Despite border closures, smugglers move hundreds of refugees through Europe daily


Despite the closure and militarization of many of Europe’s borders, hundreds of refugees continue to enter using transnational smuggling networks in the Balkans. Reporter Andrew Connelly has more from the Serbian capital Belgrade.

In a muddy stretch of land in the Serbian capital, colloquially termed Afghan Park, smugglers and potential clients rub shoulders and illicit journeys to northern Europe are bought and sold. The lucrative black market transactions occur, appropriately, in the shadow of Belgrade University’s economics department.

Smuggling of refugees: Making profits on other people’s misfortune


Several thousand refugees in Serbia, after the closure of the West Balkan route they were passing through, is waiting for Europe to open the borders, or to try and reach the desired country with smugglers, risking their own lives. Refugees, whose number in Europe has not been this high since the Second World War, are finding ways to avoid border crossings because they cannot pass them legally. Smugglers are earning money on other people’s misfortune, and organized crime has been flourishing.

Migrations can not be stopped, closing borders pushes people into the hands of smugglers


Belgrade non-governmental organisation Atina has been fighting against human trafficking and all forms of gender-based violence since 2004, and dedicates a special place in their programmes to the assistance to refugees, and the protection and advocacy, especially of women and children refugees. In Kontrola leta, we talked with Jelena Hrnjak from NGO Atina.

NGO Atina for New York Times

Food being distributed at a refugee camp near Idomeni, Greece

ATHENS — Shortly after landing on the Greek island of Lesbos in a waterlogged dinghy from Turkey, Rahin Salami, an Afghan hoping to reach Germany, boarded a ferry for the port of Piraeus, near Athens. Halfway through the ride, he later recounted, a man in a black jacket approached.

Life as a female refugee: 'You don't know who to trust'


In a European transit camp, women and girls explain why they feel safer sleeping out in the cold.

"We never sleep [at the same time]. One of us always stays awake. We've heard too many stories of women who have been robbed," says 38-year-old Samaher from Baghdad. She has a soft voice and sad, dark eyes. 

Three weeks ago she fled Iraq with her baby boy and two female friends.  

Now she is at the transit camp of Vinojug on the Macedonian-Greek border, waiting for the train to Serbia.

Fear is still driving refugees to the West


FEAR is driving thousands of people into the hands of traffickers.

They are desperate to escape war, poverty and oppression, but are afraid Europe will shut the gates to safety at any moment.

In the controlled chaos of a transit centre in south Serbia, on the border with Macedonia, their faces show the strain, even if they know the worst is over.

Four thousand people passed through the centre in a single day last month as the migrant wave shows no signs of letting up, despite the -5°C temperatures at night.