The social development bank in Europe

Averting a humanitarian crisis in the Balkans

The CEB’s Migrant and Refugee Fund provides emergency assistance to the countries on the Balkan route

Migrants waiting at the borderTens of thousands of people fleeing the conflicts in Syria and the Middle East are trying to reach the European Union via the Balkans. Arriving from Greece, they have to cross “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” and Serbia before continuing west through Croatia and Slovenia. Most hope to reach Germany or one of the Scandinavian countries.  

With the reception centres along the Balkan route bursting at the seams, many migrants have to wait at the borders, sometimes for days, in increasingly cold and rainy autumn weather. Late November saw the first snowfall in the Balkans, exacerbating the situation even further.  

During the night the temperatures plunge to single digits or below zero, while thousands of refugees sleep out in the open, waiting to be received in the reception centres.  To fight the cold, they light campfires with whatever they have, including blankets and pillows. On 21 October, a fire in the reception centre in Brežice, Slovenia, burnt down 27 fully equipped tents.  

Migrant and Refugee Fund assistance

Since October, the Migrant and Refugee Fund has provided emergency assistance to “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,” Serbia and Slovenia to ensure that refugees and migrants passing through these countries have safe shelter and basic care.

The most urgent task is to adapt and upgrade the existing facilities to make them appropriate for winter conditions. 

This process is called winterization.  

Additionally, an MRF grant of € 1.5 million to Slovenia will finance the purchase of 100 heated modular units, which will provide more appropriate shelter than tents in cold weather.  The procurement of 10 vehicles will facilitate the transportation of migrants and refugees between various reception centres, according to the needs and availability of shelter.  

In “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” a significant part of the € 2.2 million MRF grant will fund the installation of a fully industrial kitchen and several field kitchens in the reception centres, based on UNHCR recommendations. This will facilitate food preparation and ensure that refugees have access to warm meals.  

In Serbia, an important share of the € 2.3 million MRF grant will also guarantee the provision of meals to refugees and migrants in three reception centres.  

Moreover, the government will be able to hire doctors and nurses and purchase the necessary medical supplies to provide much needed medical care for migrants, who often arrive dehydrated and with upper respiratory tract infections. Further medical care is provided to pregnant women.  

In all three countries, MRF funds will cover the day-to-day running costs of the reception centres and improvements in living conditions, including the provision of sanitary facilities and the distribution of non-food items such as winter clothes and blankets.  

The MRF thus supports CEB member countries in their efforts to ensure that migrants and refugees who arrive on their territory enjoy basic human rights such as shelter, food and medical aid, as well as personal security.

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