Transit Denied: Asylum-Seekers, Migrants, and Refugees Stranded in Serbia

During a mobile clinic in Bogovadja, Nevena, an MSF Serbian doctor, examins a 21 year old Syrian man who has been in Serbia for 3 days and has left his country 2 months ago. He has sore throat and says he can barely swallow.
Julie Remy
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On their journey through the Balkans to seek safety and assistance in Europe, many asylum-seekers, refugees, and migrants become stranded in forests and abandoned buildings in Serbia. They struggle through the cold weather without sufficient food or shelter, and have limited access to basic medical care. What's more, they are often exposed to criminal networks, physical attacks, and robberies.

The European Union (EU) asylum system has so far failed to offer them aid and protection upon arrival. Not allowed to continue through the EU, they have no choice but to use irregular migration routes. Many have already experienced appalling conditions while being detained in Greece and Macedonia. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are providing them with essential relief items and urgently needed medical care, while calling on the Serbian authorities and European Union member states to provide the asylum seekers with aid and protection.

In Subotica, hundreds of asylum seekers and migrants used to stay in an old brick factory. MSF was running a mobile clinic there to help those with health issues. But migrants and asylum seekers said the police often raid the location. “They came 4 days ago and took everyone who didn't manage to escape.”
Julie Remy
MSF translators carrying specifically designed “transit kits” to distribute to asylum seekers and migrants camping in the 'jungle' in Subotica. Each kit contains soups, energy bars, tea, coffee and sugar as well as a mug, matches, a torch lamp, a rain poncho, rasors, a soap, a comb, a toothbrush and a towel.
Julie Remy
'From walking all that time without socks I ended up having huge blisters. It's OK now, but look, we can still see some of it': Said a 37 years old Afghan man who has done his entire journey without socks. 'I have been staying here in the brick factory for 2 weeks ½. The police took all my money and everything I had. They come every 2 or 3 days, either in the morning or in the night, and they burn everything. They burnt my bag with all my clothes in it. They stole 375 EUR from me. I cannot leave anymore as I have no more money. I don’t know what to do, I cannot leave this place, I cannot go back to my country… What I am supposed to do? Here the only problem is the police, Serbian people are good people but the police that come at the brick factory is bad.' A pair of warm socks was given to the man by the MSF team.
Julie Remy
“They burnt everything. They asked us to remove our shoes, our jackets and burn all our belongings. All the clothes I'm wearing now were given to me. These shoes. a guy was wearing them and the police asked him to take them off and burnt them. The police come every 2 or 3 days, either in the morning or in the night, and they burn everything. Look at these ashes: mobile phones, clothes, shoes…. All people belongings. They burnt my bag with all my clothes in it. Here the only problem is the police, Serbian people are good people but the police that come at the brick factory is bad.”
Julie Remy
The plastic sheeting makeshift camp made by asylum seekers and migrants in the 'jungle' in Subotica. As temperatures reach well below zero at this time of year, they use all they can to keep warm for the short naps they do until they need to go back near the fire to warm up again. They said the tent they live into was damaged by the police a few days ago. 'They came and set fire to the plastic of the tent and tore it. It didn't burn completely, but it damaged it. They hit some of us with sticks and made a pile with our jackets, blankets and other belongings right behind the camp and burnt them 4 days ago.’ : says a 17 year old Afghan migrant.
Julie Remy
A 30 year old Somali man who was refused access in the Bogovadja Asylum Centre after two days in Serbia asking for asylum. Meanwhile, he is sleeping outside, has 38,5 C fever, severe cough and chest pain with lots of mucus in his lungs. MSF is providing him with a new pair of shoes, socks, fresh underwear, and a specifically designed “transit kit” including: soups, energy bars, teas, sugar, coffee, rasor, comb, soap towel toothbrush, torch lamp, rain poncho, a metal cup and matches.
During a mobile clinic in Bogovadja, Nevena, an MSF Serbian doctor and Greek Medical coordinator Vasiliki Armeniakou, examine the foot of a diabetic Somali man who had trouble controling his blood sugar in the last while due to an error in the type of insulin provided to him along his journey. Due to the poor controle of his glycemia, his foot injury is not healing well. It should improve now that he was seen by a diabetes specialist in Belgrade. (MSF brought him). And his sugar levels are getting back to normal.
