Following of Céline Barré’s chronicle on the road of the exiles in the Balkans.
From Athens to Belgrade – September 14
28 people including 11 children and four babies dead drowned at sea between Turkey and Greece last Sunday, September 13. A 14 year old teenager killed by a stray bullet after attempts by Greek coast guards to sink a ship. 3 missing children. How many more kids have to die in order we recognize that the borders kill? The maritime border makes a selection before letting people in Europe. The more adventurous will arrive, those who have the less damaged boat, those who will not face the Turkish and Greek coast guards and some of them who contribute to sink the boats.
Impossible? Lie? It is however what refugees are telling. A young Iraqi boxer testifies that the boat was carrying 43 people including him and his girlfriend. The Turkish coast guards are close to their boat and revolve around it. This created waves, waves filled the boat. The boat is sinking. The 43 people aboard panic, parents show their children to beg coast guard to stop their game but it does not work. Children in a boat sinking? Too common, we have already seen it too many times. The boat is sinking more and more so you have to bail out, throw the bags in water. They loose money, mobiles, blankets, pictures. Matter of survival. This boat will arrive safely, that is to say, fail on a beach in Lesbos. These testimonies, we can hear them every day, but until when will we be able to be helpless witnesses of this?
Crossings of land borders are not simple. We joined the Greek-Macedonian border in a taxi with the Syrian father and his son. They wanted to take a break in Athens for sleeping, washing and digest the experience of Lesbos, but no time, you have to hurry. Hungary is about to finish the construction of the wall, after that it will not be possible to go through that road. The taxi takes us to the countryside, near a disused railway station. On site, many hundreds of people must be divided into groups of 50 and sometimes wait several hours before they cross the border. This border is a 3 to 4 km moor they will have to cross as quickly as possible and under the control of the authorities of both countries. We were not allowed to follow Hussein and his father. For us, “not refugees,” we have to take the legal path, the one that starts with “Your passport please” and ends with “Thank you and welcome to Macedonia.” It’s good to be European.
Before leaving, the father of Hussein asked the English translation of “hyper-tension”, “diabetes”, in case he weakens on the road.
We try to find Hussein in Macedonia but they decided to continue the road, taking a night bus to Serbia. They still have not slept since Lesbos.
At the border between Macedonia and Serbia, refugees must register with the authorities. They deliver a document authorizing them to remain in the country for 72 hours or risk expulsion or imprisonment. Arrived in Macedonia, we have not been allowed to take the same bus as refugees. These are buses specially dedicated for them. The price is more expensive for them. Bus companies and taxis feast on. We cross then Macedonia to join the border with Serbia. On the road, we learn that Macedonia plans to build a wall on the Greek border to “block the influx of refugees.” They will go where these people? Again, people are parked in the countryside and when the police allows them to pass, they must act quickly. Take your kids under your arm and walk as fast as possible!
We finally arrive to take a “common” bus to Belgrade. We pay the same fare “special Refugees“. In this bus, kids and pregnant women. Ana is 24 years old, accompanied by her father, her brother and her son Walid, 2 years old. Her husband is stuck in Turkey. Ana is 7 months pregnant, she hopes to arrive soon in Germany, she feels tired. When the bus stops in Belgrade, it is 11 p.m. and Walid feels cold. More than 500 people have laid in their tents in the park beside the station. As soon as we leave, touts offer taxis to 300 euros to get people at the border, located 1 hour drive. “Good price … border will be closed tomorrow.” Some taxis bring people 100 km from the border telling people they are in Germany.
It is here in Belgrade that the rumor is confirmed, Hungary is currently completing the construction of its wall and announced that its border will be fully closed this Monday, September 14th late afternoon. Well, we are. We welcome a certain quota, we communicate on European generosity, then we close. And if they fail to pass before the end of the afternoon, we tell what to Ana and her two years kid? We apologize Ana … we warned, we only take a limited number of person … you’re pregnant? Your daughter will be a good Serbian or a good Macedonian.
Go Ana, forget your contractions, pays 300 euros taxi and tryi your chance, there is still a few hours for you to cross the Hungarian border!