Legis at Vienna Conference: "Balkan Refugee Trail - a Pathway for European Solidarity" - part 2

Legis and the partner-organization to the Intercultural center - Vienna, along with selected CSOs from the so-called Western Balkan route including Greece and Hungary finalized a one year of cooperation with final conference called “Balkan Refugee Trail –A pathway to European solidarity” in Vienna, Austria. From 02-03 of October, Legis representatives took part in several activities on the two-day conference among which:

1. Comments to Hannes Swoboda, former MP in the European Parliament delivered by Jasmin Redzepi on presented possible solutions to current divided positions of EU member states.

Mr. Swoboda pointed on the necessity of unity and solidarity among EU member-states in sharing the responsibility towards people in need of protection and/or refuge from war. He reminded on the obligation the Union has towards respect of human rights to all people.  Further he added, a Common European Asylum System would be a one of the solution and safe borders meaning, legal routes and externalization of administrative procedures in entry-point countries, followed by financial support. For e.g. Greece and Italy would be the prime interest of the Union.

Following Mr. Swoboda expose, the President of Legis, Jasmin Redzepi was asked to comment the presented suggestions for future management of migration towards EU countries. Mr. Redzepi opened with presentation of the situation on the Balkan route, pointing that with the official closing of the borders migration has not stopped. Although in significantly smaller numbers, people are transiting on the Balkan route by irregular means i.e. using smuggling channels or, by foot and once again risk their lives to reach Western Europe.  The system of close borders didn’t work. Also, the re-admission agreements among countries on the Balkan route are annulled, as we are witnessing illegal push-backs from all border authorities. If solutions are not found soon, we would all be responsible for the people stranded in camps in Macedonia, Greece, Serbia, Turkey etc. for almost 2 years, living in facilities build for temporary use, cutout of the world and society as prisoners of grave crimes.

2. Panel discussions

On the second day of the conference, Legis regional border coordinator Driton Maliqi spoke at the panel discussion on: Civil Society – Impact and scope of action.

Which possibilities do civil society organizations and initiatives have to get involved in political processes? At community level, there are often cooperation’s between the administration and NGOs – does this affect political decision making as well? Which factors does it depend on whether or not advocacy is successful at national and European level and other questions. Mr. Maliqi spoke on the role of civil society in Macedonia in crisis management, humanitarian and medical aid, while recognized the internal political crisis as factor for inability to make serious changes of the asylum legislation, which remains an issue today. Besides Legis, representatives of civil and governmental institutions in Austria attended the session.

Ursula Struppe, Department for Diversity and Integration, Austria

Gerhild Salzer, Diakonie Flüchtlingsdienst, Austria

Stefano Volpicelli, Italian Consortio of Solidarity (ICS) Ufficio Rifugati, Italy

Miha Nabergoj, Legal information center for non-governmental organisations

(PIC), Slovenia

Driton Maliqi. Legis, Macedonia

Karl Kopp, Pro Asyl, Germany

Moderation: Panagiotis Birbas, GCR Social Unit, Greece

The second panel was moderated by Legis representative Jasmina Golubovska on the topic: Common European Asylum System (CEAS) Revised – Challenges and Imperatives, while Suad Missini contributed with his expertise and experience in humanitarian and refugee crisis management.

Since 1999, the European Union has pursued the goal of a unified asylum policy. In the wake of 9/11 and Islamic terror, the European security paradigm has gained hegemony. The crisis of the European institutions has led to the proliferation of national self-interests. Has the CEAS finally failed? Is there a civil-society alternative to closing refugee routes and externalizing the responsibility for those who are in need of protection? As the other speakers, Mr. Missini provided as much information on the presented questions, focusing on the outlook of the possible CEAS to be reached among EU member-states only by lowering HR standards to reach agreement among the reluctant group of nation known as the Vishegrad group including Austria.

Christoph Pinter, UNHCR, Austria

Anny Knapp, asylkoordination österreich, Austria

Victor Nagy, Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Hungary

Vanja Bakalović, CPS, Zagreb, Croatia

Katharina Bervar Sternad, Legal information center for non-governmental

organisations (PIC), Slovenia

Suad Missini, Macedonia

Moderation: Jasmina Golubovska, Legis, Macedonia

3. Photo exhibition of the awarded photographer Robert Atanasovski, who spoke on the his personal experience in this past 3 years on field, following the people on the move, hopefully, as Robert would say, on to a better life. Some of the earliest memories of Robert were a group of people transiting Macedonia in early 2015 he met somewhere in central part of the territory near the railroads. He saw the group walking in the dark and there on the moonlight, a person appeared with Superman logo T-shirt symbolizing both strength and courage to subdue all obstacles to safe ones life.