No more beds for migrants as bottlenecks build up in Serbia

BELGRADE: Serbia’s centres for housing migrants are completely full, the UN refugee agency said, leaving more than a thousand facing a winter sleeping rough in the Balkan country that has become a bottleneck as the European Union sealed its borders.
At least 7,000 migrants mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are trapped in Serbia, many spending months in a country culturally and financially ill-equipped to care for them and where few of them want to stay.
Despite the official closure of the so-called Balkan route, which has eased pressure on rich nations like Germany, aid agencies estimate more than 100 new migrants are entering Serbia every day, while only around 20 are allowed to enter Hungary — Serbia’s only neighbour in Europe’s Schengen visa-free area.
About half of those are children, and every 10th child is classified as unaccompanied, a spokeswoman for Save the Children said at an overcrowded Belgrade centre where the international NGO encourages children to take part in activities to help them come to terms with their trauma. Serbia has pledged to make 6,000 beds available and has reached almost that total but has appealed for more help from the European Union to help it ease the crisis.
“All the reception centres are full, full,” a UNHCR spokeswoman said, adding that it was unclear whether Serbia would make any more capacity available. The Serbian government agency for refugees and migration, the SRC, was not immediately reachable for comment. A warehouse in central Belgrade without basic facilities has become the home of more than 1,000 men — women and children are given priority in official camps, many of whom are reluctant to enter the system.
It is one of the largest camps of its kind in a European capital. The site is due to become part of the Belgrade Waterfront project, a luxury development being built by Emirati developer Eagle Hills. — Reuters