• Syrian refugees complain about Gabčíkovo camp

    SYRIAN asylum seekers who have arrived from Austria and are temporarily placed in the refugee camp in Gabčíkovo (Trnava Region) are complaining about alleged bullying and insufficient care of children.

    They have already signed a petition and have tried to meet with the the management of the facility. The management, however, rejects any meetings. Moreover, they say it is only play-acting when talking to media, the Aktuality.sk website reported.

    “They promised us the same conditions as in Austria but the differences here are huge,” a 20-year-old man from Aleppo told Aktuality.sk.

    There are currently more than 400 Syrians accommodated in Gabčíkovo, including 120 children. All of them are seeking asylum in Austria but have been placed in Slovakia based upon the memorandum on cooperation which was signed between Slovakia and Austria earlier this year.

    The refugees mostly complain about bad conditions for children, most of whom have already reached school age. Nobody has yet secured any courses or lessons for them. As it is possible that they may spend up to six months in the camp, it is likely that they will miss a whole year at school, according to Aktuality.sk.

    The only activity for children in the camp is kindergarten, which is only open between 14:00 and 15:00, where every child younger than 18 can go. They mostly have art lessons there. The activity is led by Thawra, one of the facility’s inhabitants, the website wrote.

    The Syrians also complain about problematic medical care. While in Austria there are doctors who come to the refugee camps daily at certain hours, in Slovakia they have to ask for them. According to official information, the paediatrician visits the facility twice a week between 14:00 and 18:00, but the refugees complain that this is not always true, Aktuality.sk wrote.

    According to the memorandum, the medical care should be secured by Austria. The Syrians say that the problem is with ORS Slovakia company which manages the facility and which is also the official contract partner of the Austrian government.

    Additionally, the refugees say they are not happy about the food they receive. They also say that the kitchens are locked at night and they cannot warm food for their babies.

    “These people have escaped from war, I think it is important that they do not sleep on floor and that they have hot meal every day,” Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák said, as quoted by Aktuality.sk, adding that the Gabčíkovo facility is not a hotel.

    #ORS #Slovakia #Gabčíkovo


    • Slovakia promotes Gabcikovo camp as answer to refugee problem

      Slovakia, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, has showcased the Gabčíkovo camp near Bratislava as an example that intergovernmental solutions can work better than the Commission’s relocation system based on mandatory quotas.

      On Saturday (2 July) the Slovak presidency took a group of 58 Brussels journalists to Gabčíkovo, in the Trnava Region, on the border with Hungary, some 50 kilometres from Bratislava, to showcase a refugee camp run in cooperation with Austria.

      The previous day, the Slovak Prime Minister, Robert Fico, and other officials had stated that Gabčíkovo was a proof that the country was unfairly criticised for not doing enough to share the burden of the refugee crisis the EU is faced with.

      The camp is a former technical university, which was converted in 2015 into a refugee camp for a period of two years, under a bilateral deal with Austria. So far a total of 1,200 Syrian refugees, mostly families, have been settled in the camp. Before coming to Gabčíkovo, all of them applied for asylum in Austria, and agreed to await the decision on their application in Slovakia.

      Slovakia is providing accommodation and food, while Austria has dispatched 22 social workers, who among other things, teach the refugees German.

      Karl-Heinz Grundböck, spokesperson for the Federal Ministry of the Interior of Austria, expressed thanks to the Slovak government for the assistance, which has been particularly helpful when the Austrian asylum system collapsed last summer, with no accommodation available and asylum seekers sleeping on the grass in the Traiskirchen refugee camp near Vienna.

      At present, only 14 refugees are living in the Gabčíkovo camp, but Austria would like the project to be maintained, because as Grundböck explained, the future remained uncertain.

      The total capacity of the camp, of 500 refugees, was reached during the past winter. All asylum seekers accommodated so far have ultimately received asylum and none has fled.

