Pietro Bartolo, the doctor of Lampedusa shares his reactions to his visit in Lipa.
The situation in the refugee camp in Lipa, at the border between Bosnia and Croatia, is "beyond belief", according to the MEP Pietro Bartolo, who travelled with a small group of Socialists and Democrats members of the European Parliament to visit the camp.
This is what the former doctor of Lampedusa, the island off Sicily where many of the boats carrying refugees from Northern Africa to Europe arrive, said after visiting Lipa.
“What happened during the mission in Bosnia and Croatia, which I did with my colleagues Brando Benifei, Alessandra Moretti and Pierfrancesco Majorino, is something serious and unacceptable" commented Bartolo.
"We had decided to go on a mission to those countries to check what happens in the refugee camps" he added. "It is our right as MEPs just as it is our right and duty to inform citizens ", said Pietro Bartolo during his interview with radio 'Immagina' of the Democratic Party.
“We had informed the Croatian authorities of our visit, everything had been planned” Bartolo said. "We wanted to see what happens at the border, without crossing it, but passing through a piece of the Bojna forest where terrible things are said to happen. We were unable to do this because the border police blocked our road 200 meters before the border, forming a cordon that prevented us from continuing. The police probably have something to hide if that was their reaction ”.
Then after several phone calls to embassies and authorities, the four MEPs were allowed to enter the camp.
“During the visit to the refugee camp of Lipa we saw something inhuman”, continues Bartolo. "In the center of a snow-covered clearing, bordered by a metal fence, with temperatures well below freezing, there was a long line of men, many minors, who without shoes, with inappropriate clothes and filthy blankets on their shoulders were waiting for a loaf of bread. I do not hide that I cried " he said.
"I believe it is not acceptable - added Bartolo - that Europe thinks of solving this kind of problem with money. Giving money is not enough. We will ask the European Commission to intervene to resolve the situation of migrants as soon as possible"
"I am very worried about this situation - Bartolo concluded - which shows that the Europe we dreamed of is far, too far away. And above all that on the refugee and migrant issue we are far from a solution. Clearly, no country likes to wash dirty clothes in public but at this point Europe ceases to exist. I fear that this episode could be a wake-up call and I really hope that this sovereign drift can be stemmed".
The leader of the S&D group in the European Parliament , Brando Benifei, one of the youngest MEPs in the present EU Parliament, had previously reacted to the attempt by border guards from Croatia to block the mission of the four MEPs.
Brando Benifei reacted by ringing all relevant authorities and the embassies in Croatia since the small group from the European Parliament had been prevented from entering the camp by Croatian border guards. Eventually they were allowed to enter the camp and this is where Pietro Bartolo could not refrain from crying when he saw these poor people queuing under the snow, badly dressed and badly shod, to collect a piece of bread.
The situation of the refugees at the borders of Europe is becoming serious, especially because there is very little hope of a quick solution.
"Europe of solidarity" has become an ivory tower trying to keep all migrants out.
For Pietro Bartolo, who has tried to help migrants for a considerable part of his life (from 1992 to 2019), this situation must have seemed unbearable. And he wanted to express his feelings in a clear way.
We, citizens of Europe, really hope that his words and the words of the MEPs who participated in this very important fact finding mission, can become the basis for a complete change of attitude towards migrants from the EU citizens.