As Middle Eastern migrants travel to Western Europe, many must make the voyage across the Balkan Peninsula. Hundreds of migrants, half of whom are from Syria and Afghanistan, stop in Belgrade, Serbia as a jumping-off point into Hungary. The majority of migrants claim to be headed to Germany, while some say they plan on arriving in Sweden.
Around 500-700 people take up temporary residence in Belgrade’s parks near the city’s central transportation lines. Here, they generally wait 2 days for transport into Hungary. As they wait, they battle temperatures nearing 100 degrees Fahrenheit and a lack of supplies.
A total of 60,000 migrants have entered Serbia through Macedonia and Bulgaria during the first six months of the year though it is speculated that the numbers could indeed be higher.
Fortunately, Serbian organizations, restaurants, and people have begun distributing aid. Mikes House, a cultural and designer house, has distributed water, food and clothes. Residents of the city have also begun to gift old clothing along with water. Many simply come to speak to migrants and share stories.
On April 12, Belgrade authorities began to park water tanks in the parks and have organized services to clean the parks and rid them of garbage.
Médecins Sans Frontières has also started providing general healthcare to the migrants as their journeys take a brief pause in the northern Balkans.
All of this comes at a time when Europe as a whole experiences major surges in migration due to one of history’s largest refugee crises. Germany, in particular, has had to raise its projected influx from 450,000 at the beginning of 2015 to a projected 800,000 by the end of the year.
As a contingency plan, on August 10 the European Commission approved 2.4 billion euros of aid for the next six-year period, in the hopes that it may help curb the strain many countries will be feeling as migrants begin to settle within state borders.
– Jaime Longoria