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Bogovadja: Asylum seekers still living in the woods

Source: Al Jazeera 24. January  2014.

The first days of 2014 have shown that Serbia is still a country of transit for a large number of asylum seekers, mainly from Syria, but also from Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia.

Due to the lack of accommodation in the existing asylum centers, the new centers for asylum seekers were recently opened in Sjenica and Tutin.

Bogovadja, a place that was only two months ago on the focus of public attention because of the protests of residents. The reason for that was the large inflow of asylum seekers in the local Asylum Center. But, by the force of circumstances, asylum seekers are hiding again in the woods of Bogovadja.

Despite the new centers, asylum seekers still arriving

With the opening of the new asylum centers in Sjenica and Tutin, it seemed that the pressure on this Centre, about 80 kilometers from Belgrade, was reduced.
However, asylum seekers continue to arrive, and do not have guarantees for the accommodation.

“In this abandoned bunker in the woods of Bogovadja, only a week ago, there were about 20 people. According to our information, there are still about 10 persons who live here. As you can see, the living conditions are, to say the least, disastrous”, said reporter.

Some of the people who lived here were transferred to the Center in Tutin. The others remained in the woods because they do not have a paper-confirmation of expressed asylum intention that would enable them accommodation in some of the asylum centers.

“As the Commissariat for Refugees takes care only about accommodation of asylum seekers, the only requirement to be admitted to the asylum center is that they have got obtain confirmation of the expressed intention for asylum from the Asylum Office or the Department of Asylum”, explains Milan Vladic from the Asylum Center in Bogovodja.

“At this moment the weakest link is the Department of Asylum, which also was the weak link in the past, but nobody talked much about it. Department of Asylum is the one that registers, conducts the asylum procedures and issues ID cards. Until today we have a very small number of identity cards that were issued, which means that the Department of Asylum doesn’t come that often in Bogovadja, not to mention Sjenica and Tutin, and also very rarely in Obrenovac”, says Rados Djurovic from the Asylum Protection Center (APC/CZA).

New wave is expected

This prediction is also confirmed by Mohammed, an asylum seeker from Syria, who has, with another hundred people from Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan, found temporary accommodation in the Asylum Center in Bogovadja.

“No, I do not have anything, just a confirmation, without photo, without anything, I can not travel or to move freely with that paper”, said Mohammed.

“Those people without any confirmation or document, are still arriving, especially at night”, says Mima Damjanovic, who within the informal group of citizens called The zero tolerance to intolerance, brings help to asylum seekers from Bogovadja week after week.

“We are already expecting the new wave in the next few days and those people will be again in the woods. Those internal networks of communication somehow lead them to Bogovadja and before they come here they have no access to some other informations about accommodation, so they all come to the forest and here is the best way to find them”, said Mima Damjanovic.

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