From the deserts of the Middle East, into the droughts of the Balkans

Britain detains asylum-seekers, which then live through a variety of systematic psychological tortures in privately owned detention centres. Due to a long-standing exemption from EU rules on border issues,...
Refugees and migrants walks as crossing the borders from the northern Greek village of Idomeni to southern Macedonia, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. More than 2,000 refugees and economic migrants wait at Idomeni every day to be let into Macedonia, from where they continue through Serbia and Hungary to seek asylum in wealthier European countries.

Four years of brutal conflict have plunged Syria’s people into darkness. Satellite images show that 83 per cent of the lights visible when the protests began in March 2011 have since gone out. Millions have been forced to flee their homes and many are struggling to access the food, water and shelter they need to survive.

Hungarian police collects the refugees in groups on September 7, 2015. Near Serbian and Hungarian border. [Picture by Ilir Tsouko, for THE Frontliner]

Hungarian police collects the refugees in groups on September 7, 2015, near Serbian and Hungarian border. [Picture by Ilir Tsouko, for THE Frontliner]

Thousands are racing through the Balkans, to get to Hungary before it’s too late, as the European Union keeps trying to seal the border with Serbia. Hungary is also building 110-mile razor wire border fence to keep the refugees out. Many are from Syria’s civil war, which now has over 4 million refugees. They are crossing on foot, by boat, train or bus, from Turkey through Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia and on to Hungary. As far as we are concerned, there’s no place for ‪refugees in the wealthy Gulf Nations.

Several thousands are held by the Hungarian authorities at a variety of makeshift camps in border towns, which sparked violence between the refugees who wanted to travel onwards to wealthy European countries and the Hungarian police forces are not sparing even children as Ilir Tsuoku, a freelance undercover reporter testified.

Hungary has threatened to use its military against the refugees to secure its borders. Reports coming from Budapest, say that thousands of Syrians are stuck in the train station and makeshift camps, as ‪they are barred from travel. Austria warned they would close their border soon. However, many Germans and Austrians are organising civilian vehicle convoys to help with the transportation. Europe is in a serious mess, with governments failing to manage the crisis and the people successfully trying to help with as much as they can.

A temporary refugee camp has been set up by the Serbian army along the border with Macedonia. Serbian Defence Minister Bratislav Gasiq visited the center and said that about 5,000 refugees were currently in camp and in the shelter of Presevo, Balkan Insight reports.

The visit of the Minister was followed by Serbian media. Agon Ajeti, an ethnic Albanian human rights activist told THE Frontliner that:

“Nobody is allowed to enter. We can go just to deliver food and water. I think the reason why the Serbian state prefers to keep this camp away from the public eye, has to do with what the camp does not meet the minimum conditions for life”.

There is no toilet or any form of water supply, or even a mattress, said Agon Ajeti, who is an activist of the Office for Youth in Presevo, adding:

“In recent three months, I have been witnessing and living with the refugee’s present and recalling my past. I know what it means being in their skin, I walked that path not very long ago”.

Presevo as the closest checkpoint to Macedonia received the largest number of refugees in the region, Serbian local authorities in Presevo confirmed.

“Often it happens that refugees get frustrated as a result of very slow progress of the administration, which have to process their legitimacy. As the Sun burn their skin they cheer and there are sparks of violence which are undertaken by the Serbian police to control the angry masses of refugees,” Valon Arifi, a human rights activist member of “Youth Action for Refugees” stated for THE Frontliner.

Refugees fleeing Syria, pass through Turkey, Greece and Macedonia to reach the almost last door in Eastern Europe, at Serbia’s Presevo, to pass through the thorny Hungarian border to further continue their journey towards Austria as a one way ticket towards hopeful-safe path into Europe.

WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH BALKAN EXODUS? — In the first months of 2015 alone, 20 thousand Albanians have left the country in an effort to seek economic asylum in Germany. An estimation of 10 to 35 thousands left Serbia this year and about 68 thousands left Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNHCR reports say.

