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During the conflict that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Médecins Sans Frontières provided medical and mental health care for people directly affected by both the violence and its aftermath. Today, Serbia is part of the overland route taken by many refugees and migrants in their attempts to reach a more secure life in Europe.

MSF has been providing medical and mental health support to migrants and refugees crossing into or stranded in Serbia since 2014.

Despite the official closure of the ‘Balkan route’ in 2016, refugees and migrants continue to travel through Serbia and other Balkan states on their way to other countries in Europe. Many end up stranded, squatting in abandoned buildings, exposed to harsh weather conditions and with no access to healthcare.

Stranded in Serbia

MSF provides medical and humanitarian support, including erecting tents in order to accommodate the most vulnerable people during the winter months. In March 2017, MSF opened a clinic in Belgrade, offering primary medical and mental healthcare.

Teams also started mental health activities outside the two main camps in the Belgrade area, where they have identified a worrying increase in numbers of people showing symptoms of distress, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, especially among those who are left with no alternative but to wait in administrative and legal limbo.

With the EU/Turkey deal and the official closure of the Balkan road, the EU has decided to turn the entire region into its own gatekeeper, in a bid to stem the flow of those seeking protection from some of today’s most active warzones

Stefano Argenziano
Médecins Sans Frontières’ operations coordinator on migration

Meanwhile, people trying to cross borders experienced violence and abuse allegedly perpetrated by border guards of multiple European countries, who use unnecessary force to push them back. Injuries include dog bites, irritations from tear gas and pepper spray, or injuries from beatings.

MSF denounces the inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, and provides medical and mental health assistance to victims of such violence via mobile teams along the Hungarian and Croatian borders.

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