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In late 2014, a Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) team arrived in Serbia aware that thousands of migrants and asylum seekers were travelling through the country on their way to northern Europe.

The cold winter months posed a great risk to those people forced to sleep outside. MSF found that the undocumented migrants and asylum seekers were not being adequately registered and assisted due to their high numbers. Working with the authorities, MSF repaired, renovated and built toilet and shower facilities at two temporary asylum centres located in Sjenica and Tutin.

In December 2014, teams also began to provide medical assistance to migrants and asylum seekers in the village of Bogovadja, which is about 80 kilometres from the capital Belgrade, as well as in Subotica near the Hungarian border. An MSF team ran mobile clinics and distributed specially designed transit kits containing essential relief items to hundreds of people. The kits contained hygiene, food and survival items ranging from toothpaste to cooking pots and were designed to address the needs of people in transit. The most common health problems encountered by the team were respiratory and skin diseases – mostly due to the cold weather and poor sanitary conditions – and musculoskeletal injuries. There were also patients suffering from chronic illnesses such as hypertension and diabetes who were without the necessary medication; MSF gave them a supply to tide them over until they reached their next destination.

For more on refugees and migrants arriving in Europe, see Bulgaria, Italy and Greece.

Year MSF first worked in the country: 1991 |

Patient story

Afghan man – 27 years old

I had to cross many countries to come here: first Iran, then Turkey and finally Bulgaria. The border between Iran and Afghanistan was the most dangerous … I was also detained for two and a half months in Bulgaria. I have been here [Subotica] for four days, and every day I try to cross the border [to Hungary] but so far I have not succeeded. Each time I fail I have no choice but to come back here, there is nowhere else to go. It is very cold and I can barely sleep at night.