Western Balkans: Tales from two borders

Gevgelija reception centre, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 23 September 2016. Some 200 people have been stranded in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia since the borders closed around them six months earlier. The Red Cross of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been supporting people since the onset of the migration crisis. Mohammad Murhaf Subat, 24, fled the war-torn city of Da’raa in Syria together with his younger brother to be able to support their parents and four sisters. (Photo: Caroline Haga/IFRC)

Every minute, 24 people are forced to flee their homes somewhere in the world. In the past two years, hundreds of thousands of migrants have attempted to find a safe haven in Europe, with many losing their lives on the way.

Tens of thousands of those who safely arrived to Europe, nearly half of them women and children, have spent more than six months in limbo at various borders due to t unpredictable closures and changing policies. Currently Italy hosts more than 160,000 people and Greece more than 60,000 people with more arriving every day.

Thousands are also stranded in countries along the Western Balkans route including Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Here are the personal stories of some people stranded in these countries.

Syria: Brothers saw borders close around them

“We had to pay 700 USD for a place on an overcrowded rubber dinghy. Luckily we managed to reach a Greek island where the Red Cross gave us food and water,” says Mohammad Murhaf Subat, 24, who together with his younger brother fled the war-torn city of Da’raa in Syria to be able to support their parents and four sisters.

After a long journey and 1,5 months spent in difficult conditions in Idomeni by Greece’s northern border, the brothers made their way to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia where the borders closed around them. They’ve now spent over six months at the Gevgelija reception centre, dreaming of reaching Germany.

“I’m learning German here at the centre to be able to finish my university studies and become an agricultural engineer,” Mohammad says.

Iraq: Death threats force family to flee

Gevgelija reception centre, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, 23 September 2016. Some 200 people have been stranded in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia since the borders closed around them six months earlier. The Red Cross of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been supporting people since the onset of the migration crisis. Ani Almenshedawi, 32, fled Iraq in February 2016 after his life was threatened together with his wife Noora (32) and their three children; two boys aged eight and seven, and one-year-old baby girl Lauret (Photo: Caroline Haga/IFRC)

Ani Almenshedawi, 32, fled Iraq in February 2016 after his life was threatened together with his wife Noora (32) and their three children; two boys aged eight and seven, and one-year-old baby girl Lauret.

“I was a manager in a government department when I noticed that someone was stealing money. When I told others about it, the man threatened to kill me and my wife so we had to leave,” Ani says.

The family has now been stranded for six months in the Gevgelija reception centre in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. “I worry about my wife as her heart is weak and she has chest pains every night. We just hope to be able to start a life somewhere, anywhere that is safe.”

Bangladesh: The only bread winner

(Photo: Caroline Haga / IFRC)

Masud Rana, 27, lost his father some years ago and became the only bread winner in his family. He tried to support his mother, two sisters and a wife in his home country of Bangladesh but despite an education he was been unable to find work.

“I’ve completed business studies but still there was no job for me anywhere because of the many problems in Bangladesh. So I had to face this long and dangerous journey which took me all the way to Serbia,” says Masud.

Masud is stranded at a reception centre in Subotica by Serbia’s border with Hungary. He says he dreams of only one thing.

“I used to have a lot of dreams for the future. Now I have only one — to cross the border and arrive somewhere safe where I can work. I would be happy all my life if I could send money back home and support my family,” Masud says.

Red Cross operations in Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia are funded by IFRC’s emergency appeals of more than 2.8 million and 6 million Swiss francs respectively, which include financial support from the EU’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) and other donors.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.