020. We are doing what we can through online education and supervision of the volunteers. Yet, as mentioned above, they stay for very short periods and are untrained. We are very frustrated.