Young girl waits in line to board a bus with her family at a refugee camp in Brezice, Slovenia
Young girl waits in line to board a bus with her family at a refugee camp in Brezice, Slovenia

At Slovenia’s Dobova and Brezice Refugee Camps – 38 Images

I spent a large part of today near the Slovenian-Croatian border in the towns of Dobova and Brezice where a logjam of migrants making their way to northern Europe is becoming particularly acute. As usual, children, like the girl above, are making the most of the surreal situation they find themselves in only because they happened to be born in Syria or Afghanistan.

I’ll write more about my experiences today over the next few days but the immediate problem here in Slovenia is essentially this: Since Hungary sealed its border last weekend, Croatia has been moving way more migrants across the border than Slovenia has the capacity to process, house and transport in an orderly way. (That Slovenia insists on dealing with a something so extraordinary in an orderly fashion is a whole ‘nother matter.) Migrants aren’t being ferried only to the designated agreed upon areas; Croatian authorities are delivering people, unannounced, to both minor border crossings as well as the proverbial “middle of nowhere”, forcing people to cross wide muddy fields, ford rivers and creeks and slush through marshes. Which means many are arriving in Slovenia wet, cold and sick, only to be forced, in many cases, to spend the night in the open because there simply aren’t enough centers in which to house them.

Police escort migrants from a refugee center in Brezice, Slovenia
Police escort migrants from a refugee center in Brezice, Slovenia

Just yesterday, about 9,000 migrants entered Slovenia. Officials are predicting that the figure will peak and trend for a while at about 10,000, the numbers that are still arriving in Greece daily with the hopes of reaching Germany and Scandinavia before the heart of winter hits.

The migrants, most of whom have already been traveling between 40 and 50 days from as far as Syria, Afghanistan and Iran, just want to keep moving. Predictably, tempers begin to flare when they can’t. Today a fire broke out at the refugee camp in Brezice. Spreading rapidly, it destroyed 27 of the facility’s 46 tents. Reports are sketchy — some are claiming the fire was set deliberately as a protest while others say it spread accidentally from one of the many small campfires that migrants used to take the edge off the night and early morning chill. Police haven’t issued their official report. A couple images of the damage are below; check the links for 12 images I filed for Corbis / Demotix.

The remains of two tents that were destroyed when a fire broke out at a refugee camp in Brezice, Slovenia
The remains of two tents that were destroyed when a fire broke out at a refugee camp in Brezice, Slovenia
Tent partially damaged by water and fire at a refugee camp in Brezice, Slovenia
Tent partially damaged by water and fire at a refugee camp in Brezice, Slovenia
Items lost in a fire at a refugee camp in Brezice, Slovenia
Items lost in a fire at a refugee camp in Brezice, Slovenia

My first stop was in Dobova, the settlement that is officially the rail entry point into the EU’s border-free Schengen zone on the line to the Croatian capital Zagreb. At the moment, regularly scheduled passenger trains aren’t crossing here. Just a few minutes walk from the station is a vacant former textile factory that was turned into a makeshift refugee center a few days ago. Below, a man ponders the mid-morning fog and a boy plays with fire. And below that, the Slovenian army, which was granted temporary policing powers by parliament on Tuesday night, setting up shop. That idea makes me nervous. Pengovsky, my go-to for many things political here, explains why. A few more images from the Dobova camp filed for Corbis / Demotix.

A Syrian migrant at refugee camp in Dobova, Slovenia
A Syrian migrant at refugee camp in Dobova, Slovenia
A boy playing with fire at a refugee camp in Dobova, Slovenia
A boy playing with fire at a refugee camp in Dobova, Slovenia
Slovenian army personnel arriving in the border town of Dobova
Slovenian army personnel arriving in the border town of Dobova

A few hours after the fire was put out, 1300 people were eventually moved out of the Brezice camp. The process was very orderly, the migrants and police, both already pushed to their limits, patient and calm. Quite a few were smiling, too. A few more snaps from the Brezice camp below, and 21 in all filed for Corbis / Demotix. More tomorrow or Friday.

