The refugee and migrant population has been particularly affected by the cold wave, due to poor shelter and NFI conditions, and low access to healthcare. There are at least 7,200 refugees in Serbia, with 80 to 100 arriving daily, and around 100 crossing onwards into other countries every weeK.???
2,000 refugees living in warehouses and abandoned houses near the main train station of Belgrade are the most affected by the cold. They are at high risk, especially children.? Another 5,000–6,000 refugees are living in government camps. Most refugees arrived in Serbia in 2016. Conditions in the camps are better, with greater access to NFIs, among other things. However these refugees are still vulnerable, particularly to cold-related health issues.? Many live in unheated tents.?
The cold wave has impacted populations across eastern Europe. At least three refugees in Bulgaria and one in Greece have died.?
More than half of the 7,000 to 8,000 refugees in Serbia are in need of shelter.
Up to 2,000 refugees are living in warehouses in Belgrade. They are sleeping on frozen ground. They have limited access to electricity, largely insufficient for their heating needs. They try to keep warm by burning wood.??
MSF estimates that only around 3,140 refugees live in facilities adapted for winter.? This means that about 2,000 to 3,000 refugees in Serbia live in unheated tents in camps.? Furthermore, the camps are overcrowded, forcing some refugees to sleep outside.?
For refugees near Belgrade’s main train station, the power generator for heating and blankets provided by humanitarian organisations are insufficient. Refugees resort to burning items such as plastic garbage and wooden parts of railway trucks, which are treated with toxic chemicals.??
Around 130 people are stranded on the Hungary–Serbia border, waiting on Hungarian authorities to grant them asylum.? They have only sawdust briquettes to burn, and blankets and insulating foil to keep warm.?
Many health problems due to cold temperatures have been reported, with refugees reporting very little access to healthcare and medication.?? Respiratory infections, including pneumonia and bronchitis, are common in refugee camps across Serbia.?
A nationwide flu epidemic is ongoing. It has forced the government to close schools until 11 January. It is unknown if refugees are more affected than the local population.?
In the Belgrade warehouses, dire conditions mean health needs are likely, but the refugees there do not have access to healthcare. The materials they burn for warmth can lead to the inhalation of toxic fumes, potentially resulting in respiratory problems.?
Many refugees, especially men, are afraid to register as political asylum seekers in Serbia, as they wish to seek refuge in other countries.? This makes them more likely to seek shelter in unofficial camps. Overall, refugees in Serbia are vulnerable to physical violence, smuggling, trafficking, and exploitation.?
Refugees living near the train station do not have regular access to food. They have received assistance from humanitarian organisations, although in insufficient amount to meet their needs.?
WASH conditions are poor for refugees living in warehouses near Belgrade train station. They do not have access to warm water. Very few hygiene items are available and they do not have access to toilets.??
The Serbian authorities have often prevented the delivery of humanitarian assistance to refugees, particularly in the warehouses near Belgrade’s main train station.?
The snowy conditions make road transport more difficult.? Water traffic has been suspended on the main rivers, the Danube and the Sava.?? This could create a shortage of fuel, which is often transported by boat.? There is a risk of power cuts, which have occurred in other areas in the region where weather conditions are similar.?