HUMANS IN TRANSIT, BELGRADE

Federico Scoppa

 

More than a thousand people, mostly Afghan and Pakistani migrants, are living in miserable conditions in abandoned warehouses behind Belgrade train station. Temperatures in the area drop to minus 15 degrees Celsius and the wind blows strongly from the north, freezing the snow on the floor. Inside the old warehouses the air is thick with smoke from the fires needed for warmth, people sleep on the ground wrapped in blankets distributed by volunteers and the sound of people coughing echoes through the large rooms. The floors are covered with garbage and excrement. There is no access to showers and toilets so the only way to wash is to warm up some water in an old barrel outside in the cold. The only food distribution is by volunteers, and it is just one warm meal a day. The migrants say they don’t want to stay here in Serbia but the borders with Croatia and Hungary are closed and they have been repeatedly rejected when trying to cross. They want to reach Germany, France, Italy or the UK. Many have relatives in those countries and their hope is to join them and find a job. Most have refused to go into camps organised by the Serbian government and an NGO, fearing registration and expulsion, but the inhuman conditions of the makeshift camp with its cold, exhaustion and disease are forcing some to leave the warehouses for a safer place to sleep and eat, even if that could mean the end of their dream to reach central Europe.

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