One of the best smiles of the day Will she remember Slovenia five years from now A ride to the bus, Brezice refugee camp

An Afghan girl shares one of many peace signs on the day - Brezice, Slovenia refugee camp
An Afghan girl shares one of many peace signs on the day – Brezice, Slovenia refugee camp

Thank you, Slovenia - Brezice refugee camp

 

 

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  1. Thanks for these images, I would be doing the same if I were in their shoes, if I had a family to take care of and their homeland was a dangerous place to live. Many impoverished and desperate Irish left Ireland in the mid 1800’s because there was no other way for them to survive. So many died on the ‘coffin ships’ crossing the sea to Canada and America but it didn’t stop others from making the same journey. What they left behind was far worse than anything they might be facing into. History repeats itself doesn’t it?

    1. Leaving home is the hardest decision for any emigrant to make, no matter the circumstances. There’s a hope that where you’re heading will bring something better. I saw a lot of hope in people’s tired eyes yesterday.

  2. Not only do you capture the very unfortunate and tragic circumstances these people find themselves in, but you grab a hold of the beauty of the people, still shining through, especially the children. Thank you.

    1. Thank you and thanks for stopping by. I’m a firm believer that we can always learn a lot from children, especially in the most difficult of situations.

  3. Really appreciate your perspective, the issue is no longer making the news over here. FYI I linked to the go-to Pengovsky and judging by his offensive banner he hasn’t yet connected all the political dots…which doesn’t take anything away from your efforts, of course…just sayin’, that banner is mighty wrong.

    1. The off-putting banner notwithstanding, he’s a very good reporter, very knowledgeable in local political and economic matters, and writes very well in English, too.

      And just to clarify and give his banner a little context, “I Feel Slovenia” is the national tourist board’s slogan. But no, their logo is nothing like his.

  4. Amazing how the mainstream media give us no indication of what is actually happening on the ground with these migrants–your photos and text brought me right into their situation, one which I had not ever encountered in images since this whole problem began. Can’t imagine how you got to take these photos; was thinking that the powers that be wouldn’t want any publicity. Or maybe they would, hoping that other countries would take on some of the load.

  5. 2Chicks2Go summed it pretty well. Thank you for being there to document this moment in time. Living in the United States, and even dealing at times what Americans would consider ‘poverty,’ I can’t begin to wrap my mind around how it would be in such circumstances. I would like to think I could find a smile. The pics are amazing.

  6. Wait…
    Chinese refugee? Items lost? Playing with fire? So wrong and so far from reality. Everybody can take things out of context. It’s much harder to show the real picture. Those photos may have an artistic merit, but that’s about it. They have nothing to do with actual happening. I do believe that sentimentality and huge sad eyes are selling well, but photos of reality should be searched elsewhere. They’re taken by regular people living close to the happening and they’re taken without thinking about a prefect motive and/or angle.

    1. HI – Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts. I’m not sure what you mean though, when you say the images are “so far from reality” and taken out of context. The only context is the title of the post —spending some time at these two camps. I never claimed that I was portraying some sort of greater reality, nor was I searching for or even thinking about some perfect motive. I’m not self-righteous enough to claim to have the perfect motive, whatever that may be — or the perfect anything for that matter. 🙂

      As for the your first line:
      “Chinese refugee” – I’m assuming you’re referring to the man with Asiatic features carrying a little girl? They’re Afghani as mentioned in the caption.
      “Items lost” — that’s what they are, items damaged and left behind by a fire that may have been set intentionally.
      “Playing with fire” — a playful caption, I admit, but that’s exactly what that boy was doing. He and his sister were running around that campfire pretending to sit on it. Playing.

      I absolutely agree that people near the scene and from the area have a much clearer picture of what’s happening around them. That’s why I talk to as many as I can for stories. If you’re from the area or have visited, I’d love to hear/read your thoughts, or even meet you. I’m planning to visit again next Wednesday.

  7. Where are the pictures of migrants fighting, stealing, damaging the locals’ property? Where are the pictures of local people who cannot go to work and of local children who cannot safely go to school anymore because migrants took over. Where are the pictures of migrants, who throw away donated food and clothing? Where are the pictures of rivers of garbage migrants leave behind? Why do you only show faces of children who comprise only 13% of migrants? Where are the pictures of muscular young men who make up 70% of migrant population? Where are their raised ISIS fingers and their throat cutting gestures? Don’t play with people’s emotions; show the other side of the migrant reality too.

    1. The short answer is: I don’t have pictures of most of that because on that particular day I didn’t see the vast majority of that. The images I published here and filed elsewhere are representative of what I witnessed that day. Nothing more, nothing less.

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