By Ginevra Canessa, Letizia De Palo and Zelda Mccormick. Photos by Ginevra Canessa and Dejan Kožul
No Name Kitchen (NNK) issues a strong condemnation of state-sponsored actions taken to clamp down on movements of people near the Serbian-Hungarian border.
Following the death of three people amidst armed clashes in the area of Horgos on October 27th, Serbian and Hungarian police have joined forces to “fight against organized crime and irregular migration” as stated by the Serbian Interior Minister Bratislav Gasic and Hungarian Minister of the Interior Sandor Pinter.
This partnership has led to intensified law enforcement activities, including the deployment of several hundred members of the Special Anti-Terrorist Unit, gendarmerie, Units of the Serbian and Hungarian Police, Border Police Administration, UKP (the Serbian Uprava kriminalističke policije), as well as Regional Police Administrations, with all available personnel.
Yesterday, 6th of November, we visited Sombor camp and we found that a lot of people have been moved there from the Sombor area. It is at the moment hosting between 500 and 700 people, including unaccompanied minors, who are kept in terrible conditions. Access to food is limited to a small minority, most of the people sleep outside and don’t have access to showers. The camp is closely monitored by police who patrol the surrounding area. Many people spoke to us about mental health issues, reporting suicidal thoughts.”
We observe a strategy, involving the closure and stronger securitisation of various Serbian camps, including those in Subotica, Horgos, and Belgrade.
On the evening of October 31st, Subotica camp – which typically accommodates over 300 people, including men, women, young children, and families – was also forcefully evicted by the police.
NNK Condemns State-Sponsored Actions Against People-on-the-Move on the Serbian-Hungarian Border
The people hosted in Subotica Camp have been violently removed to other areas of Serbia. From the news we received, some have been allocated to camps in the South where they are kept in prison-like conditions. However, we are still uncertain of the destination of many. Some people from Subotica camp reported on the eviction from October 31st: the police violated people’s physical integrity, stole people’s personal belongings, and broke mobile phones. People also reported that signs of blood were present inside of the camp’s facilities and that police tried to shoot people running away. People were furthermore forced to sign a legal paper written in Serbian, without a translation in their language. This paper states the “illegal” presence of people in Serbia and justifies their indefinite detention in governmental camps and prisons.
These actions are part of a broader strategy aimed at criminalizing the movement of people through Serbia. While the joint Hungarian-Serbian operation is purportedly targeting smuggling networks, it appears that the most affected are all individuals seeking safety and refuge. These developments are taking place in the context of the upcoming Serbian parliamentary elections and are thus to be interpreted as part of a broad political agenda, aimed at reinforcing propaganda messages. The removal of people to camps in the South has also led to an increased militarization and armament on the border with Kosovo, pointing to a potential escalation of violence in those territories.
These political maneuvers have also had a detrimental impact on the work of NNK and other humanitarian organizations present on the territory. Stop-and-search procedures on organizations’ vehicles and members’ personal belongings have become a daily occurrence. Additionally, during a distribution in the Horgos area, physical violence was inflicted on a member of a fellow organization by Serbian police and FRONTEX personnel.
NNK denounces the violence unfolding on the Serbian-Hungarian border, the increasing criminalization of people on the move and solidarity actions. These political propaganda efforts are being employed by the Serbian government, with the support of the EU and its partners, to justify a manhunt against people seeking refuge.