On 4-6 March, 19 people from 10 European countries met to discuss the situation of draft resisters and deserters seeking asylum. This has become a major issue in Europe with the large numbers of refugees from the war in former-Yugoslavia, especially as several governments insist that Croatia and Serbia are not part of the war zone. What most European countries tend to have in common is that they are not following the guidelines from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
The meeting heard from Bojan Aleksov (Belgrade) and Zoran Ostric and Roberto Spiz (Zagreb) about the treatment of objectors in their countries, including about the forced mobilisation of refugees. Then campaigners compared notes about the treatment of refugees in their countries and about campaigns for asylum. Henrik Broberg from SOS Racism in Tromsø, Norway, reported on the achievements of the church asylum movement which, at the end of 1993, had 657 refugees sheltering in 140 churches.
Rudi Friedrich and Franz Nadler are doing excellent work compiling information about war resisters from many countries who are seeking asylum: there are currently many refugees arriving from Algeria and Morocco, and the numbers from Turkey are also expected to increase. For asylum-seekers from former-Yugoslavia, they are compiling a standardised country-by-country guide to the situation around Europe. There remain significant gaps, particularly from some countries not represented at the meeting — the Czech republic, France, Italy, and Sweden.
Most of the groups represented are promoting the appeal launched by European Civic Forum (see below), although nearly all have adapted it: the Danish text is much shorter for street use; and the German, Swiss and Austrian groups have each amended the German original.
Several groups were interested in a common international action, perhaps in the week 6-12 June if this would coincide with the international presentation of the European Civic Forum appeal.
International Deserters Network, Rudi Friedrich, Brüder Grimm Str 63, D-63069 Offenbach, Germany. Tel/fax: +49 69 84 50 16