More help needed for refugees in Serbia

The Serbian winter is always cold. In past years, temperatures could reach a few grades below zero. This year they have reached -20°C in Belgrade, while in southern Serbia, they reached -30°C. The problem is not only the cold weather, but also the heavy snow.

These extreme weather conditions have had a serious impact on refugees and poor people in Serbia. There are 7,200 refugees and migrants officially in Serbia. Eight out of ten are staying in one of the sixteen government shelters. Many of those shelters are full. The rest are sleeping rough in Belgrade city centre or near the border with Hungary.

According to the authorities, over 1,200 refugees and migrants are sleeping rough in the city centre of Belgrade, where temperatures can be as low as 20°C. Credit: Caritas Serbia

According to the authorities, over 1,200 refugees and migrants are sleeping rough in the city centre of Belgrade, where temperatures can be as low as 20°C. Credit: Caritas Serbia

Following recommendations from the government’s Ministry of Social Affairs and its Commissariat for the Refugees and Migrations, Caritas focuses on the official refugee centres. Caritas provides food, clothes and hygiene.

“In the refugee and asylum centres in Belgrade, Presevo and west Serbia, Caritas is providing food such as fresh pastries and warm soup. The delivery is going well, in spite of the difficult weather conditions,” said Darko Tot from Caritas Serbia. “In the official refugee centres, the situation is good.”

According to the authorities, over 1,200 refugees and migrants are sleeping rough in the city centre of Belgrade, in ruined barracks behind the city bus station. There they light fires in order to try to keep warm. For the ones sleeping outside, life is very difficult.

“The situation is very different for the ones sleeping in abandoned barracks,” he said. “In these extremely low temperatures, their lives are threatened. They are making fires in order to warm up which are a threat as accidents could happen.”

The government considers assistance outside of regular centres as encouraging migrants to stay in dangerous conditions.

Caritas is providing food such as fresh pastries and warm soup. Credit: Caritas Serbia

Caritas is providing food such as fresh pastries and warm soup in official centres. Credit: Caritas Serbia

“Migrants are complaining of the cold, but they do not want to be relocated in refugee centres or to be registered. They would just like to go north, close to the border with Hungary, where existing centres are already full,” said Darko Tot.

In the north of Serbia, there are other refugees and migrants staying in the open, under tents near Hungarian border. According to their words, they don’t want to miss their “place in the line” by going back once they have reached border with the European Union.

Caritas Serbia is also supporting poor and vulnerable Serbian families affected by the extreme weather.

Caritas Internationalis

President: Cardinal Luis Antonio Gokim Tagle
Secretary General: Michel Roy

Caritas Internationalis
Palazzo San Calisto
Vatican City State
V-00120

Reception Desk: + 39 06 698 797 99
Fax: + 39 06 698 872 37
Email: caritas.internationalis@caritas.va

The office is open from Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 5.00 pm.

If you need to contact a staff member outside of office hours in a humanitarian emergency, please call + 39 334 359 0700 or email emergencies@caritas.va