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Serbia: Increasing the emergency shelter capacity for the migrants and refugees stuck in the center of Belgrade

20 Jan 2017

At least 1200 refugees and migrants are still living in appalling conditions and exposed to freezing temperatures in abandoned warehouses in the center of Belgrade. In recent days, the Serbian authorities opened a new emergency center in Obrenovac, 30 Km from Belgrade, where around 200 people were transferred on 17 of January, but many vulnerable people remain with no access to adequate shelter and with limited access to humanitarian assistance.

In the absence of immediate concrete solutions, Médecins sans frontières has erected emergency winterized tents to accommodate the most vulnerable people and plans to collaborate with Serbian authorities to improve the response in the official camps. Five tents have already been erected on the first day with a capacity to accommodate up to 100 people. “This is only an urgency measure, not a solution, but we cannot continue to see people freezing and their medical conditions deteriorating,” says Stefano Argenziano, Médecins sans frontières’ coordinator of operations on migration.  “These people have been left with little or no assistance for weeks now; they should have immediate access to adequate living conditions independently of their legal status.”

During the last weeks, Médecins sans frontières doctors operating in a mobile clinic near the warehouses have seen an increase of respiratory tract infections and skin diseases, direct consequence of the freezing temperatures combined with the inadequate living conditions. Our teams have also observed or directly treated seven cases of frostbites, including a two-year-old girl that was immediately referred to the local hospital. “Many of those in Belgrade arrive already in vulnerable conditions as they cross the borders in dangerous ways, increasingly exposed to the violence of smugglers and border authorities. European and Balkan authorities cannot continue to give a cold shoulder to these people in need, we need concrete and long term solutions to respond to their demand of protection” concludes Argenziano.