13 November 2015

Refugees continue to cross the Western Balkans packed in overcrowded trains, as transportation is limited and insufficient, considering the large number of arrivals. Consequently, refugees wait for hours at border crossings or at reception centres, such as Presevo in Serbia, where additional emergency shelters and sanitation facilities are urgently needed, as well as improvements to hygienic conditions. Many families have been separated in the attempt to board trains, resulting in increasing numbers of children forced to continue the journey alone. Bad weather conditions and limited humanitarian assistance at every step of the route pose further challenges for refugees seeking protection in Europe.

After registering their intention to seek asylum at the Vinojug reception centre in Macedonia, many of the refugees taking the train to the Serbian border continue to be overcharged for tickets by railway officials. In addition, despite the establishment of a new ticket office at the Vinojug asylum centre, the carriages are still overcrowded and hygiene conditions in the trains remain a serious concern.

From the Serbian border town of Miratovac to the registration centre of Presevo, transportation has been increasingly challenging for refugees: due to cold temperatures, rain and bad weather conditions, buses cannot easily drive on roads. Although IOM and UNHCR continued to provide vulnerable refugees with transportation, many still have to walk.

From Wednesday 4th November, in line with an agreement between Serbia and Croatia, refugees are now transported from Presevo to Sid, at the Croatian border. Then, other trains drive them to Slavonski Bord in Croatia, the new temporary asylum centre replacing Opatovac. This decision was aimed to avoid crossings through Bapska-Berkasovo, as there were no facilities there to provide humanitarian help. However, in the week following the agreement, large groups of refugees still preferred entering Croatia through the former border crossing point, due to the long wait for the trains.

See more detailed information in our Western Balkans route News Brief 30 October – 6 November 2015


This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 13 November 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.