      Bernard Priecel, director of the migration office of the Ministry of Interior of Slovakia, explained that the refugees don’t want to remain in Slovakia, and if they are forcibly relocated there, would disappear “the next day”. He argued that instead of applying the relocation scheme, as decided upon by the Commission, other types of bilateral projects, such as Gabčíkovo, could be replicated across the EU.

      Slovakia takes EU to court over migrant quotas

      Slovakia will launch legal action by next month against an EU quota plan to distribute 160,000 refugees and migrants across the bloc, a justice ministry spokeswoman told AFP today (24 November).

      Asked if the Gabčíkovo camp has ever been visited by the Commission, Priecel said no. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the facility in October 2015.


    • Following Syrian Refugees Into an Unwelcoming Slovakia

      Late last week, after a long journey, a group of 24 young men arrived by bus in a tiny town about an hour outside of Bratislava, Slovakia’s capital city.

      Most of the men had traveled for at least a month from their homes in war-torn Syria, following a path that took them first to Turkey, then across the Aegean Sea and through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, and Hungary, then into Austria.

      “We lost everything in our country,” says Mahmood Alokla, 24, who came from outside Damascus. “We lost our sisters and our brothers. We paid all our money—and for this. We don’t want it.”

      Alokla and the other refugees who were sent to a camp in Gabčíkovo (pronounced gab-chee-kovo) say they want to stay in Austria. They proudly display their Austrian ID cards. A few have family in the country. But as the result of a deal between Austrian and Slovak leaders, the refugees were put on a bus and moved. Some of them were separated from family members they had traveled with from Syria.

      Years of conflict in Syria, splintered warring factions, and the rise of ISIS have all driven hundreds of thousands of people to seek safer lives elsewhere. The influx of these asylum-seekers—in addition to thousands more fleeing danger zones around the Middle East and North Africa—has lead to concerns and confusion about where they can, and will, end up.

      “I want to be in Vienna,” says Abdelkarim Alorfi, 26, sitting on the crumbling steps of the main building of the refugee’s housing camp. Alorfi was separated from his brother’s family when he left Austria. “I don’t want to be here. The police are watching.”
      Pictures of Syrain refugees in Slovakia

      View Images

      Refugees collect their luggage at the camp in Gabčíkovo, Slovakia.
      Photograph by Igor Svítok, Demotix, Corbis

      The camp, made up of a series of run-down buildings belonging to the Slovak University of Technology, has been used to accommodate refugees in the past, but it’s been empty for the last six years. A police car sits in a parking lot, and others drive through on surveillance runs.

      It’s no secret that the Slovak government has been loath to accept asylum seekers from the Middle East as the number reaching Western Europe has grown to what many are calling crisis levels in recent weeks.

      In late July, Slovakia agreed to temporarily house 500 refugees from Austria in the Gabčíkovo camp. In early August, the townspeople staged a referendum that garnered a nearly 97 percent vote against allowing refugees to stay at the camp.

      Reports in mid-August indicated the Slovak government would agree to relocate up to 200 Syrians, and initially suggested that these refugees had to be Christian (the BBC reports that about ten percent of Syrians were Christian before the conflict started).

      Marches against the “Islamisation” of Slovakia and Europe have drawn crowds in Bratislava. The most recent saw an estimated 1,000 protesters just a day before the refugees arrived in Gabčíkovo. Plans for a protest against the acceptance of migrants—initiated by the far-right People’s Party and set to take place in Gabčíkovo, whose residents are mostly ethnic Hungarian—were thwarted by police earlier in September.

      On Tuesday, the EU pushed through a measure that would disperse 120,000 refugees across Europe—with Slovakia taking on fewer than 1,000 initially. Slovakia was one of four countries to vote against the proposal. Following the decision, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico continued to hold strong against quotas.

      Alorfi says he thinks he will be in Slovakia for 60 days. Others say five days. One man, speaking on his cell phone a few feet away, shouts over to the rest of the group in Arabic, “Where are we?” A few respond, “Slovakia!”

