Refugee crisis: Up to 3,000 people stranded at the border between Serbia and Croatia without shelter

19 Oct 2015
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More than 3,000 people are stranded in no man’s land between the Serbian and Croatian border with no access to shelter or hygiene facilities.

After the Hungarian border with Croatia closed and Slovenian authorities decided to admit a maximum of 2,500 people per day, thousands of vulnerable refugees were left stranded in extremely chaotic conditions at the Bapska/Berkasovo crossing point.

“A few days ago Bapska/Berkasovo was just a transit point, but after the Hungarian authorities decided to close their borders, delays have left thousands stranded with minimum shelter or access to toilets,” says Francisca Silva, Humanitarian Advisor in Serbia.

“People are extremely nervous; tensions are growing between groups of refugees, mothers are crying with their children in their arms, worried that they will lose their chance to cross the border.”

Sleeping in the rain

Last night, around 1,500 people spent the night outdoors with no shelter from the cold and rain, including families with young children and elderly people, mostly from Syria and Afghanistan.

Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) teams are providing primary healthcare through two mobile clinics and are treating a larger number of people for hypothermia and illnesses related to the bad weather conditions.

The teams have distributed blankets, gloves, rain jackets and are negotiating with local authorities to provide shelter as a matter of urgency. 

Situation will get worse with winter

“After fleeing conflicts and risking their lives crossing land and sea, babies, children, pregnant women and people with disabilities are now left stranded without proper assistance," says Elisabetta Faga, MSF’s Emergency Coordinator in the Balkans.

“What we are seeing is the effect of a lack of coordination and leadership which is leaving vulnerable refugees without the shelter and support that they desperately need."

Safe transit conditions must be guaranteed

Unless adequate protections are urgently put in place, MSF warns that thousands of pregnant women, young children and elderly people will be exposed to extremely challenging conditions this winter with potentially life threatening implications.

“Thousands of vulnerable people continue to be exposed to dramatic conditions on their journey through the Balkans," says Aurelie Ponthieu, MSF’s Humanitarian Adviser on Displacement.

“The lack of basic services is already having an impact on their health, and the situation will only get worse this winter if adequate shelters, warm food and hygiene facilities at registration and transportation points are not rapidly provided. We cannot wait for a dramatic event to happen, safe and adequate transit conditions, adapted to the coming low temperatures, need to be guaranteed now”.

Find out more about MSF's response to the refugee crisis