The partners and former pilot projects of Triple A, a project led by ECAS focusing on reforms to free legal aid in the Western Balkans and Turkey, have been busy.
With the influx of migrants and refugees passing through the region, we have heard from several local organizations (currently or formerly involved in the project) about their work in the region to help and provide advice to immigrants and refugees on their way to seek asylum further north.
In Croatia, Civil Rights Project (CRP) Sisak went to provide assistance to refugees passing through the country on September 19th. They mentioned that at the time, thousands of refugees and migrants were passing through the border on a daily basis, a trend which continues to this day. Program Coordinator Aleksandar Kojic of CRP Sisak explains further: “the current Croatian policy in relation to the European humanitarian crisis is to try to help refugees/migrants in transporting them through Croatia and toward their desired destination. Refugees are being registered and given the medical care immediately upon entering the country, as well as provided with food, water, information and shelter.”
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From September 16-22nd, the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA), a Triple A partner, was active in the field and assisted the police in issuing 11 187 intentions to seek asylum, helped to distribute food and water, and provided general information about refugees’ rights and obligations in registering as asylum seekers.
There is also a high volume of people passing through Serbia, according to The Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights (YUCOM), another partner in the Triple A project. Attorney at Law Katarina Golubovic explains: “Refugees are very scared and confused, and they have no information on where and how to go. All they know is what they read on the internet. They are frightened about the closure of state borders, but persistent in their intention to reach western EU countries (Germany, Sweden and Finland are the most common countries). Serbian NGOs have opened two info centres in Belgrade where they can get information on their rights in Arabic and English, but these Info centres are primarily used for providing humanitarian aid due to their request…. The fact is that refugees just want to cross through Serbia and Balkan countries, and you should be prepared to establish new Info centers for them.”
The numbers in these examples are a mere sliver of the total population trying to pass through these countries and others on their way to seeking asylum in the northern EU countries. While the agreement on the redistribution of asylum seekers is highly welcome, yet more work remains to be done to ensure that the EU values of basic human rights and freedoms are not exclusively reserved for EU citizens. Organizations such as MYLA, CRP Sisak, and YUCOM, who are working on the ground, need ongoing support and funding to continue to ensure that these values are borne out in practice throughout the EU and Europe, while the EU should look to civil society organizations to develop a constructive and practical solution.
Triple A is a project led by ECAS which supports improving Access to Information, Advice, and Active help (free legal aid) services throughout the Western Balkans and Turkey. We aim to increase awareness of these services to enable citizens to be aware of and make use of their rights, while also enhancing current legislation and funding to the organizations providing these services.