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Cars of Hope collective: Situation on the Balkan route is getting worse

Press release March 09, 2019 ++ Situation on the Balkan route worsens more and more +++ Cars of Hope shifts focus to fugitives in Greece +++ Hunger strike in Athens ended +++

Originally published by Cars of Hope. Edited machine translation by Enough 14.

Note: Enough 14 is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

Last year Cars of Hope supported refugees on Lesbos, in Athens and in Bosnia. The activists from Wuppertal distributed food, hygiene items and shoes to refugees that are stuck on the so-called Balkan route. In Velika Kladusa, a small town in Bosnia, they have built tents for hundreds of refugees, who until then often had to sleep outside. A container was also renovated there to serve as emergency shelter for families with children. At the end of 2018 Bosnian authorities reacted with increasing repression against refugees and their supporters.

Cars of Hope activist René Schuijlenburg says: “The police suddenly stood several times in one of the apartments where supporters were housed. Later it became clear that these were the first intimidation attempts of the Bosnian authorities. Somehow activists from a group we often worked with in Velika Kladusa, No Name Kitchen, were picked up on the street and taken into custody. Shortly afterwards, the camp was evacuated and the showers offered by No Name Kitchen for refugees were closed by the Bosnian police. Some supporters of other groups were also expelled. Cars of Hope then withdrew from Bosnia because we could no longer guarantee the safety of our activists.”

As early as 2017, the Cars of Hope volunteers experienced increasing repression by authorities when one of the volunteers was threatened with arrest in Serbia when he distributed food to refugees in Belgrade. A week later a member of a local food distribution initiative was arrested.

In February, Cars of Hope activists were active in Athens. Schuijlenburg: “In January 2018 we were already in Athens once after our activities on Lesbos. There we supported homeless refugees and refugees living in squatted houses with food. Last month we were in Athens again. Besides distributing food to homeless refugees, we also bought a washing machine and fridge for refugees living in one of the squatted buildings. We also financed a boiler so that the people there could take a hot shower again.” On March 14, two Cars of Hope activists will be in Athens again to continue their work there.

Schuijlenburg says that cases of police violence on the Balkan route have increased significantly: “Police violence against refugees has increased enormously in some Balkan states. Last year we had to treat victims of acts of violence committed by the Croatian police on the Bosnian-Croatian border every day in coordination with Doctors Without Borders. There have been dozens of cases every day”.

On Lesbos and in Athens, Cars of Hope worked with Arash Hampay, a frefugee from Iran, among others. On Saturday, 09 March, Arash Hampay went on hunger strike. (Update March 10: In the evening of March 9 Arash ended his hunger strike on request of his brother Amir, Enough 14)

Schuijlenburg: “Thousands of people are still stuck on the Balkan route. One of these people is Amir Hampay, Arash’s brother. Although the two brothers have a similar biography and both were imprisoned in Iran for expressing criticism on the Mullah regime, Arash was granted asylum in Greece, but Amir was not. Amir has now been forced to stay on Lesvos against his will for over 900 days and is not allowed to leave the island. Amir is also directly threatened with deportation. This is an enormous burden for the whole family. After countless court cases, petitions, demonstrations and rallies, Arash Hampay went on hunger strike today. He demands that his brother finally be recognized as a refugee on Lesbos and be allowed to leave the island. I have learned to know Amir as a friendly and sensitive young man who is under enormous psychological pressure from captivity and his insecure residence status. This was confirmed by medical specialists. That is why we join Arash in calling for an end to the suffering at Europe’s borders, both in the Mediterranean and on land, and finally to open the borders. We have seen with our own eyes how the situation on the Balkan route systematically destroys thousands of people. They are being broken both physically and mentally”.

On 11 March, the Enough Info Café will host an information event on the work of Cars of Hope in Bosnia and Greece.

Monday 11 March – 19:30. Enough Info-Café, Wiesenstraße 48 – 42105 Wuppertal (Germany). Entrance free.

In conversation with Cars of Hope: The situation of refugees on the streets and in self-organised projects in Athens and Bosnia.

From March 14th Cars of Hope activists will support refugees in Athens again, but we need your support to continue our work with refugees.

We thank all the people who have supported us so far and ask you to continue to support our work with refugees here. Your support arrives here one to one and we can use every cent urgently.
You can donate via Paypal to carsofhopewtal@gmail.com or to our bank account:

Name of the bank: Volksbank im Bergischen Land

Account holder: Hopetal e.V.

Description: Cars of Hope

IBAN: DE51 3406 0094 0002 9450 87

BIC: VBRSDE33XXX

Cars of Hope, March 9, 2019

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