Anti-immigrant protests in Serbia

Anti-immigrant protests in Serbia


By Miloš Mitrović – Belgrade

Local people from Vračević village, 65 kilometers south from Belgrade, have blocked the road to a nearby Bogovađa village in protest against undocumented immigrants which have been placed in its asylum center. The blockade started on Thursday evening, a day after protest against immigrants erupted with barrack for accommodation set on fire in Obrenovac, municipality of Belgrade City.

According to state television’s (RTS) account, the protest in Vračević prevented food delivery to immigrants in Bogovađa. The access to the road had been allowed only for ambulances. “The locals say they have decided to block the road because 180 asylum-seekers have been accommodated in their village, in contrary to government’s decision”, RTS reported.

Vladimir Božović, state secretary of the Interior Ministry has confirmed that asylum-seekers in Bogovađa live “outside, in the woods” due to alleged lack of accommodation. However, he said the immigrants would be soon transported into buildings “in the area of Sjenica and Tutin”, in the South-West of Serbia.

Jovan Ivanović, local official in Vračević, has said that the residents demanded “immigrants to be moved out from the private houses immediately”; the locals insisted that asylum center in Bogovađa should accept as many immigrants as possible,  alluding to number of beds. Sjenica municipality decided to accommodate approximately 100 asylum-seekers in the private Hotel Berlin, which is located in the center of this town. Šemsudin Kučević, head of Tutin municipality, told Tanjug news agency that the immigrants would be accommodated in two houses in the town. He added that everything would be done to provide normal living conditions for the immigrants.

A man suspected for setting on fire barrack in Obrenovac has been arrested on Thursday. M. G. (34) has been detained up to 48 hours, police stated. Asylum-seekers who were supposed to accommodate in the barrack have been transported to Hotel “Obrenovac”. Municipality head Miroslav Čučković, who has supported protest, said he was “satisfied” with the developments. According to Čučković, “humanitarian catastrophe” has been avoided. “The arguments we have pointed out have been accepted; the barrack had not appropriate living conditions and the area should be protected as defended one”, Čučković said alluding to nearby thermal power plant.

During the protest in Obrenovac, residents complained that terrorists might be among the immigrants. RTS suggested that asylum-seekers were from “Afghanistan, Pakistan and other states”. Božović appealed to residents to show more humanity, recalling 1990s when many Serbs during the Yugoslavia wars became refugees.

“They (ruling politicians) have promised us Europe, but they brought us Africa and Asia. Is it normal to place 200 foreigners that near to the power plant? It would be enough if just one among them is a terrorist for exploding the whole area by the small diversion”, Milan Aničić, official of “Ušće” local community said.

The residents also complained women and children were “afraid of immigrants”. Some of the protesters were making racist jokes with regard to the skin color of some asylum-seekers, which has been reported by media.

On Wednesday prime minister Ivica Dačić insisted that “Serbia is not a racist state and that the issue of accommodation for the asylum-seekers should be resolved urgently”. “Serbia belongs to the modern world. Asylum-seekers have to be placed somewhere and their status has to be regulated”, Dačić said.

Nevertheless, the residents of Vračević were hard-shelled insisting they would not end the blockade until the accepting of their demands. Furthermore, they have scheduled fresh protest for Sunday announcing the support of other villages. They have also requested the closure of the asylum center in Bogovađa. They said that the building should be turned into children resort as it used to be in the past.

Ivan Gerginov, the representative of the Commissariat for refugees, recalled that the protests with regard to immigrants had been organized in eight municipalities in previous years. “The protests were always headed by the local self-governance and the argumentation and scenario were always the same”.