Croatia’s main transit camp closes as Balkan route remains shut

Published: 20 April 2016 2:07 CET


By Nichola Jones, IFRC

Slavonksi Brod camp on Croatia's eastern border has closed its doors after providing six months of round-the-clock support for more than 650,000 people.

The Croatian Red Cross was the lead humanitarian agency inside the centre and provided more 300,000 food parcels, 330,000 clothes and blankets and 66,000 toiletries to people since October.  Specially trained staff and volunteers have also provided psychological support to 88,000 people suffering from stress and trauma and reconnected more than 1,500 separated families.

The camp was closed by authorities on 15 April and the remaining 80 people inside transferred to two open reception centres in Kutina and Zagreb where the Red Cross will continue to work.

Badi Hadad, who started out as one of the 850 Croatian Red Cross volunteers who have been playing a vital part in the migration operation.

Born in Homs, Syria, Badi moved to Croatia in 2004 when he won a scholarship to study engineering in Zagreb. Now, the 30-year-old works as a translator and coordinator of the Red Cross’s Restoring Family Links team at Slavonski Brod, which helps migrants reconnect with lost loved ones.

“Working at Slavonksi Brod has been an incredible experience – seeing the smile on someone’s face when you help them find their lost child or parent is the best feeling in the world,” said Badi.

“My only wish is to make people happier and to try to make their dangerous trip to a better life a little easier.”

The centre saw thousands of people pass through per day at the peak of the operation but following changes to the admission criteria along the Balkan route in recent months, numbers dropped significantly. The Balkan route has been officially closed since 20 March.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has been supporting the work of the Croatian Red Cross in Slavonski Brod and will continue to bolster its efforts as operations move to the new facilities.

Director of the IFRC in Europe, Simon Missiri, said: “The Croatian Red Cross has been incredible at Slavonski Brod – rising to the immense challenge of providing vital supplies, support and services to hundreds of thousands of people during their gruelling journey across Europe.

“The volunteers have been fantastic and their work does not stop now – they will continue to meet the needs of migrants who remain in Croatia.”

The IFRC has been running an emergency appeal for 2.6 million Swiss francs which will fund continuing migration operations in Croatia.