Western Balkans: Vulnerable migrants exposed to more risks as winter approaches, warns IFRC

Published: 2 October 2015

Belgrade/Geneva, 1 October 2015 – Vulnerable migrants in the Western Balkans and across Europe are facing increasingly difficult conditions with the arrival of heavy rains and cold weather. Average temperatures in the region in winter months generally drop below freezing and range from -3 to -6 degrees Celsius. The change in conditions brings with it severe health and safety risks to people who have already travelled thousands of miles, often with limited access to food, basic necessities, shelter or health care.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is concerned with the increasing vulnerability that the winter months will bring and is actively supporting National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in their preparations. Temperatures have already begun dropping in the region. 

In the last seven days, 25,000 people have arrived in Serbia. Many vulnerable migrants – including families with small children – are travelling in areas which are likely to experience plunging temperatures and heavy rain. Sleeping outside in parks, public places and unoccupied industrial buildings will leave many people unprotected against the elements.

Vesna Milenovic, Secretary General of the Red Cross of Serbia said cold weather had already arrived. “In the last few days, heavy rains have affected Serbia. Our main concern is what will happen in the next few weeks and months. Autumn and winter weather can be severe in the region,” she said. “The humanitarian situation could become worse. The Red Cross of Serbia calls on the international community, donors and partners to quickly scale-up efforts and strengthen support to vulnerable people on the move.”

“We need more support to be prepared for the winter,” Milenovic said. “We are distributing raincoats and stocking winter relief supplies such as thermal foil blankets, thermoses, warm winter clothing and footwear. Getting support on time to vulnerable people is vital.”

The IFRC has launched emergency appeals totalling 14.6 million Swiss francs (13.3 million euros) to support Red Cross operations assisting 675,000 vulnerable migrants in Serbia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Hungary, Italy and Greece. The emergency appeals will be updated as staff and volunteers prepare to support people over the winter months.

Simon Missiri, IFRC acting Director, Europe Region, said greater humanitarian relief is urgently needed for the coming winter months and that preventing further loss of life must be the top priority. “The arrival of winter will push people’s coping skills to their limits. After an often very long journey over sea and land, in search of safety, people cannot be expected to bear the suffering that freezing temperatures will bring,” he said.

To know more, please visit: www.ifrc.org/protecthumanity


For further information, please contact:

In Belgrade:

Ljubomir Miladinovic, Head of International Relations Department, Red Cross of Serbia

Email: ljubomir@redcross.org.rs ¦ Mobile: +381 62 880 1502


In Budapest:

Linda Low, communications coordinator, IFRC Europe

Email: linda.low@ifrc.org ¦ Mobile: +36 70 9537 704


In Geneva:

Benoit Carpentier, team leader public communications, IFRC

Email: benoit.carpentier@ifrc.org ¦ Twitter: @BenoistC ¦ Mobile: +41 79 213 2413

Reeni Aminchua, public communications, IFRC

Email: reeni.aminchua@ifrc.org ¦ Twitter: @reeniac ¦ Mobile: +41 79 708 6273