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Migrant Crisis

In 2017, Be an Angel responded to the refugee crisis in Belgrade, Serbia. There, thousands of refugees were trapped at the border without support or help.

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An Overview

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Between 2015 and 2019, Serbia became a significant transit point for refugees using the Balkan Route, a migration corridor from Greece to Western Europe. The influx began in 2015, with thousands of refugees, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, entering Serbia to escape conflict and seek asylum in the EU. The closure of borders by Hungary and the EU-Turkey deal in 2016 led to a bottleneck, trapping many refugees in Serbia. These refugees often faced harsh conditions, with limited access to shelter, food, and medical care. In response, Serbia established numerous reception and transit centers, yet the resources were insufficient to meet the needs of the growing refugee population.

The Balkan Route

The Balkan Route is a key migration corridor used by refugees and migrants traveling from the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa to Western Europe. This route gained prominence during the 2015 European migrant crisis, where over one million people sought refuge in Europe, fleeing conflict, persecution, and poverty from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The journey typically begins in Turkey, with migrants crossing into Greece and then moving northwards through the Balkans, passing through countries like North Macedonia, Serbia, and often heading towards Hungary or Croatia, before attempting to reach Western European countries like Germany, Austria, and Sweden.

The route was heavily trafficked until 2016 when the EU-Turkey Statement was enacted, aiming to curb the flow of migrants into Europe. This agreement, along with subsequent border closures and increased security measures by Balkan countries, led to a significant reduction in the number of migrants able to progress further into Europe. As a result, many refugees found themselves stranded in transit countries such as Serbia, facing dire humanitarian conditions while seeking safety and a better life in the EU. The Balkan Route remains a critical and often perilous path for migrants, with ongoing challenges related to border control, human rights, and humanitarian assistance.

Our Response

The reports from the barracks in Belgrade, where refugees are left to fend for themselves, had left our case workers speechless for weeks. These dilapidated warehouses are home to up to 2,000 Afghans and Pakistanis, living without toilets, showers, heating, electricity, medical care, or food.

Be an Angel e.V. launched a fundraising campaign and collected €12,000 in just under 14 days. The organization received 1,900 pairs of pants from Gardeur, 500 pairs of underwear from Uniqlo, and scarves, gloves, and hats from Komodo and Puma.

On the ground, the organization connected with Refugee Aid Serbia (RAS), Save the Children, and Doctors Without Borders. RAS became our local partner.

In the refugee centers, we met unaccompanied 15-year-olds (an estimated 40% of the refugees there are under 18), who have been living there since November 2016. Among them were former employees of the US Army, who landed on the Taliban’s death list after the base was dissolved. The refugees avoid the eight official camps because they feel “trapped” and unable to continue their journey. Moreover, there aren’t enough places in the camps.

There are no integration programs, school visits, language courses, or relevant asylum procedures throughout Serbia.

The waiting time to cross the Hungarian border is at least six months. The journey to Serbia has cost an average of €7,000, leaving families back home deeply in debt. The people in the camps hope for jobs in Europe but are unfamiliar with the processes.

Be an Angel e.V. has enabled daily food distribution through RAS. Locally, a warehouse was rented for material donations and controlled distribution of clothing. Together with RAS, a shop was rented where qualified volunteer teachers regularly offer language classes (English, German, Serbian). The program focuses on basic education for children. As of 2018, up to 40 people use the training center daily.


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