      The men say they are confused as to why they are in Slovakia. They say they were never told they would be moved out of Austria.

      “We are like animals,” says Dewan Mohammad, 33. “We are here today. We don’t know tomorrow. This is how it is for us Syrians.”
      Picture of Syrian refugees in Slovakia

      View Images

      A group of refugees that traveled from Syria to Austria were, to their surprise, moved to Slovakia, where residents have protested their arrival. Tarek Abood (left) and Abdelkarim Alorfi are among many awaiting a decision on their applications for asylum in Austria.
      Photograph by Meghan Sullivan

      The day before the refugees arrived, Slovakia’s health minister Viliam Čislák was out talking with the media about the need to be sure all the migrants were in good health and had been vaccinated. The same day, Prime Minister Robert Fico and Interior Minister Robert Kalinak told reporters that Slovakia, in conjunction with the Czech Republic, was open to creating a corridor through Slovakia to allow safe passage of refugees into Germany, if Germany supported the idea.

      The concern among many Slovaks is that their nation of 5.4 million cannot accommodate a large influx of immigrants, socially or economically. Prime Minister Fico has said that the current system doesn’t control for potential terrorists slipping in under the radar. And Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak told NPR on Friday that it doesn’t make sense to give asylum to refugees who, effectively, want to establish themselves elsewhere.

      “Sometimes you feel like no one respects you,” Alokla says. “It’s hard in Austria, but we have friends and family. We come here only because of war. “I hope to just be near my sister. It’s peace for me. As you have family, we have. As you have feelings, we have. After some time, if you see the people, you would respect us.”

      As the refugees head into the cafeteria for a lunch provided by the Slovak government, a local woman pushes her young grandson by in a stroller. When asked what she thinks of the situation, she just shrugs her shoulders.

      She and her neighbors could be seeing more migrants temporarily, or permanently, join their community soon.


    • Slovakian village doesn’t want Austria’s migrants

      Residents of the Slovakian village of Gabcikovo voted in a referendum on Sunday to reject the establishment of a temporary asylum camp to house 500 migrants bound for Austria under an agreement between Bratislava and Vienna.

      About 97 percent of voters said yes to the question “Are you against the establishment of a temporary migrant camp in the building of the Slovak Technical University?”

      According to Teodor Bodo, the head of the referendum’s electoral commission, 2,600 of Gabcikovo’s 4,300 adult residents participated in the vote, with only 102 in favour of hosting migrants.

      Local authorities organised the consultation following a petition signed by 3,150 residents of Gabcikovo. The interior ministry warned however that the outcome of the consultation was not binding.

      “The local referendum is binding on the municipality, but the interior ministry, as an organ of the state is not obliged to act according to its results,” said ministry spokeswoman Michaela Paulenova.

      Slovakia has agreed to house 500 migrants who have applied for asylum in Austria, at the end of a bilateral agreement concluded on July 21st in Vienna and designed to reduce pressure on the neighbouring country’s capabilities for receiving migrants.

      Under this agreement, hailed as “a great sign of solidarity on the part of Slovakia” by Austrian Interior Minister Johanna Mikl-Leitner, Slovakia will pay the cost of accommodation and food for migrants while Austria will assume the personnel costs.

      Mikl-Leitner’s Slovak counterpart Robert Kalinak justified Bratislava’s gesture as a desire to “pay (its) debts” to Austria, which hosted refugees during the time of the Iron Curtain and supported Slovakia’s accession to the EU and the Schengen area.

      “Everything is ready now for Gabcikovo to accommodate migrants from Austria”, Paulenova said. The date of their arrival is however not yet known, she added.


    • Asyl : Ein Schauspiel namens Gabčíkovo

      Ein kleiner Ort in der Westslowakei sollte das Lager in Traiskirchen entlasten. Doch bisher lief nichts nach Plan.

