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Serbia: 1 in 4 children arrive alone


Saturday, 19 September 2015

Belgrade, Serbia – Save the Children is stepping up its emergency response to the refugee crisis in Serbia, where more than 25,000 children have arrived this year alone, including at least 5,753 unaccompanied minors.

There has been a 66% increase in the arrival of unaccompanied minors between July and August this year alone, with more than one in four recently-arrived children having been separated from their parents and families, leaving them particularly at risk of trafficking, abuse, and exploitation.

‘Hundreds of exhausted and distressed children are arriving here every day. Many are sick from the desperate conditions on the journey. With Hungary shutting its border, people are increasingly scared and uncertain what will happen next or where to go,’ says Andrea Zeravcic, director of Save the Children in North West Balkans.

‘People have fled unimaginable suffering and risked their lives to get here. European leaders have a duty to help them, not only those that made it to Europe but also the millions more left behind.’

More than 135,000 refugees have arrived in Serbia so far this year, on their way to other European nations. Thousands of refugees have entered Croatia in the past 48-hours following the closure of the Hungarian border earlier this week, and are making their way to Slovenia and further EU countries.

Croatia has now closed seven of its eight border crossings with Serbia and it is uncertain which alternative routes the refugees may now take. In the meantime, the number of refugees in Serbia is expected to increase as crossing into neighbouring EU countries becomes more difficult.

Despite the best efforts of the Serbian authorities, the overwhelming influx has stretched capacity and refugees are sheltering in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in reception centres and public spaces such as parks or stations.

Save the Children staff members in Serbia are reporting that numerous newly-arrived children are exhausted after a long trip, in need of food and water, while many also need medical assistance.

‘Currently, there are 920 beds in five asylum centres, plus an additional 26 in one temporary centre near the Macedonian border, and communal tents in Kanjiza for 800 – 1000 people, but it is simply not enough to cope with the unprecedented influx of people, particularly with the freezing cold temperatures and rains that winter brings here,’ warns Zeravcic.

Save the Children is setting up safe spaces for children and mothers with babies, and distributing food parcels, baby hygiene items and water to refugees. A mobile Child Friendly Space is now set up in two parks in Belgrade, where children receive support to cope with the trauma of their journey, as well as educational sessions.

Most of the refugees arriving in Serbia are fleeing Syria, where ongoing conflict and bombing has forced more than 12 million people from their homes. Others have also arrived from Afghanistan (15 per cent), Iraq (five per cent), Pakistan (two per cent) and Somalia (two per cent).

ENDS

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For more information or to arrange media interviews with people on the ground please call +44 7831 650 409 or email media@savethechildren.org.uk

Notes to editors

  • So far this year, 132176 refugees and migrants have arrived in Serbia, including at least 25,564 children. 5,753 children have been registered as unaccompanied. In comparison, 16,490 refugees and migrants arrived in 2014.
  • Save the Children has been working in Serbia since 1994. Since 2011 we have focused on improving state capacity to meet the needs of migrant and refugee children.
  • Save the Children is working along the refugee route, including in Italy, Greece and Turkey, and carrying out assessments in the FYR Macedonia.