Movraž is a picturesque and peaceful village on the edge of Slovenian territory, near the city of Koper. But for the past month, it has not been peaceful at all, with groups of illegal migrants passing through every day and being rounded up by the police at the border with Croatia and then taken to Ljubljana’s asylum centre by busses.
“Before, when there were just a few of them here and there, or a small group moving quietly through the village to get to the path that leads to the Italian border, we understood, we endured, even though we were full of fear. But now things have become unbearable here. Every morning and evening, the police go out in their vehicles to look for them a few kilometres from the village, at the Rakitovec border crossing, and then they drop them off in the centre of the village, where they then wait for the buses which drive them off. This has been going on for a good month now, and it is really becoming unbearable,” said one very upset resident of the village, Mrs D. H., who has already called other media outlets to ask them to report on this, too – both POP TV and TV Koper, but neither responded to her request.
Yesterday, we, the journalists of the weekly newspaper and web portal Demokracija (Democracy), drove to Movraž. A few kilometres before Movraž, we noticed a large bus with a Novo mesto licence plate, driving towards the village at high speed. That’s it, we thought, we have arrived just in time to follow what will happen in person. At the last turn before the Moravž sign, we got a view of the village that we had never seen before in this backwater but idyllic Istrian place: a large group of dark-skinned people sitting on the ground, on the asphalt, and among them younger men, women and mothers with children, including babies. And around them stood a few policemen, soldiers and their vehicles.
Some of these people looked frightened, others looked tired, some seemed gloomy, and others quite relaxed and calm. Some of them hid when they saw our camera, and the others turned away or just observed us. But all of them could hardly wait to be taken away. It was hot. They had little luggage with them, mostly backpacks. They are not wearing dirty or torn clothing; they are dressed appropriately. The cops put the mothers with babies and small children on the bus first, and then the others. There were about 70 to 80 of them. Their features show that they are of African origin, and about a third of them are Asian. The latter did not seem very calm.
The police officers and soldiers refused to comment on what was happening. They only said that there are too few of them for such a large operation. And that they were tired, as this was not the first time that they were doing something like this. We asked the Koper Police Administration for more details. We are still waiting for their response.
All 70 or 80 migrants – the police say there were even more of them – were not put on one bus, a group of men had to wait for another. Meanwhile, we went to talk to the villagers. The village was empty, people were at work, and the elderly were in their fenced backyards. “What has been happening lately is a disaster. Right here, behind our house, the road leads to the border, you see them every day. I meet them when I walk my dog, when I go to mass in the church up the road. I am very scared, even if it is daytime. We lock and close the door all the time, we do not let our granddaughter out of the house, and we are in the yard with her all the time. What is our country turning into! And who is going to feed all these people?!” said Mrs S.S., who did not want to be mentioned by her full name.
So, what is going on? By removing the wire fence on our southern border, our country has given the signal that anyone is free to enter. A kind of informal invitation that people can come here, apply for asylum, and so on. And they all apply for asylum, because they are supposedly being instructed to do so by those who are smuggling them in and making a fat living out of it. Perhaps that is why the migrants were so calm in Movraž that day, because they knew what was waiting for them. Procedures are underway in the asylum houses. And they are also quietly organising to get them from Ljubljana to the Italian border… For now, Italy is still welcoming them, but with the arrival of a right-wing government, things will probably become a bit more difficult. And Austria has already closed its borders.
Well, the migrants could also apply for asylum in the first safe country they enter. Perhaps in Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina or Croatia, but as the data show, they only do so in Slovenia, probably because they are allowed to do so here. When
the procedure starts, they are entered into the European Union’s system that has been set up for this purpose. And if the Dublin Regulation were to be strictly implemented, anyone who is registered in this system could be immediately returned by any European country to the country in which they originally registered, that is to say, to Slovenia. Whether this will become a reality remains to be seen. Incidentally, according to calculations made a year ago, each migrant costs our country approximately 1,900 euros per month. This is certainly more than what Mrs D.H. gets, who had worked hard for 40+ years to earn a net pension of 460 euros a month. Plus 5 euros a year, of course.
Lea Kalc Furlanič, Demokracija