Fortunately, the situation is much more stable than in previous years. People-on-the-move are still facing difficult conditions. They are living in broken houses, but neighbours are helping by providing food or phone charging. Sometimes, people are taken to Lipa Camp against their will, only to have to walk the 20 plus kilometres back again, but it’s not too often, and a night in the camp is ok since it's reopening in December.
My previous post details much of the daily work volunteering for No Name Kitchen, and with more time and resources than previously, we tried to make improvements to what we can offer. Fruit and more vegetables in the food bags and a laundry service for those living in more stable places. Doing what we can when racism and corruption prevents people from renting their own accommodation or accessing their money.
I had a coffee with Sohail, a tall, strong man who had worked as an electrical engineer. He’s got a big beard which makes him look older than his 26 years, excellent English skills as well as his native Pashto (he’s from Afghanistan) and Turkish after years working there. We chatted about Turkey which I had visited recently, as well as getting operational advice on places to meet people where the authorities or neighbours won’t mind or report us.
Sohail was also keen for advice, he wants to work as an electrical engineer in Western Europe but many governments don’t recognise foreign qualifications, so it’s not a straightforward process. And that’s after having an asylum claim accepted - waiting is a part of everyone’s future, even after they have reached a safe place. The time taken for initial interviews is months and then there is further waiting for a response, during which time you’re not allowed to work. Only wait.
The invasion of the Ukraine remains a conversation on everyone’s lips. Some people presume that Bosnia will receive increased numbers of refugees, but logically that’s not the case. Safe and legal routes have been rapidly provided in Western Europe to those fleeing war from Ukraine. A show of humanity that wasn’t extended to those fleeing war in Afghanistan or Syria. Below is the press release issued by No Name Kitchen which entirely and eloquently expresses my views. Please read it.
Thank you to everyone at No Name Kitchen for all the hard work, and especially to Stephanie for being my constant companion in everything. There are always difficult situations and hard moments to navigate, and doing it together is always so much easier! If you feel moved to support our work, donate here.
Press Release Below.
PRESS RELEASE: The reception of people who have fled Ukraine has proved us right: offering legal channels for migration is possible
17th March 2022. European Union. No Name Kitchen has always been very clear about the solution to the so-called ‘refugee crisis’: providing legal routes for people to escape their war-torn countries and seek asylum in a safe place, as well as for migrants in general.
The war in Ukraine, which has caused the displacement of many people to neighboring countries, has shown us that, as terrible as it is to leave your home and be separated from your family in search of a safe haven, the process can be done in a kind and speedy way in order to avoid suffering as much as possible.
Even so, the European reception response that we are witnessing these days, and which we support, shows immense hypocrisy on the part of a 21st century Europe that has by no means overcome a xenophobia that has left devastating events in our history.
The people we support in the places where we are working - and which are always areas bordering the European Union-, are also escaping from wars, threats, poverty, lack of opportunities or dictatorships. When they try to reach a country where they can seek asylum or start a new life, they find a border full of violence, a Europe that does not comply with its own laws and international agreements, with illegal refoulements.
Why are we saying that the EU's reaction to the Ukrainian people shows great hypocrisy?
- When the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August, very few people were welcomed in Europe to escape, even knowing full well that many of them were in danger because they had worked with foreign governments or agencies. No Name Kitchen collected cases of many, many families who needed to find a safe haven and received no response from the European authorities.
- Some borders are opened, while others are closed. Every day, present in border towns, we meet people with bruises all over their bodies or who have been ripped off their clothes. This happens to coincide with the fact that a large number of the people in Ceuta (Spain) and in the Balkan countries come from Muslim countries. This intervention could lead to greater Islamophobia in society or normalise xenophobia towards people from Asia or Africa.
- We have seen how black people who are trying to flee the country have encountered a lot of discrimination in their flight, as the news have shown in recent days.
- We see that if there is international political will, there are ways to put pressure on a country in a context of war, with economic and political measures. This is something that the international community has refused to do with other countries, as in the case of Israel with Palestine.
With all this, we want to call for reflection on how aporophobia and Islamophobia determine our external border control policies. People fleeing countries like Afghanistan or Eritrea are doing so for the same reason as the nearly two million people who have left their homes in Ukraine today.
Regarding the reception of people from Ukraine, we would like to recall how the asylum applications of people from this country who fled the war that started in 2016 have been almost entirely rejected in Spain. We hope that this decision taken now is out of true humanity and not as part of a political game.