News 30 Aug 16

Refugees on Hungary Border Face More Obstacles

Refugees stuck in the transit zone between Serbia and Hungary face worsening conditions as autumn looms, activists warn.

Milivoje Pantovic
Refugees in transit zone near the city of Kelebija. Photo: Beta

Although Serbia is increasing its capacity to accept refugees, those waiting for permits to enter Hungary in the transit zone near Kelebija face long waits, worsening weather and poor conditions, activists say.

“With the first drop of rain, the provisional shelters in the transit zone have to be repaired and there are not enough hygienic facilities. Police are also not letting us enter the zone and help the refugees," Karl Schott, a humanitarian volunteer from the "I'm Human" organization, told BIRN on Monday.

He said a significant number of refugees do not want to go to refugee camps since they are afraid that they might lose their position in “the line” to enter Hungary and the EU.

“I am in charge of the list [for entrance to the EU] for my group. At this pace of entry, [30 people a day in total) we will be in line for a month. The situation for others is even worse, they may wait at this pace for more than 100 days. However, we do not want to go [to camps] and maybe lost our places,” a refugee in Serbia from Syria, Ahmad Abu Hamood, confirmed to BIRN.

Numbers in the transit zone rose in mid-July after Hungary tightened border controls, cutting off that part of the Balkan route. Since July Hungary has let in only 15 refugees a day on each of its two border crossings with Serbia.

“Humanitarian aid is provided for refugees in the transit zone, however, it is simply not enough. Also, a problem is that police are not letting refugees into the town of Kelebija so that they can buy things on their own,” Schott said.

Refugees building provisional shelter in the transit zone. Photo: Beta

Serbia's Assistant Commissar for Refugees and Migration, Danijela Popovic Roko, on Monday said that Serbia was expanding its capacities for refugees and preparing for winter conditions.

“We are counting on there being no more than 6,000 refugees staying in Serbia or just passing through,” Popovic Roko said, added that some 4,000 refugees were in Serbia right now.

She said Serbia was expecting more refugees to stay longer now the Balkan route was largely cut off, and now that EU countries bordering with Serbia had imposed quotas on refugees entering their territories. 

Currently, five refugee camps operate in Serbia, in Krnjaca near Belgrade, at Sjenica, Tutin, Bogovadja and at Banja Koviljaca as well as numerous transit shelters.

Popovic Roko said that most refugees stay only for a short time in Serbia since their goal is one of the EU states, and many of them do not want to go to refugee camps, either.

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