Vasiliki Armeniakou, Greek MSF medical coordinator, changes the dressing of a burnt 6 year old Syrian boy with the help of his father, during a mobile clinic done in the back of a van, in Bogovadja. The boy was burnt by a dysfunctioning shower while he was in detention with his father in Macedonia 6 days ago. He was cared for in detention, but since had no access to health care to redress the burn.
Julie Remy
During a mobile clinic in Bogovadja, Nevena, an MSF Serbian doctor, examins a 21 year old Syrian man who has been in Serbia for 3 days and has left his country 2 months ago. He has sore throat and says he can barely swallow.
Julie Remy
A group of 8 African migrant men keep warm around a small campfire in a garden just next to the asylum center in Bogovadja where they were denied access. The group only has 2 sleeping bags for all of them. Three cats sleep with them at nights also looking for warmth.
Togolese man having to stay outside the asylum centre after being refused access says with tears in his eyes: I can't keep going like this without sleeping. It is maximum 5 minutes each time… I am beyond tired… I am too cold to sleep, I don't even have a blanket. I have to stay around the file outside to stay alive. I cannot sleep siting around the fire. We have to get the fire going. Why are we treated like criminals? It's been 4 days that we are freezing outside… And they denie us access. But why? We did all that is required. Went to the police station to ask for Asylum in Belgrade, but they refused to give us the papers and told us to go to Bogovadja, so we went, but here they again refused to give us the papers and denied us access in the centre... They told us to come back the next day as it was late when we arrived and that they would do it the next morning, but then, they didn't do anything the following morning, and then the weekend came and they told us they don't work during the weekend and to come back on Monday. What are we supposed to do during all that time... There is enough room to make everyone sleep inside the centre, we know it as we talk with the ones who managed to get in. Why do they leave us outside all that time in the cold. It is inhumain! I thought Europeans were good people. Now what am I supposed to think of them when they treat us worse than criminals?
Julie Remy
A group of 8 African migrant men keep warm around a small campfire in a garden just next to the asylum center in Bogovadja where they were denied access. The group only has 2 sleeping bags for all of them.
Julie Remy
Stuart Alexander Zimble and Kostas Georgakas are leaving food and water in an abandonned house to asylum seekers and migrants who were refused access to the asylum centre in Bogovadja. The house is missing many windows and is not heated. There is no running water, no toilet or bathroom and no electricity. It is snowing outside.
Julie Remy
A group of 8 African migrant men keep warm around a small campfire in a garden just next to the asylum center in Bogovadja where they were denied access. Besides their camp, another gazebo has been destroyed over time for the asylum seekers and migrants who were denied access and slept there keep warm with a fire. A group of other asylum seekers arrived overnight and slept on the tiny bed of this denuded gazebo. They left very early in the morning, They had no blankets or anything to keep warm. It was snowing all night.
Vasiliki Armeniakou, Medical Coordinator and Kostas Georgakas, Logistician, both Greek MSF staff, in the entrance of an abandonned house where some asylum seekers and migrants seek refuge for the night when they are not allowed inside the asylum centre in Bogovadja. The house is missing many windows and is not heated. There is no running water, no toilet or bathroom and no electricity. It is winter and often below zero degrees temperatures and snowing outside.
Julie Remy
Kostas Georgakas, a Greek MSF Logistician, in one of the rooms of an abandonned house where some asylum seekers seek refuge for the night when they are not allowed inside the asylum centre in Bogovadja. The house is missing many windows and is not heated. There is no running water, no toilet or bathroom and no electricity. It is winter and often below zero degrees temperatures and snowing outside.
Julie Remy
A migrant walks away from an abandonned house where some asylum seekers seek refuge for the night when they are not allowed inside the asylum centre in Bogovadja. The house is missing many windows and is not heated. There is no running water, no toilet or bathroom and no electricity. It is winter and often below zero degrees temperatures and snowing outside.
Julie Remy