Supporting migrants en-route through the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Publié: 28 juillet 2015 13:44 CET

By Andreea Anca, IFRC

The Red Cross Society of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia requested financial support from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) earlier this year, to improve its support for vulnerable migrants moving through the country. The FYRM is part of the ‘Western Balkan route’ followed by migrants coming to Macedonia via Greece, from countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. They flee conflict and poverty at home and aim to reach member states in the European Union, seeking a better life for themselves and their families.

The procession of people arriving in the FYRM starts at the southern border with Greece, along the Gevgelija Veles railway line, and the M5 highway that links the southern region to the capital Skopije in the north, in the direction of Kumanovo towards the Serbian border.

In their journey, many migrants cover long distances on foot for many days living in open-air, exposed to natural elements and prone to accidents, abuse and threats from smugglers and criminal networks. Among them, women and children are a common sight.

On 22 June the IFRC released 200,098 Swiss Francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to support the National Society’s response for those in transit or transferred to the Gazi Baba reception centre in Skopje.

Medical assistance and en-route information

The Red Cross has established four mobile teams of drivers, medics and paramedics who provide first aid to hundreds of people seeking shelter in the train stations of Gevgelija, Kumanovo -Tabanovcs, Demir Kapija, Negotino, Veles on daily basis. Here many people can spend an entire day waiting for a train that would take them closer to the Serbian border.

At the Gazi Baba centre the society has set up a unit to provide primary health care support, distribute medicines and refer serious cases to other medical institutions, providing the means of transportation to the hospital in Gevgelija. Other Red Cross activities at the centre include the distribution of food, clothes, and non-food items including hygiene parcels for babies, women and men.

In cooperation with ICRC and UNHCR, the Red Cross in FYRM published approximately 4,000 information brochures in English, Arabic and French language. Around 100 posters in different languages are displayed at railway and bus stations as well as in other places on the migratory route, informing people about potential dangers that could be encountered on the road.

So far, 115 volunteers from six Red Cross branches have been involved in activities related to the operation.

Official statistics reveal that the number of migrants on this route has sharply increased, with an estimated 10,000 people entering the country in June this year.

The IFRC is deeply concerned about the wellbeing of migrants who lack access to basic health, social and legal services; it has called for a humanitarian approach to tackling the vulnerabilities of migrants with the intention of preventing and alleviating human suffering.