Thousands head into Serbia in search of safety as winter approaches

Publié: 11 novembre 2015 10:11 CET

By Tommaso Della Longa, IFRC

Dropping temperatures in Serbia are threatening thousands of people crossing the country in a desperate search for safety. Sid, Dimitrovgrad and Presevo have seen an increase in the number of people arriving, en-route to central and northern Europe, following the closure of the border with Hungary. Since January, more than 385,000 migrants have crossed Serbia’s borders, including 50,000 in the first nine days of November.

In Presevo, at Serbia’s southern border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the National Society is working inside a reception centre set up by authorities. Volunteers are on duty around-the-clock distributing vital food and water supplies as well as raincoats to families arriving in the thousands each day.

“We arrived here after three weeks of travelling by bus, taxi, boat and walking,” said a recently arrived Syrian father from Aleppo. “My wife and I decided we had to flee Syria to give our three children a chance. We need peace and safety now.”

A difficult journey for women

In Sid, a group of four Eritrean women recently arrived having spent four months traversing South Sudan, Libya and the Mediterranean at the hands of smugglers. They had paid to go to Italy but they were left in Turkey before eventually arriving in Serbia, having no idea where they were.

“The trip for four women alone is very difficult and dangerous,” said one of the women. “We want to go to Germany or Italy or Sweden; we want to go where there is a big Eritrean community.”

Between June and November, the Red Cross of Serbia has helped more than 260,000 people on the move.

“The volunteers are good people, they are helping us a lot during our difficult trip,” said Imran, who has spent two months travelling from his home in Pakistan.

After receiving food and water from the Red Cross, he aims at travelling directly to Croatia. In this situation, every second counts – people want to move on as quickly as possible.