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Photos: The refugees' winter walk

By
syria-balkan-refugees-oxfam-OES_29543_-es_Color-en_Colour-lpr_-web.jpg
Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam Intermón

Millions of refugees are fleeing poverty and conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Some of them are making the difficult journey to Europe in the hope of a better life for them and their children.

They are among the nearly 60 million people around the world are now officially “displaced” from their homes—the highest figure recorded by the United Nations since the Second World War.

In January 2016, the total number of arrivals of refugees to Europe reached 1,167,475 but at least 3,810 women, men, and children are dead or missing, lost during the journey at sea or over land.

These are not just numbers, they are real people. Here is a glimpse into their journey:

Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam Intermón

“People are arriving here exhausted, hungry, and thirsty and often in need of urgent medical attention.” Riccardo Sansone Oxfam’s Humanitarian Coordinator in Serbia.

Smart phones are essential to refugees, helping them to navigate the thousands of miles they must travel in the hope of finding security. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam Intermón

Smart phones are a life-line to migrants and refugees. They help them to plan their journeys and stay in touch with their families.

At Oxfam we recognize the importance of information sharing. We are working on the ground to provide refugees with information on safe roads, places, and their human and asylum rights.

A group waits to be registered for a Serbian travel permit in Gevglija, on the Macedonian border Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam Intermón

Between October 2015 and January 2016, 985,600 arrivals were documented in Serbia and Macedonia. Many of the refugees along this route come from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

To cross Serbia refugees must be granted a travel pass which gives them 72 hours to cross the border out of the country. Most refugees, who are mostly women, children, and elderly people, make this journey on buses, trains, and on foot.

For most of the route there are no, or inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities.

We believe that everyone has a right to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene as a basic essential service.

So far we have supplied vulnerable people with portable latrines, sanitary and waste containers, and sanitation equipment such as soap and toilet paper in three areas of Serbia.

Khalid tries to protect his children from the cold along the route Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam Intermón

Khalid (pictured above) has wrapped his children in a blanket to protect them from the cold as he carries them towards the Serbian border. He and his family, like millions of others, have fled the ongoing war in Syria.

As borders are controlled and refugees are forced to wait, even the train stations become temporary camps. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam Intermón

People are only able to take the possessions that they can carry and are not prepared for the winter conditions that they face along the Balkans route, where temperatures drop below 3°F. 

Oxfam has supplied around 100,000 refugees and migrants with urgently needed winter items (such as jackets, underwear, gloves, cups, blankets, and scarves) during the cold winter months in Dimitrovgrad, Sid, Preševo (Serbia).

Oxfam volunteers are providing hygiene kits along the route. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam Intermón

The opening and closing of borders only adds to the challenges that refugees face. As routes change so do the needs in each location.

The Serbian government and NGOs on the ground are warning that the situation will only get worse throughout winter as the heavy snow will make the journey harder and more dangerous.

Calling for an end to the conflict

Five years of bloodshed have turned Syria into the epicenter of a massive humanitarian crisis. Millions have fled the country in search of refuge, such as those who make the journey across Europe, and many more are still inside Syria, where they are increasingly trapped without enough food and medical care. For many Syrian children under five, violence and displacement is a daily reality.

But there is a growing movement of people around the world who are demanding an end to the crisis and increased aid to Syrians in need around the world. In this moment of international attention on the refugee crisis, now is our chance to make an impact.

Tell President Obama and Secretary Kerry: protect Syrian civilians from violence now, and help bring an end to this crisis once and for all.

Sign the petition

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