An increasing number of migrants, including many children, get stranded in Serbia as shelters overflow and conditions deteriorate, 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. Mia Womersley reports.
More than 7000 migrants are trapped in Serbia, bracing for the cold winter in overcrowded camps in terrible conditions. Most hail from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. They are forced to set up tents on the street or abandoned warehouses, living for months without basic amenities, mostly limited to a single tap of water, waiting to have their number called up for legal passage to Hungary. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) LIBYAN MIGRANT, FARUQ, SAYING: "We came to Serbia and registered our names at the camp, expecting to be able to leave legally. When we got to the border we found that there was no electricity, no water, it is very cold, the children are freezing, there's no food, we have to buy things from the supermarket but we are running out of money, we've been here for seven months. There is no justice." The so-called Balkans route has been officially closed. Activists and NGOs say many shelters in the Balkans are full, but the stream of people arriving to cross the border is relentless. (SOUNDBITE) (English) "SAVE THE CHILDREN" ACTIVIST, TANJA RISTIC, SAYING: "According to our knowledge, there is around, up to 100 arrivals per day. We're meeting and supporting 30-50 new people per day in Belgrade and Presevo (refugee camp on Serbia's border with Macedonia)." Only around 20 migrants are allowed to enter Hungary each day. The rest are left behind at this overcrowded Belgrade centre. Save the Children provides activities for boys and girls. Serbia has pledged to make 6,000 beds available, but has appealed for more help from the European Union to ease the crisis.