Seeking safety from Syria to Serbia

Publié: 28 septembre 2015 23:08 CET

By Tommaso Della Longa, IFRC

“Please tell the world that we are coming here only to escape bombs and have a safe place where our kids can grow up. We are not traveling to Europe because we want to get a good job or a beautiful house; our dream is to come back to Syria as soon as the war ends.”

The Syrian man, travelling with his family from the city of Aleppo, waits in a corn field in Sid, Serbia, just a few hundred meters from the Croatian border. As so many others, he and his family have fled the torment of war, hoping to find asylum in Europe. Every hour, more people arrive by bus and taxi, and the remote corn field starts to resemble a bus station. As the border with Hungary is closed, they hope to cross through Croatia.

“We literally follow the migratory routes to support vulnerable people,” explains Ms. Lidia Ric Ritter, Secretary of the Red Cross of Serbia in Vojvodina province. Our staff and volunteers move where migrants are transiting to distribute essential food, water and clothes.”

More than 130,000 people have moved across Serbia since the beginning of 2015. The Red Cross of Serbia has assisted nearly 70,000 of these vulnerable people on the move. In Sid, staff and volunteers from the local Red Cross work around the clock.

One Syrian man, a former volunteer with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, expresses his thanks for the help he has received along his journey: “Every time we see a Red Cross volunteer on the route we stop and thank them. We are part of the same family and we know the challenges of providing relief in such times.”

A long queue develops at the end of the corn field where people are trying to enter Croatia. Thousands of migrants will be left to wait during the night; some are already putting up tents. At the same time, buses and taxis filled with families, young children and people with disabilities continue to arrive.

One woman from Iraq expresses her frustration: “We are being told we are entering illegally, but where can we ask for humanitarian protection legally in our own country?”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal for 2 million Swiss Francs to support the Red Cross of Serbia in responding to the humanitarian needs of more than 314,000 vulnerable people in the coming months.