Providing support on the road less travelled in Serbia

Published: 11 November 2015 10:13 CET

By Tommaso Della Longa, IFRC

Farnaz, 21, is an avid football fan. “I'm a Roma football fan,” he said. “The last game in the Champions’ League with Barcelona was great! Florenzi scored a great goal.”

Since leaving Afghanistan, the football matches have been one way of keeping track of time. “I was thinking I started this trip 10 days ago, but when I heard another match was on I realized I had been on the road for at least 20, maybe 25 days,” he said.

Farnaz has now arrived in Dimitrovgrad, in Serbia, on a route which is less popular than others through the country. While the vast majority of migrants arrive in Greece by boat, Farnaz crossed into Serbia from Bulgaria, after several days on foot from Turkey. His family urged him to take this route in order to avoid crossing the sea between Turkey and Greece, believing this would be a safer option.

Having finally arrived in Serbia, Fanraz is not so sure. “I walked for 15 days; I have been injured and my money was stolen,” he said. He hopes to reach Germany. “I want to study medicine. My father was a doctor, and my dream is to follow in his footsteps.”

Planning ahead challenge

In Dimitrovgrad, as people are registered by the authorities, the Red Cross of Serbia distributes relief items such as food and water. “We are distributing up to 200 food parcels every day,” said Vesna Todorov, Secretary of the local Red Cross branch. The number of people arriving in need of help is unpredictable and constantly changing, which poses a challenge for the Red Cross in terms of planning and logistics. “In the last two days more than 600 came through here, but in the previous days almost no one crossed the border,” she said.

Another young man, Behrooz, also came from Afghanistan through Bulgaria. He is relieved to have finally reached Serbia. “The trip was a nightmare,” he said. “But now the most difficult part of our trip is over.” His plan is to head to the United Kingdom, where he hopes to be reunited with his brother. “Some people might wonder why we risk our lives to come here, but here at least we have a chance to be safe, in our home county we don’t,” he said.