“We hereby inform you that as of 22 May 2019, Aid Brigade has ceased all activities until further notice. This means the community centre is closed and there is no of food distribution, NFI provision, legal referral, first aid, psychological support, safeguarding and protection of vulnerable groups to refugees in Sarajevo,” was written on the Aid Brigade Facebook page.
The community centre premises were visited by approximately 20 armed SFA (Service for Foreigners Affairs) and Bosnian police officers who requested the immediate closure of the premises. The international volunteers present on site were taken to the SFA office and banned from the country for reasons including ‘disturbance of peace’, ‘providing assistance to migrants and refugees’ and ‘volunteering under a tourist visa’. After waiting for a reply for 5 months, our request to become an official NGO was denied on the same day. It seems unsafe for local and international volunteers to be assisting refugees in or around Sarajevo, therefore we had no other choice but to stop all of our activities immediately until further notice.
It’s a sad time for the whole Aid Brigade team, both for the people from Sarajevo, the long term international volunteers, those who came for just a few weeks and our stakeholders. All of us have selflessly dedicated our lives to help refugees, aiming to make the world a little bit better. It’s an even sadder day for the hundreds of refugees we used to see daily, who are either denied access or made to wait for days before they can get registration at official camps and don’t always have access to food and shelter. We strongly believe every human being has a right to basic human rights and needs. We have always aimed to work together with government institutions to provide help where it’s most needed and are very sad this now comes to an end.
We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved with a 100% volunteer team. Since March 2018, we managed to feed on average 285 refugees two meals every day. That equals 120.000 meals! We distributed 600 winter jackets and sleeping bags in Usivak refugee camp in December 2018. In January this year, we opened a shelter for refugees and Bosnian homeless people to spend the day in a warm place and eat food. We managed to provide hundreds of hopeless, scared and tired humans with a safe and friendly space every single day.
We want to thank everyone who has made this incredible achievements possible. The people and organisations who supported Aid Brigade financially, the international volunteers who left their homes to come and help, the absolutely amazing Bosnian people who saw people suffer in their own city and started to volunteer, the other NGOs and government bodies that worked together with us and all the refugees who did not only receive help but also helped us out wherever they could.
Although we are no longer allowed to help refugees in Sarajevo, we will continue to do what we believe is right elsewhere – providing humanitarian assistance to people in desperate need. We will not stop standing in solidarity with all those who have lost their homes, families and future. We say goodbye to Sarajevo, the city that has become our home.