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Exhausted migrants reach Serbia, dreaming of Western Europe

26 august 2015, 11:46
0

In a dusty field on Serbia's border with Macedonia, thousands of migrants hoping to reach a better future in western Europe are offered some respite from their perilous journeys, AFP reports.  

At the Miratovac camp, Serbia's first admission centre for the surging number of arrivals, exhausted travellers trickle in, several dozen at a time.

Here they find tents provided by the UN's refugee agency, the UNHCR, and the local Red Cross, as well as medical care, food, water and some information on what might happen next.

Some sit on the parched grass, wrapped in blankets, while Serbian special police monitor them from a distance.

"It was difficult to stay there. There was no future for my children, I lost everything," said Talal Din, a 30-year old Syrian who has been on the road for almost three weeks with his wife and three children.

"I am engineer, my wife is a teacher. No income, no job, nothing any more."

Talal, who lived in Damascus, paid 4,500 euros ($5,200) for his family to cross from Turkey to Grece in a nine-metre (29.5-foot) boat crammed with 70 people.

  'So hard' 

"So hard," he said, recalling the family's gruelling trek from the northern Greek town of Thessaloniki to the Macedonian border some 80 kilometres (50 miles) away, where they were stuck under heavy rain for three days until police allowed them to continue the trip on Saturday.

Not far away, a small group gathers branches for a fire to provide a little heat as night approaches. Others try to somehow wash their clothes, pouring water into plastic bags.

More than 9,000 people, mostly Syrian refugees, arrived in Serbia over the weekend and on Monday -- all headed to Hungary, their desperately hoped-for entry point to the European Union and the borders-free Schengen Zone.

With just days to go before Hungary completes a vast razor-wire barrier to keep the migrants out, the latest influx was "very difficult" to handle, said Agon Ajeti, the UNHCR's coordinator for volunteers.

Miratovac's temporary residents will get bussed to the nearby town of Presevo where police are working round the clock to provide them with the papers needed to continue their journey to Hungary.

Some decide not to wait for the buses and instead begin walking towards Presevo, their small children in their arms.

Once there, hundreds queue patiently for hours for documents that legalise their stay in Serbia for three days. 

The street outside the centre is littered with empty water bottles and other trash, the local authorities overwhelmed.

  'Nowhere to sleep' 

In Presevo, the presence of the migrants is only apparent around the admission centre and the bus station, where many of them catch buses north towards the border with Hungary.

Owners of bakeries, restaurants and shops offer their service and goods in basic English -- and at inflated prices.

Waiting to journey on, the migrants exchange valuable snippets of information about the situation in the north and in Hungary, as well as the ways to get across the border, the final hurdle before reaching EU territory.

Neruda Hamud, a 25-year old Syrian, dreams of reaching Sweden where she would like to study management.

"Everyone says travelling via the sea is the hardest. The hardest is actually when you have to walk for long and have no food or water, being hungry and not having anywhere to sleep," she told AFP. 


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