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Refugees stuck on the Balkan route: Waiting for hope

  Source: Slobodna Evropa http://www.slobodnaevropa.org/ author:Ognjen Zoric i Ljudmila Cvetkovic

Preševo, March 23 –  About 600 refugees, mostly from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, have been stuck in Presevo after the closing of the Balkan Route. Some of them were sent back from Croatia, some during their transit, where they did not manage to go farther from South Serbia. They are impatiently waiting for some sort of solution, although they notice that refugees stuck in the Balkans are not currently in focus.

Syrian Izar Husan arrived in Serbia 20 days ago. Since then, at the reception center in Presevo, he waits for a solution like everyone else stuck on the Balkan route.

“People don’t come here to just sit in the camp. Everyone was planning to just wait for transit out of Serbia, one, maybe two days, but I’ve been here for 20 days. That’s more than enough. People are now waiting for any solution to this problem. We wait…listen to the news…But nobody is talking about us anymoreThey are talking about the people stuck in Greece, about people in Turkey, but about us in the Balkans. That’s the problem,” Husan told us.

There is a film and TV director wants to go to Austria, most of the others located in Presevo, say they want to go to Germany.

So we wait…But how much longer can we wait? Many are now thinking of escaping and going through illegal paths. That’s bad. Every morning people come up to me with the same questions – do you have any news? I think it will be difficult to control people and to tell them to go illegally – through Hungary for example, or another path. I’ve been waiting for 20 days and no one knows how to tell me how much longer I will have to wait. Perhaps a month, maybe two. There must be some sort of solution for these people,” Husan tells us while we are walking with him through a series of forced-storage containers. He meets with his countryman Muhamed, a young man who has been on the refugee path for over a year.

“I’m in Presevo for a month. My wife, baby two months old, came to Serbia. She was born in Turkey. I’m from Damascus, from Madaja. There is hunger everywhere, people are starving, its terrible. I would go to any country – Germany, northern countries, Iceland, Sweden, anywhere. My daughter is sick, she has a cold. We need a house.” 

A meet with a group of young men who are playing volleyball. We are approached by a young Afghan, Nazif.

“Before the borders were closed, I wanted to go to France. Now the borders are closed and I no longer have a plan,” he told us.

Among the many children at the reception center, is also eight year old Muhabulah from Afghanistan who has been there a month. He speaks to us in excellent English and says that he can give us a statement.

„I help people, I translate sometimes. And sometimes I play soccer,” this boy tells us.

There are 628 people in the reception center in Presevo, mainly from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. Among them, about a dozen of Algerians who illegally crossed the border. In the center, three meal a day and medical care are provided with accommodation. Various daily activities are also organized. Many refugees also work as volunteers in translation and distribution of food and clothing.

Until recently, the borders on the way to the countries of Europe were open to Syrians, Iraqans and Afghans. Now those who have made new decisions on the Balkan route, all that remains is waiting and hope.

“I keep hope, and that’s it. So we live in hope. It’s been this way for five years, during which we are waiting to see if there will be a solution in Syria. But a solution does not exist.” The witness says from the beginning of Izar Husan’s story.

Afghani Muhamasali exclaimed that they began their journey to survive. “Our decision was to survive. I would like the UN, the EU and humanitarian to focus on us. We crossed the dangerous road through Pakistan, Turkey, Greece, Macedonia. It would be too hard to go back now,” said this refugee from Afghanistan.




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