News 23 Nov 17

Migrant Child Reported Killed on Croatia-Serbia Border

MSF has expressed outrage over the reported death this week of a refugee child, aged six, apparently hit by a passing train on the border between Serbia and Croatia.

Maja Zivanovic

Lost child toy on the Serbian, Croatian border on the Balkan route. Photo: BIRN/Maja Zivanovic

The reported death of a six-year-old Afghan girl this week, apparently killed by a passing train, has highlighted the perils still facing migrants crossing the Balkans to Western Europe.

“Yet another totally preventable death on the 'closed' Balkan Road. A 6 y/o [years old] kid was hit by a train last night after the family was pushed back from #Croatia,” Medecins Sans Frontieres, MSF, tweeted on Wednesday.

This international medical humanitarian organisation, which delivers emergency aid to people affected by conflict, added that since January it has counted seven deaths along the Serbia-Croatia border.

“3 of them kids! What a shameful waste!”.


"An Afghani family was referred by Serbian authorities to the MSF clinic in Belgrade after being pushed back at the Serbian-Croatian border,” Andrea Contenta, humanitarian affairs officer from Doctors Without Borders told BIRN.

“According to their dramatic testimony, their 6-year-old daughter died when she was hit by the train after being pushed back along the Tovarnik-Sid train line.

“MSF teams provided psychological support to the family. This is not the first death along train lines. From January, six people already died when hit by a train, and three of them were minors.”

Contenta said that up to now, 143 people had died along the Balkan route.

“The practice of pushing people back at EU borders continues to endanger people's lives,” he added.

Although Serbian police have not reported the incident, the Serbian daily Alo reported that a group of migrants found the body of the child near the railway line on the Serbia-Croatia border.

“The migrants who found the child, took the consciousness body, crossed the [Croatian] border and handed it over to Croatian policemen,” the report said, and added that the dead child was from Afghanistan.

More than one year has passed since the European Union signed a controversial deal with Turkey that more or less closed off the so-called "Balkan route".

However, it has not entirely halted the flow of refugees crossing borders in the Balkan countries on their way westwards.

According to the UN’s refugee arm, UNHCR, 59 per cent of the migrants hosted in Serbian reception centres are women and children. Many minors are unaccompanied.

A new report released on Thusrday by UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, underlines the difficult situation of many women and girl victims of trafficking and of the more than 15,200 unaccompanied and separated children who have arrived in Europe so far this year.

Since July, UNHCR staff and partners in Serbia encountered increased numbers of new arrivals, including over 650 people in September, almost half of whom were  Yazidi families from Iraq along with nearly 100 unaccompanied and separated children.

NOTE: This article was amended on November 29 to include a quote from Andrea Contenta, humanitarian affairs officer from Doctors Without Borders.

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