Kosovo is the poorest and most isolated country in Europe. A third of the workforce is unemployed, and corruption is widespread. About two in three under the age of 25 are currently unemployed, and nearly 50% of the 1.8 million citizens of Kosovo are considered to be poor. During last December, thousands of Kosovans were forced to leave the country in an effort to find a better life, studies and more dignified jobs.

Only nine months ago, an unusually high number of Kosovans had made a massive effort to leave the country. The routes through which they walked barefoot into the wet fields of Europe’s gateway border from Serbia to Hungary, are the same, through which Middle Eastern refugees are walking today.

The situation in landlocked Kosovo, remains the same, adding to the fact that the country faces a sealed isolation, as regarding the freedom of movement, guaranteed (on paper!) with all international conventions on human rights and freedoms, it is still a dream that never came true for its hopeless, suffocated people.

Refugees walk after crossing the border between Macedonia and Serbia, near the town of Miratovac, Serbia September 4th,2015. The Gevgelija-Presevo journey is just a part of the journey that the refugees, the vast majority of them from Syria, are forced to make along the so-called Balkan corridor, which takes them from Turkey, across Greece, Macedonia and Serbia. [Picture by Ilir Tsouko, for THEFrontliner.net]

Refugees walk after crossing the border between Macedonia and Serbia, near the town of Miratovac, Serbia September 4th,2015. The Gevgelija-Presevo journey is just a part of the journey that the refugees, the vast majority of them from Syria, are forced to make along the so-called Balkan corridor, which takes them from Turkey, across Greece, Macedonia and Serbia. [Picture by Ilir Tsouko, for THE Frontliner]

LET’S GET BACK IN THE VALLEY — “Youth Action for Refugees”, in the Presevo valley, the Red Cross of Serbia, and the UN Commission for Refugees, are carrying migrants by bus from collection points in Presevo in the direction of Belgrade. They make this journey after receiving the temporary residence permit in Serbia, which expires after 72 hours, and then, they are asked either to seek asylum or leave Serbia, in most cases they decide to leave.

It is believed that over 50 thousand refugees have left their footprints behind in the Serbian drought land and continue their journey seeking safety towards Europe. An estimated 70% of them fled the war in Syria, others from a variety of conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The “glaring failures” of some European countries to take in refugees are turning the Mediterranean into a mass grave and creating gruesome scenes at borders, the head of the European Parliament has said. Martin Schulz, a German Social Democrat, said those European governments that have resisted European Union proposals to agree a common plan must do more to deal with the crisis.

“The governments of some member states must finally remove their blockade and end this unworthy game,” Schulz said.

However, Hungary, which is part of Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone, is building a fence along its border with Serbia to contain what it calls a threat to European security, prosperity and identity.

Many Eastern European states have pleaded refugees would simply not fit in, while Germany is a target for a high percentage of the hundreds of thousands of people attempting to reach European soil in what is being called the most serious crisis of refugees in Europe since World War II. Germany expects to receive a record 800,000 refugees and asylum-seekers this year.

Britain detains asylum-seekers, which then live through a variety of systematic psychological tortures in privately owned detention centres. Due to a long-standing exemption from EU rules on border issues, Britain has pledged to accept about 20 thousand Syrians over five years time.


Cover Photo: Refugees and migrants walks as crossing the borders from the northern Greek village of Idomeni to southern Macedonia, Friday, Sept. 4, 2015. More than 2,000 refugees and economic migrants wait at Idomeni every day to be let into Macedonia, from where they continue through Serbia and Hungary to seek asylum in wealthier European countries. [Picture by Ilir Tsouko, for THE Frontliner]

Vedat Xhymshiti; is an independent journalist and war correspondent. He has reported on a number of Middle Eastern conflicts from the Arab Spring in 2010 to the current Syrian civil war. He has been published in various media including Der Spiegel, NY Times, TIME, Paris Match, Le Monde ect. He is specialized in International Relations and Diplomacy. Xhymshiti is also a print media critic, a columnist for the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, and founder of THEFrontliner.net

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