2022-23 Trócaire Annual ReportLearn More
By Joanne O’Flanagan, Trócaire Humanitarian Coordinator
A group of people sit huddled beside tents, their meagre possessions gathered into plastic bags by their feet. Children stand patiently as mothers divide small amounts of food into even smaller portions.
Beside them, the city traffic roars by; commuters on their way to work looking quizzically at refugees taking a break on their long and dangerous journey to Europe.
Since the war in Syria started, I have met many Syrian families forced to live in tents on the side of roads in Lebanon and Jordan, but this was the first time I had seen these scenes in Europe.
I was in Belgrade as part of Trócaire’s partnership with Caritas Serbia, who have launched an appeal to help 100,000 refugees who are making their way through the country on their way into Europe. Trócaire is working with Caritas Serbia to provide food, water, hygiene items, medical services and other aid to refugees, most of whom have made their way into the country from Syria.
Refugees in Belgrade as they make their way through Serbia in the hope of reaching the EU.
About 15,000 people cross Serbia every day in the hope of reaching the European Union through Hungary.
The decision of the Hungarian government to close its border with Serbia is leading to a build-up of refugees in Serbia. Our partners in the country will need more support as they try to deal with the situation.
Supporting refugees in Serbia is the latest response from Trócaire to the tragedy that has befallen the Syrian people over the last four and a half years.
We are working in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, providing vital support to 93,000 people who are fleeing from or affected by the war.
The area close to the bus station in Belgrade has become a temporary home for refugees, most of whom come from Syria.
While this crisis has only begun to be given serious attention in Europe over the last couple of weeks, people in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan have been assisting Syrian refugees since 2011. Trócaire has for several years been warning that these countries cannot cope – Lebanon is a country the size of Munster with 1.3 million Syrian refugees. The situation facing that country alone puts the situation facing Europe into context.
There are no easy solutions to this crisis, but the fundamental reality is that every person has a legal right to claim asylum. That right is protected in both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, both of which were adopted following World War II in order to protect European refugees.
European countries who close borders and refuse to offer shelter to people fleeing war are turning a blind eye to their own history.
Refugee crisis: What you can do