Today, Nihad assisted the Salvation Army in sorting more clothing donations and assisted some of the women volunteers in preparing decorations for the refugees coming to the day center. She went out to the Square and helped Boat Refugee Foundation to distribute tea. Nihad purchased cold medication for young men that had caught the flu while sleeping in the cold, sewed up the torn jacket of the Algerian young man that helped us keep last night’s sandwich distribution organized and took a young Iraqi Kurdish man to buy a sandwich as he hadn’t eaten in two days. The young men in the Square should just call her Mama Nihad!
Refugee Road to Serbia
Then we traveled to Serbia. It is FREEZING here! It is a poor, small village. Afghani and Iraqi Kurdish refugees travel on foot through the mountains of Bulgaria into Serbia. They SHOULD register at the camp then catch a train to Belgrade and continue on into Croatia. What’s actually happening is that once they arrive, corrupt taxis tell them that there are no more trains to Belgrade for the day and that they have to take a cab for 120 Euro to the camp to register. Once they are registered, they are pushed by these same men to ride private chartered buses to Belgrade for 30 Euro/person. The truth is that it’s a 20 minute walk to the camp, they could spend the night there and take the 12:40 pm train to Belgrade for 4 Euros/person!
Last night, we took the 6 pm to 12 am shift with another NGO. We camped out in a car outside of the camp (it felt like a stake out) waiting for the corrupt taxis to arrive. At least 7 taxis came in between 10:30-11 pm carrying Afghani and Iraqi Kurdish refugees. They were quickly rushed into the camp to register then back out to a bus that was conveniently waiting for them. Volunteers handed out blankets, gloves, hats, shoes, and cookies. We tried to tell the refugees in Arabic to take the train when they arrive to Belgrade and not the taxis. Volunteers here can warn refugees about the corruption; nothing in print can be handed out though.
The police chief did confirm that all European countries are waiting for Germany to give the word. If Germany closes its borders, all other countries will close their borders.
What do we do? We continue to press on and serve in whatever ways are open to us. We cannot pass by our neighbors on the side of the road. Click each word to learn more.