We’ve been providing protection services and healthcare to thousands of people fleeing war and persecution and transiting through Serbia since May 2015.
Despite the official closure of the Western Balkans route in March 2016 people continue to transit through Serbia. Between February and December 2016, working under the name Realna Medicinska Fondacija, a domestic foundation, we provided over 18,099 protection and medical consultations for people stranded in Serbia, often sleeping rough in appalling conditions on Belgrade streets or in the “Barracks”, Europe’s largest self-organised refugee camp. Small mobile outreach teams comprising a medical doctor, cultural mediator and translator and a driver provided protection information concerning refugee rights and obligations as well as healthcare and referrals to State run secondary and tertiary care facilities. Using a hotline number the teams provided care and support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Healthcare was provided for violence-related trauma due to abuse perpetrated on refugees by border guards who are using unnecessary force to push them back. During winter we treated cases of frostbite due to refugee transit and longer stay conditions being inappropriate for a European winter. We also provided emergency aid, including hygiene and dignity kits to refugee camps in Serbia as well as distributing children’s traveling kits, in Belgrade and at the Hungarian and Croatian borders.
As neighboring countries imposed strict border closures in 2017 we supported the country’s infrastructure and health systems strengthening by collaborating with the Ministry of Health and moving into the Government run static clinics in Adaševci and Obrenovac.
As of 31 August 2018, some 3,700 refugees and migrants are stranded in Serbia unable to move forward and due to safety, are not able to return to their home countries. 60% are men, 27% women and 13% children. Among total observed arrivals in 2018 11% were unaccompanied and separated children. New arrivals in August at 2458 are the highest recorded since 2016 compared to 349 new arrivals in April 2018, for example. From January to August 2018 approximately 15,000 new arrivals were counted in Belgrade City centre.
There are still unmet needs in Serbia with a worrying increase in the numbers of people with symptoms of distress especially among those who are left with no alternative but to wait in administrative and legal limbo. Women and young people, especially unaccompanied minors, remain especially vulnerable.
Photos: Marko Risović, Associate Ethnovision.