Refugees in Serbia face rain, dropping temperatures
As temperatures in Serbia decrease, thousands of refugees continue to arrive inadequately dressed and without proper footwear.
“When I see them walking wearing flip-flops, without any warm clothing... my heart hurts,“ says Admir Cigic, World Vision's staff at a distribution point in Serbia.
With winter approaching, adequate clothing of refugees and shelter are becoming increasingly important, especially having in mind the particularly extreme conditions in the Western Balkans where temperatures can drop to -20 degrees Celsius. In the past days, temperatures in Serbia have varied between 4 at night and 13 degrees Celsius during the day.
In order to respond to the needs of refugees during the cold season, World Vision is distributing blankets, rain coats, warm socks, hats and shawls for children, and shoes. “Refugees arrive carrying very little, with only plastic bags in their hands and are often wet from the rain,” says Cigic.
“Refugees arrive carrying very little, with only plastic bags in their hands and are often wet from the rain,” says Cigic.
Even while they are waiting to cross the border between Serbia and Croatia, refugees are standing in the open at the mercy of the weather conditions.
“Of course I am cold,” says 17-year-old Nesar from Afghanistan. Travelling with his four friends, this young boy is shivering in a light jacket. His friends are not dressed any better. It took them one month to cross the distance between Afghanistan and Serbia and they don't know what is ahead of them. “The whole journey was scary,” adds Nesar.
Next to them is 25-year-old Faten from Syria who has been travelling for the past six days with her three children: Hatidze, 2.4 years old; Huteyb, 5, and Rafat, 6. “It is very difficult to travel with children. They cry, they ask for toilet, they are not quiet....” she says “But, it’s better to travel with my children than all alone.” Faten and her family left Syria three months ago and have been in Turkey until recently. “Turkey is very expensive,” she says. “[We] cannot survive [there],” Faten says.
“When I see them walking wearing flip-flops, without any warm clothing... my heart hurts,“ says Admir Cigic,
Dressed in a rain coat and jacket, Faten considers herself lucky. “Good people and different organizations gave us clothing so we are not cold right now,” she says.
Basil, 38, from Iraq is also at the border crossing with two of his children ages 8 and 12. After their first boat sank while trying to cross from Turkey to Greece, Basil and his children gathered courage and tried again.
Were they afraid? “I was only afraid for my children,” he says. “My children cried. They said 'You will kill us!' And I told them: 'I am doing this for you, not for me'”.
UNHCR estimates that at any given time over 12,000 refugees are transiting through Serbian territory. More than 179,000 refugees have crossed from Serbia to Croatia since September 15th.
World Vision is responding to the refugee crisis in the Western Balkans by providing basic hygiene and food packages as well as child protection services.