DOCUMENT TAGS Start Response
MERF Project Summary - Alert 01 Serbia (Winterisation)
27 February 2018
The Migration Emergency Response Fund (MERF), funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), was established in January 2017 in partnership with the 15 member representatives of the Start Network present in the region.
The MERF allows member organisations to react to a significant change of needs, or provide assistance to previously unidentified vulnerable groups. Its aim is to address the unpredictable nature of the mixed migration crisis across the Mediterranean that exacerbated an already difficult operating context for aid workers and made it difficult to plan for a response.
In early January, around 2,000 migrants/refugees were living outside the state reception system in Serbia. In Belgrade alone, around 1,400-1,500 migrants/refugees were sleeping rough in the central parks and abandoned warehouses around the central bus and railway station in winter temperatures below -10°C. Volunteer organisations working with refugees in the north of Serbia (Subotica, including Horgoš and Kelebija) reported that over 200 migrants/refugees were hiding in makeshift camps in the woods and secluded places along the Hungarian border.
The situation was exacerbated by the fact that Serbian authorities, namely the Serbian Commissariat for Refugees and Migrants, were strongly advising all present non governmental organisations and organisations to stop distributions and support to migrants/refugees outside of the state sponsored asylum system, in an attempt to lower the number of people sleeping rough in public areas in Belgrade. This was found to be particularly worrying for new arrivals.
Through its local partner, the Mikser Association, Oxfam responded to this situation with procurement and distribution of over 15,000 essential non-food items (NFI). Distribution of the items was carried out at Miksalište, Mikser's distribution and service centre for refugees and migrants in Belgrade and in Subotica area. This system prevented crowds forming and the unwanted attention of the public and authorities which may have affected implementation. On 4th February, the initial quantity of 100 winterisation kits was transported to Subotica and stored in the warehouse of an international volunteer organisation, Fresh Response