Serbia: child refugees at risk in freezing conditions

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Three Afghan children, aged nine and ten, shelter from freezing temperatures in an abandoned warehouse in Belgrade.

Nearly 2,000 refugees, including up to 300 children, are at risk of freezing to death, frostbite and hypothermia.

Trapped in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, children are sleeping in makeshift accommodation, in temperatures lower than -14C as they wait for access into Hungary.

The abandoned buildings where refugees are staying have high ceilings, broken windows, no heating, and no toilet facilities.

Desperate measures to stay alive

Children are making beds out of newspapers to keep warm, and in an effort to prepare hot meals, people are making uncontrolled fires – the smoke thick black from the plastic used as kindling.

As conditions worsen, the number of refugees attempting to cross the border is climbing.

Up to 61 people have already died as a result of the conditions and some have been waiting for nearly six weeks.

Families fleeing conflict

Refugees have made their way here from conflict-stricken countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan.

They’re stranded in Serbia because of the time it takes to hear whether their Hungarian asylum application has been successful.

This determines if they are among the ten people a day granted access to Hungary.

In 2015, Hungary fortified its border with a razor-wire fence.

Now, two years later, its cruel border policies have left hundreds of child refugees to endure freezing temperatures in substandard living conditions.

The journey to Europe

Refugees have come from Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Source: IOM

Serbia is on the ‘Balkans route’, used by hundreds of thousands of refugees entering Europe.

It’s now closed, but thousands still attempt the journey.

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Malak* arrived in Belgrade, Serbia after travelling with her family for days in freezing temperatures. She was suffering from frostbite by the time Save the Children staff met her and her family in Miksaliste Aid Point in Belgrade.

Our teams are there

With the help of our supporters, we provide crucial support to refugees in freezing conditions. Our response so far has included:

  • Transportation of refugees – including hundreds of child refugees – to safe spaces
  • Distribution of warm winter clothing to  protect them from the freezing conditions
  • Healthcare support to children in need of treatment for things like frostbite and hypothermia
An activity used in one of our child-friendly spaces in Belgrade, Serbia.
Specialist protection staff ask children to describe the journey they’ve been on using creativity.  This helps children and teenagers deal with the traumatic events they’ve seen and been through.

Together with local partners, we are running a drop-in centre an the refugee aid point in Miksaliste, Belgrade.

We provide new arrivals with immediate assistance while they wait to register and find accommodation in official shelters.

We also run mobile outreach teams providing legal counselling, and identifying and referring vulnerable cases.

Child refugees across Europe and the Middle East urgently need help.

Donate now to help child refugees

*Names changed to protect identity.

A big thank you to the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery who have made a very generous donation to support our work in Serbia. The donation is going towards the provision of child protection services and safe spaces in Belgrade and Presevo in 2017.

 

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