Consistent support in an uncertain world – on the road in Europe

Publicado: 12 agosto 2015 16:18 CET

By Stephen Ryan (@stiofanoriain), IFRC

Tens of thousands of people are migrating across Europe, fleeing conflict, insecurity or persecution in their home countries, seeking refuge and peace in Europe. Each day, over 1,000 people travel through the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, some days the number may be as high as 1,600. Three-quarters of recent arrivals are from Syria.

At both the entry and exit points of the country, Red Cross teams, which include an interpreter and doctor, provide help to those who need it most.

Maher, a young man from Syria in his 20s, explains how he came to Macedonia. He travelled to Europe by boat from Turkey. The group he was with were hidden for three days before crossing the sea. The smugglers would not let them leave – even for food or water – to prevent the place from being discovered. "We had to manage by ourselves until the smugglers said it was time to leave," he says. "They are gangsters, criminals, but we have no choice. Smuggling is the only way to get into Europe, everyone knows that."

From the Greek island of Lesbos, the group travelled to Athens and then on to Macedonia.

This is not an easy journey to make, but the Red Cross of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and other organizations try to provide support with dignity. At both the entry and exit points of the country, the society provides assistance including food parcels, clothing, and other non food items such as hygiene kits, nappies and blankets.

Red Cross teams also provide basic first aid. The patients are most often children, and usually injuries are minor. The few more serious cases are transported to local government hospitals, where they can receive treatment. 

Maher chose to leave his sister and mother behind in Syria, because the journey would be very difficult for them, but hopes that his application for asylum will be granted, so they can join him legally. "It is hard for me, it’s hard for them, but there is no choice," he says.

Although Maher is travelling without his family, everyone travels in groups for safety. "No one travels alone. Even if they are without family, they try to find any group and join with them to be more safe," he says.

Throughout the journey, many migrants see the Red Cross as a trusted, consistent ally, when so much else is uncertain. Maher offers some advice for any others who make the journey; "Be careful when dealing with people who offer to help move from place-to-place, because some of them are smugglers, and some of them are criminals, even killers. Do not travel alone; stay in a group. It is safer."

The activities of The Red Cross of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in response to migrants transiting the country are supported by an allocation of 200,098 Swiss francs from the IFRC’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund, as well as by contributions from UNHCR and locally raised funds.