The journey of Syrian refugees in Presevo (Serbia)

PRESEVO, SERBIA. Tuesday, 10th of November 2015. The valley of Presevo, located between Serbia and Macedonia, East Kosovo, is a humanitarian crisis area in which about 10,000 refugees try to survive, mostly Syrian and Iraqi, but also Iranian, Senegalese, Congolese, etc., that have joined the group. We arrived yesterday at 3pm to help as volunteers. The situation defies the reason. Chaos reigns everywhere. In the last 48 hours 10,000 refugees per day have reached Presevo, due to the strike of Greek ferries, which had stopped the migration flow for a couple of days.

On the spot only work Save the Children, Médecins Sans Frontières and Remar, which can not cope with so much people, plus about 25 independent and self-organized volunteers now led by an American lady. There are Germans, Czechs and Polish volunteers. Apart from UNHCR no institution or international organization works in the Presevo border crossing between Macedonia and Serbia. Refugees who arrive in Miratovac, the first Serbian town from Macedonia, are completely helpless. Dozens of Serbs taxis await them as hyenas to sell dreams. The main scam is to offer them to reach the train that will take them to Croatia for 500 euros. In desperation, many refugees (especially families with little children) accept. They lead them to a waste ground and then tell them there are no more trains. If they want to return to Miratovac they must pay a new way. The main function of the volunteers that are in Presevo is to inform newly arrived refugees (both from Miratovac and in the the field near the train station in Presevo) the procedure to board one of the buses and/or trains that should take them to Croatia. They must wait at a makeshift line about twelve hours to reach the registration point (where less than ten people work). We must also persuade them to avoid at all costs the scam explaining the situation with the Serbian taxis (trying to avoid the taxi drivers to hear us, as there have been attacks on volunteers to provide that kind of information).

But above all we give them emotional support. Encouraging words. In the absence of support on the ground where thousands of refugees are surviving, we must also do triage, deciding which people have a greater need for health care, food and/or blankets, because resources are limited. Last night, in a moment of desperation, the mass of refugees pushed the barriers that were controlled by the army and the Serbian police, causing a state of general panic that left dozens injured and several children crushed. We were in the kitchen when the tent that supported it began to crumble and we had to push in the opposite direction to prevent the falling of pots of boiling water.

We distributed water and bananas among the refugees and by nightfall distributed blankets, shoes and clothing. At 10pm we no longer had any blanket. Dozens of refugees caught our arm, stretched our reflective vests, asking for shelter or roof. There is only one Médecins Sans Frontières tent that gives shelter to women and sick children. Although some of the police show some sensitivity, most of them use violence against some refugees, who do not ask more than Human Rights. The situation is desperate and inhumane. It have been reported rapes, deaths. And exhaustion and starvation of refugees increases the tension. Despite the desperate situation, the majority of refugees show an admirable education. Meanwhile, the European Union is a passive entity in the biggest migration crisis in history.

© 2018. 2 Femmes en 2Cv. Eva Serra & Ana Vega.

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