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Children play and draw at an art workshop held by Save the
Children's mobile Child Friendly Space team in the Serbian capital of Belgrade.
Save the Children’s Child Friendly Spaces provide a few hours or normalcy for
children, as well as psycho-social support, food and hygiene items, while they
wait to continue the journey towards Western Europe. Photo by Sejla
Dizdarevic/Save the Children.
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Belgrade, Serbia (Sept. 18, 2015) —
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
Based on the latest
data provided to UNHCR by the Serbian government, Save the Children estimates
that there has been a 66 percent increase in the arrival of unaccompanied
minors in Serbia 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
“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.
Carolyn Miles, president
and CEO of Save the Children, based in Fairfield, Conn., noted, “People have
fled unimaginable suffering and risked their lives to get here. Leaders in
Europe and the United States 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
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
neighboring 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 centers 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
“Currently, there are
920 beds in five asylum centers, plus an additional 26 in one temporary center
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 percent), Iraq (five percent), Pakistan (two percent)
and Somalia (two percent).
learn more about Save the Children’s Child Refugee Crisis Appeal, visit www.SavetheChildren.org.
Save the Children gives children in the United States and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. We invest in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.