Stranded in a Serbian border town, refused the right of asylum

  • Samuel Nacar
  • 13 Jun 2019

Croatian police violate international law by using brute force against the fleeing Afghan refugees who find themselves trapped in a cold Serbian town.

The factory has no doors or windows. In winter there were minus 5 degrees reaching minus 10 every night. In the picture, a migrant is walking in front of a graffiti that says "Fuck Trump!" Sid, Serbia, 30 of January 2019. ( Samuel Nacar / TRTWorld )

SID, Serbia — In the border town of Sid in Serbia, an old factory is being used as a shelter for hundreds of Afghan migrants who are trying to reach Croatia every day. Most inhabitants in the factory have walked during the night, through the snowy forests, in an attempt to reach Europe. 

Kainan came from Afghanistan four months ago and he is travelling with his brother and cousin. They are now trapped in Sid, Serbia.(TRTWorld)

Most of them have failed what human smugglers describe as "the game," a dangerous journey on foot which involves navigating the Croatian police who are known for using brute force to push back the fleeing refugees. 

An old, decrepit factory in a Serbian town of Sid where stranded refugees keep themselves warm by burning fire.(TRTWorld)

Against the odds, they keep on trying to get to Europe. At times, the journey on foot can drag on for months with many walking for 500 kilometres until they reach the northeastern Italian city of Trieste. Most of them are illegally pushed back, according to a 2018 report by UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency. The report says Croatian police pushed back at least 2,500 migrants to Serbia and Bosnia Herzegovina, refusing them their right to ask for asylum.

Hamza, another Afghan refugee, has been travelling for the last 3 years. He fled home at the age of 14 because the Taliban wasn't happy with his brother working for the US backed Afghan military. He feared the Taliban might harm him because of his brother's choice.(TRTWorld)

Most of them have tried "the game" more than 20 times, but Croatian police keep deporting them and forcing them back to the Serbian town. 

Kainan, a young Afghan who is currently living in the old factory in Sid, says that he has made five attempts to cross the Serbia-Croatia border, but each time the 18-year-old and his fellow travellers were stopped and beaten by police. Their phones were snatched from them and smashed with sticks. 

Some of the migrants getting warm around the fire before getting ready to try the "game." Most of them return after running into the police except a few who managed to dodge the arrests.(TRTWorld)

At times the encounters with police were peaceful. Kainan remembers running into the Slovenian police along with his brother. The duo was surprised when the Slovenian cops offered them some food. Three hours later, they were handed over to the Croation police for deportation. But as the Croatian police pushed them across, Kainan said, they were called back and beaten up for "two to three minutes."

Every night migrants get ready to cross the border as if it was their last time, so they have to pack a bag of essential belongings and dress appropriately. The path to European countries like Italy and Germany is long which can take five days to cover by foot.(TRTWorld)

In March, he finally made it to Germany.  

Another refugee named Hamza has been caught in limbo in Sid for four years. The 17-year-old Afghan left his home when he was just fourteen. He says he's spent at least 20,000 euros on smugglers. He's trying to reach Belgium, but finds himself trapped in Serbia. 

A migrant leaving the factory with his backpack and a sleeping bag.(TRTWorld)
As the smugglers showed up at the factory, migrants got nervous as they randomly get picked for "the game," while many are left behind.(TRTWorld)
Led by the smugglers, a group of migrants walk toward the Croation border in the early hours of late January this year.(TRTWorld)
One of the refugees returns to the old factory with his broken phone. The Croatian police send him back to Serbia after beating him up at the border and also breaking his cell phone.(TRTWorld)
Refugees who were not picked by the smugglers to try "the game" sit in a huddle to warm themselves up and hope their time to cross over will also come.(TRTWorld)