14 March 2016

Refugee Crisis: Supporting children and families at the Macedonian-Serbian border

Katerina Ilievska of SOS Children's Villages Macedonia reports from the Macedonian-Serbian border.

MACEDONIA, March 14, 2016 – As European governments take further steps to curb migration, more than 400 refugees from Syria and Iraq are waiting in damp, cold weather at the Macedonian-Serbian border. This comes days after Serbia announced restrictions on the number of refugees they would allow to cross their border.

According to the Macedonian police, those camped outside do not want to return to the Tabanovce transit center for refugees, located 700 meters away, in hopes that they will be able to enter Serbia.  The majority of people waiting to enter the country are women and children.  

“It is not an exaggeration to say that every child we come across is coughing. Yesterday it rained, so the terrain is very muddy,” said Katerina Ilievska of SOS Children’s Villages Macedonia. “Once the sun sets, it gets very cold and people light fires to keep warm.”

Relief workers of SOS Children’s Villages Macedonia make regular rounds at the border delivering essential items like baby formula, food, thermal clothing and jackets for children, as well as emergency blankets. They also help operate the Tabanovce Child Friendly Spaces, which provide children and their families safe spaces to rest, play and receive basic necessities. 

“Our main emphasis lies on distributing basic needs like warm clothes, diapers and milk. Many children who arrive here are dirty, wet and cold. We give them clean clothes and play with them so they can be children again, if only for a short time,” said Ilievska.