The current refugee situation in Europe has revealed a vast range of issues from border control to the humane treatment of refugees. More makeshift camps are erected to try and accommodate new arrivals waiting to be relocated. With Croatia having closed a part of its borders, the amount of refugees arriving to Slovenia in hopes of reaching mainland Europe has skyrocketed. It is quite clear from observing the media that Slovenia, a nation of a population of only two million was not prepared for such a burst of people. Ray Feliciana, had the rare opportunity to go and observe the living quarters in refugee camps at the Slovenian border. These people are waiting to be processed by a framework that is cracking under the pressure of the surging amount of new arrivals every day. Leipzig Media interviewed Mr Feliciana in order to gauge his observations on the visit and kindly provided the photographs he took there to accompany the article
The first location we went to, Brežice, had been critically full earlier in the week. The first impressions I had were that the place was quite heavily militarised – the army was significantly present, along with police in full riot gear. They even had two armoured troop carriers present. They were not allowing filming while people were in the camp itself,
At least half the camp was vacant, and everything was rather quiet. There wasn’t any clamouring or shouting and the refugees were not doing much of anything apart from waiting on any update to their situation or to be moved along to the next location. Despite the state of their surroundings, some were having a laugh with us and each other, though the overall grim atmosphere soon retuned. Most seemed grateful for any kind of communication and interaction, rather than being treated like cattle, which seems to be the prevailing method employed by the organizations
It has to be understood that the sheer number of people that Slovenia (itself a country of only two million!) has had to handle in such a short time of course means that such a criticism may be unwarranted and overzealous, but it is really true that just a little bit of humanity goes a long way. All of what many of these people have seen of Europe are troops of faceless riot police and steel fences with increasingly bitter weather, but on the other hand, cuddles and chit-chat will not help to quickly move them onwards.
We later returned to Brežice after being denied entry to Dobova, and they were moving everybody out. We then got the opportunity to take a close look at the camp and the conditions. A particular aspect that does not come across in the pictures is the smell. There were several fires lit on the ground in the attempt to ward off the cold, fuelled mainly by plastic, saturating the camp with the acrid fumes. It is often mostly children who sit closest to these toxic flames in order to stay warm. This, combined with the rubbish strewn everywhere combine to basically make the camp reek like a tip. There are no skips or bins provided for the people to dispose of their rubbish, and so it gathers all over the place – old tuna cans, packaging of all kinds, used nappies. There are a few tents, but they do not have floors or mats, so blankets are laid on the mud. The majority of people would have had to have slept outside the tents under awnings, with also just a blanket separating them from the mud. There were about four portable toilets; I was not quite brave enough to see the state of them for myself, but I was assured they were not pretty. The outskirts of the camp smelled strongly of urine.
We were permitted entry to Dobova as a fleet of buses was being loaded up. We eventually secured entry to film inside and distribute some small supplies to those waiting in line. I was only filming for a moment before promptly landing in trouble with the military who demanded identification, deletion of any photographs and film, and ordered me off the premises. From what I briefly saw of Dobova, it had far better conditions – it was a large hall, filled with cots, warm and with plenty of room. It definitely seemed far better than the camp at Brežice.