My Refugee Journey – 21st April 2016 Belgrade

Refugee Aid Serbia volunteers handing out food to the refugees
Refugee Aid Serbia volunteers handing out food to the refugees

My Refugee Journey – 21st April 2016 Belgrade

I woke up today to find out that Serbian Police had moved in on the two parks where most of the refugees live and sleep and evicted the refugees from the area.  All tents were confiscated, cut up and thrown in the bin, sleeping bags and blankets were also taken from the refugees.

This all happened without any warning at 6am…  200 of the refugees were taken by coach approximately 10miles outside of Belgrade to Refugee Camp.  Those that stayed were told that the parks were no longer to be used as a place to sleep.  Refugees were told that they were only to use the park to use the Info Park Point and to get their meals that Refugee Aid Serbia and Info Park provide each day.

The Red Cross Serbia also packed up ready to leave the area, so their services they were providing to the refugees will no longer be available.  A doctor will still be available at the UNHCR container hut and Little Camp a couple of minutes away would also continue to provide medical support to the refugees during the day.  Info Park and Refugee Aid Serbia remain the main point of contact for the refugees in Belgrade.

A tent that once belonged to a refugee, confiscated, destroyed and binned by the Serbian Police
A tent that once belonged to a refugee, confiscated, destroyed and binned by the Serbian Police

Approximately 500 refugees are said to be in Belgrade at any one time, back in September 2015 this was up in the 5000 number at the point when Hungary closed its border to Serbia.  As winter came in the numbers declined as did everywhere such as Lesvos due to the weather conditions and the dangers of the Aegean Sea in winter.

As March came numbers went back up and reached around 400-500 in Belgrade and still hover today, in April at about 500.  There is a mix of those who just stay a few days and head to the Hungarian border, those lucky enough to have money pay smugglers operating in the parks where the refugees congregate move on across into Hungary within days of arriving in Serbia, then there are those that hope to get into Hungary legally by heading to the border crossing point where 15-30 refugees are given official permission to move into Hungary and continue with their journey, though this can mean hanging around at the border for two or three weeks.

Today I heard from a refugee still in a camp in Macedonia that over 600 refugees left for Serbia a couple of days ago and have most likely arrived in Belgrade or moved on to Hungary.

I have 5 or 6 days left here in Belgrade where I will be meeting up with a couple of Government officials to get information about how the refugee crisis has affected the country etc and then I will be off to Macedonia to the refugee camp on the border with Serbia.  There I will link up with Safwat who is from Syria who I first met when I was volunteering at Kara Tepe Refugee Camp in Lesvos.

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