Thousands of migrants and refugees attempted to cross the Balkans in 2018 en route other destinations in Europe.
In the Serbian capital, Belgrade, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continued to run a clinic providing mental health care to migrants. Our teams, which included a psychologist, also conducted outreach activities in several informal settlements around the border towns of Šid and Subotica, for those who remained outside the Serbian reception centers.
In the first months of the year, we saw an increase in the number of people reaching Bosnia-Herzegovina with the hope of entering Croatia and continuing further west. Thousands tried to cross the Croatian border during the summer, and at times there were up to 5,000 people living in informal settlements and abandoned buildings around the border towns of Velika Kladuša and Bihać.
We offered medical assistance in collaboration with Bosnian medical authorities and supported civil society groups to improve living conditions with additional services such as showers, clothing, and laundry facilities.
During our seven months of activities in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2018, we conducted a total of 4,974 medical consultations. Most of the health problems we treated—such as respiratory tract infections, skin diseases, and musculoskeletal pain—were related to unsanitary living conditions.
Many of our patients reported having been subjected to violence or pushed back with unnecessary force by border guards. We continued to denounce the use of violence against migrants and to support civil society and volunteer organizations monitoring and reporting such incidents.