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Border closure pushing refugee children and their families into desperate situation in Macedonia, Serbia and Greece


March 17, 2016, Macedonia: " It is not a human treatment by the EU", refugees protest.

“473 refugees, including 170 children, from Syria and Iraq have been sitting on the Macedonia - Serbia border for more than a week. It is a critical situation because all tents are wet and muddy as a result of rainy days” said Marija, Tdh/ La Strada coordinator in Tabanovce. The refugees are sitting there in a sign of protest, claiming: “It is not a human treatment by the EU!”. Another thousand people are stranded in the Tabanovce transit center, some for more than a month. The facilities which were never adapted for people in the first place are now overcrowded: there are not enough beds, showers nor toilets. Sanitary conditions are deteriorating.

In Serbia, soap, towels and shampoos are part of essential hygiene items that refugees are missing since they have been stopped at the border in Adasevci. “We support 150 children here, and 60 of them are under three years old,” reports Danjiela, Tdh/ NSHC emergency field coordinator. “These children and their mothers cannot change their clothes. We have to buy more towels, underwear and warm clothing for the coming days.”

The situation of refugees has drastically changed since European countries decided to close their borders. In Serbia more than 2000 people were stopped from moving forward to their next destination including 300 people in Adasevci. Local authorities seem completely unprepared for such a situation. Novi Sad Humanitarian Centre, Tdh partner in Serbia, continues its efforts in response to the recent restrictions from European migration policies. Danijela confirms “refugees are upset, worried and ask for information and support. One young man even tried to hurt himself. They are desperate and in dire need of psychological help.”

Such an appalling situation does not stop people from moving and it pushes them toward smugglers and a more treacherous route. Recent events in Idomeni are sadly proving this. More than 13 000 people have been stopped at the Greek Macedonian border for several weeks. The recent heavy rains worsen the already inhuman conditions in the camp. Most of the facilities are flooded and put many lives in danger. As a result, On Tuesday 15th of March, more than a thousand people left Idomeni camp in a “March of hope” to cross the border through a river. The previous day the police reported that 3 people - including a pregnant woman - lost their lives trying to cross the same river. The hundreds who were caught by the police reaching the Macedonian side had to wait for hours outside before being simply pushed back to Greece.

In both Macedonia and Serbia, with the support from Swiss Solidarity and the UEFA Foundation for children, Terre des hommes and its partners are organising more and more activities to protect the youngest and most-in-need children. The teams are  distributing non-food items including warm clothes, blankets as well as hygienic items especially to mothers and children blankets. Additionally they provide information, very important psychological counselling and activities for the children.

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