Thousands of people are entering Slovenia each day from different points along the Croatian border. While some are staying in overcrowded transit centers, others are forced to spend nights outdoors, sleeping in fields. In response, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are working alongside the Slovenian Ministry of Health in the transit center of Brezice, in addition to increasing their provision of humanitarian aid elsewhere in the area.
Since Hungary closed its borders, refugees have no choice but to take a route through Serbia, Croatia, and then Slovenia in order to reach Germany and northern Europe. Although Slovenian authorities were prepared for their arrival, the recent massive influx of people has been overwhelming, with up to five times more new arrivals than expected.
Up to 6,000 people are arriving daily at entry points into Slovenia, though the country only has capacity to accommodate 2,500. As a result, thousands of people are staying in overcrowded conditions at the Brezice transit center, sleeping in the open around Brezice, or staying in fields in Rigonce and Dobova, in the east of the country. Those staying outside of the transit centers have no access to shelter, food, or sanitation facilities. This is having an impact on both their mental and physical health, and is leaving aid agencies struggling to deliver medical aid to every person in need. With winter approaching and temperatures falling, the situation is deteriorating fast.
“People Are Extremely Exhausted”
An MSF medical team has been supporting the Slovenian Ministry of Health at the Brezice transit center since October 21. Thousands of people, including many elderly, disabled, and families with young children, are spending nights outside around the Brezice transit center, with no shelter to protect them from the cold.
"People are extremely exhausted and there’s nothing here for them," says MSF nurse Sandra Miller. "They sleep in the cold and have no place to stay, no warm food, nothing."
The team is currently treating people mainly for exhaustion, hypothermia, respiratory infections, and flu symptoms. "From a medical point of view, what people need most is a heated shelter and some warm soup," says MSF doctor Susanna McAllister.
"The lack of coordination between EU countries is creating a humanitarian crisis," says Margaretha Maleh, president of MSF-Austria. "These people have a right to dignity and to get basic humanitarian assistance along their journey, including a warm and dry place to stay, proper food, hot showers, and medical attention."
Growing Numbers of New Arrivals
As between 10,000 and 15,000 people are currently arriving in Greece each day, the number of new arrivals in Slovenia is expected to grow, as the refugees are likely to take the Balkan route to continue their journey to northern Europe.
After assessing the situation on October 24, MSF will increase its medical and logistical support in the Brezice area, providing medical care and helping improve living conditions, increase transit capacity, and reduce tensions in the camps.