After reaching Greece, most migrants and refugees in 2015 travelled onwards along the Balkan Route, hoping to make western Europe their final destination.
People left Greece to travel through the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and on to Serbia from where they crossed into Hungary, Croatia or Slovenia – depending on where the borders were open – and north into Austria and beyond. MSF provided over 40,000 medical consultations to people along the way, often treating conditions caused by their gruelling journeys and a lack of adequate shelter and sanitation.
MSF deployed mobile teams in Serbia, so they could assist people as they moved across the country. At the border with FYROM, MSF worked in Miratovac and Preševo, where up to 4,000 people waited to be registered without shelter in poor weather conditions, MSF set up a clinic and provided basic and mental healthcare near the registration centre as well as at a transit camp near the border. Teams distributed relief items such as washing kits, food, tents, blankets and raincoats, while medical staff treated people suffering from common colds, respiratory tract infections and hypothermia. MSF also supported rubbish collection, set up toilets and offered transportation to disabled people and vulnerable families. In November, a team rehabilitated a 1.5-kilometre road, enabling thousands of people to proceed in greater safety, and set up toilets and six heated tents providing shelter for up to 270 people. Between June and December, the team completed 9,184 medical consultations.
In Belgrade, care was provided to refugees in two parks close to the train and bus stations. The team carried out 3,950 medical consultations between April and September.
Some nights, up to 3,000 people waited in line to be registered or they were stranded at the border with Croatia and had to sleep outside. Mobile clinics assisted people at the crossing points, for example at Sid, where teams inside the transit centre offered consultations as they waited for the train. MSF also set up eight large heated tents providing shelter for more than 2,000 people at the new transit points designated by the authorities. Between mid-September and early December, over 15,200 medical consultations were carried out.
In September, MSF started running a mobile clinic in the border town of Röszke, where between 2,000 and 4,000 people crossed from Serbia each day. Medical care was provided to 400 people in four days, until a wire fence was erected and the border was closed on 14 September. People then diverted west to Croatia, until that border was also closed on 17 October and they diverted again, this time to Slovenia.
Most of the patients in Röszke were children with respiratory problems, pregnant women, and men with infected wounds caused by the long journey on foot and climbing over fences.
Slovenia and Croatia
In September and October, between 10,000 and 15,000 people per day were arriving in Slovenia and Croatia, most of them families. Due to a lack of coordination between the two countries, Slovenia’s reception centres were overwhelmed and unable to cope with the first influx of refugees. MSF supported the Ministry of Health at the Brežice transit centre on Slovenia’s border with Croatia in October and November, providing around-the-clock medical assistance to people entering Slovenian territory until trains were organised from Croatia to transport them directly to the Slovenian–Austrian border for onward travel. In Croatia, MSF teams set up a clinic in a transit camp about 15 kilometres from Tovarnik, near the Croatian border with Serbia, providing healthcare to refugees who were waiting to be transferred to Hungary. Around 5,000 people attended the clinic each day.