      Wien. „Die Lage hier ist nicht gut. Das Camp ist überfüllt und sie haben uns mit 14 anderen Familien in einen 200 Quadratmeter großen Raum gesteckt“, schreibt ein zweifacher irakischer Familienvater und Arzt der „Presse“ aus dem Flüchtlingslager Traiskirchen. Die Situation sei weiter angespannt, Entlastung geboten, meint auch das Innenministerium. Einen Plan dafür gibt es. Seit Juli. 500 Asylwerber aus Traiskirchen sollen vorübergehend, bis zum Bescheid, in der Technischen Universität im westslowakischen 5000-Einwohner-Ort Gabčíkovo untergebracht werden. Die ersten wurden im Juli, dann im August, später Anfang September erwartet. Es kam immer anders.

      Das Innenministerium in Bratislava ist entnervt: „Zweimal wurden Termine abgesagt, bei denen bereits das Essen für die Flüchtlinge in Gabčíkovo vorbereitet war“, sagt Sprecher Ivan Netík Donnerstagvormittag zur „Presse“. Das sei „nicht sehr nett“ von Österreichs Behörden. „Uns ist es auch egal, aus welchen Lagern die Flüchtlinge kommen“, ergänzt er, während es in Österreich die nächste Meldung über einen abgesagten Transport gibt. 42 Syrer aus dem Zeltlager in Krumpendorf sollten nach Gabčíkovo gebracht werden, denn „wir brauchen die Ressourcen dort wegen der Neuankünfte“, sagt Karl-Heinz Grundböck, Sprecher des Innenministeriums. Der Flüchtlingsstrom mündet nun ja in Österreichs Süden. Die Flüchtlinge wollten nicht. Also stellten NGOs Ersatzquartiere auf. Wieder nichts mit Gabčíkovo.

      Die am 21. Juli vereinbarte Asylkoordination mit der Slowakei stand von Anfang an unter keinem guten Stern. 97 Prozent der Bewohner Gabčíkovos lehnten die Pläne ab. Premier Robert Fico setzte sich (nach Zögern) über die Befragung hinweg. Die Bürger sollen nun aber mit einem besseren Kamerasystem im Ort beruhigt werden. Dann das nächste Problem: Die Gründung eines slowakischen Ablegers der österreichischen Flüchtlingsorganisation ORS zog sich in die Länge (ORS ist vor Ort für Sicherheit und Betreuung zuständig). Bratislava erklärte, es warte auf Dokumente aus Österreich, wo erwidert wurde, man warte auf die slowakische Genehmigung. Am 8. September wurde sie erteilt. Schon davor dürfte man im Innenressort aber erkannt haben, dass der größte Fallstrick anderswo lauert: Asylwerber haben genauso wenig Interesse an Mittelosteuropa wie die Staaten dort an deren Aufnahme. Zwingen kann man niemanden.
      Freiwillige gesucht

      Die Asylwerber sollen nun in Informationsgesprächen für Gabčíkovo erwärmt werden. Was für den Ort spreche? „Eine adäquate Unterkunft“, sagt Grundböck. In Traiskirchen gebe es ja teils Zelte. Mitgrund für das geringe Interesse seien die Bilder aus Ungarn und dass der Eindruck entstanden sei, Deutschland nehme alle auf, sagt Grundböck. Wobei im Smartphone-Zeitalter den Asylwerbern auch die Haltung der Slowakei nicht entgangen sein dürfte, die in der Aussage gipfelte, man akzeptiere nur Christen.

      Gestern trafen dann doch erste Asylwerber in Gabčikovo ein. 18 Syrer wurden aus Salzburgs Schwarzenbergkaserne in den Ort gefahren. Den ersten Transport aus Traiskirchen sollte es erst geben, wenn sich 50 Asylwerber gefunden haben. Auch dieser Plan wurde noch am selben Tag verworfen, als die Ersten aus Traiskirchen nach Gabčíkovo gebracht wurden: Es waren sechs Asylwerber an der Zahl.

      ("Die Presse", Print-Ausgabe, 18.09.2015)