INFOPARK Weekly : 1 – 7 April 2020 - 012
Beginning of April was marked with a significant deterioration of atmosphere in some of the camps, especially the big ones. Two massive fights occurred in Obrenovac RC (5 April) and Krnjaca AC (6 April) centers, involving up to 150 persons. In both incidents, the migrants tried to escape, the SCRM staff was attacked so gendarmerie and army had to intervene, including shooting live bullets in the air in Krnjača. Since yesterday, Obrenovac camp is loaded with a heavy presence of Ministry of Interior (MoI) forces controlling the situation, while Krnjača is guarded by armored vehicles. In many camps security forces scaled up the measures to prevent migrants from attempts to escape, although in smaller centers the situation remained calmer.
Info Park believes that negative developments came as a consequence of locked camps’ regime that seems to be unsustainable on a long run as it is now. Info Park learned from migrants about growing mental health issues, gaps in service provision and supply, conflicts between different ethnic groups and toxic influence of smugglers’ propaganda inspiring some to protest violently. At the end of this bulletin please kindly find enclosed an appendix on Mental Health of Refugees and Migrants written by Info Park protection expert Ivana Anđelković (PhD candidate at University of Nis, department of psychology).
As Serbia registers constant rise of COVID-19 cases (8,552 tested, 2,200 infected and death toll of 58), fortunately there is still no confirmed coronavirus among migrants in the country, even though migrant population is at higher risk being with limited access to information and healthcare services. Until this weekend, 8 migrants were tested, all negative. The SCRM introduced an obligatory isolation for new arrivals sent to Preševo camp which is the largest camp with 1,501 migrants currently placed.
Number of migrants in Serbia continued to slowly rise due to pushbacks from Hungary, returns from Bosnia and new arrivals. Currently, 8,743 migrants are in 17 camps. The Miratovac makeshift camp is completed but is still waiting for the first visitors.
The recently established anti-migrant Facebook group “STOP Naseljavanju migranata” (Stop Populating Migrants in Serbia) stirred a lot of controversy due to high presence of hate speech and fake news. One of the group founders from Obrenovac was detained for 48 hours following a report from a CyberCrime unit of MoI, after he publicly called for murdering migrants. The group was joined by 265,000 members in mere 10 days, marking an alarming rise of extreme right wing focused on migrant issue in Serbia.
After Bujanovac, Adasevci, Vranje and Principovac, migrants in Sombor Reception Center have also started sewing protective face masks for the employees of the Serbian Commissariat and themselves. This way they are not only contributing to the COVID-19 response but also sharing and returning solidarity and care.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
According to the Bosnian authorities and International Organization for Migration, there are no COVID-19 cases among thousands of migrants and refugees hosted in B&H centers. However, several hundred of those recently arrived are placed in isolation as a precautionary measure.
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