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Tzu chi volunteers in Europe have continued to care for the refugees at the Obrenovac Refugee Camp in Serbia. Seeing that most of them had worn out their shoes, volunteers recently purchased more than 1,300 pairs of slippers and distributed some 700 pairs to the refugees at this camp.
For average people, these pairs of shoes, which are worn out, should have been discarded. But for the refugees who are stranded in Serbia, these shoes are the only things that can protect their feet.
Bangkok is home to roughly 8,000 urban refugees and asylum seekers, primarily originating from Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. As a non-signatory of the 1951 Geneva convention and the 1967 protocol, Thailand, with strict anti-immigration laws and government checkpoints, has become a harsh environment for the refugees and asylum-seekers, as they relentlessly face fears of detention and have no means of supporting themselves through employment.
Due to the closed borders of Europe, many refugees, especially from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan are stuck in refugee camps on the boarders to Croatia. As these camps were only temporarily made for lay overs on their way to Europe, they were not built to hold many people for a long time.
As Serbia itself is in difficult situation, they try to do their best to feed and shelter the thousands of refugees who are now in Serbia. Many NGOs including Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation do their best to help.
According to the Republic of Serbia Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, there are more than five thousand refugees mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq reside in Serbia currently. As frigid winter reaching, Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi foundation response to refugee urgent need for life-sustaining warmth by distributing winter cloth sets and instant rice hot meals.
Following the full closure of the Balkan transit route on March 8th and the EU-Turkey Agreement coming into effect on March 20th in the continuing refugee/migrant crisis in Europe, tens of thousands of asylum seekers are still currently stranded along the Balkan route countries with uncertain future. A total of 88 Tzu Chi Volunteers from 15 countries have served in Šid, Serbia for these refugees for more than a month, providing not only winter clothing sets, daily necessities, ready-to-eat meals and instant rice meals, as well as love and compassion that warmed the hearts of the refugees.
Civil war has been an everyday life for many who live in Syria with more than four million people having fled the country and more than half of the population becoming displaced from their homes. Whether fleeing by water or over land, the journey of these Syrian refugees is filled with hardship, having to pass through a country in a state of war, making it past bombing and gunfire, and then crossing rough seas and national borders, each step of their journey filled with trauma and danger.
The Syrian Civil War started in 2011 and is still ongoing, creating a huge humanitarian and migrant crisis that has spilled over to many surrounding areas. The European migrant crisis began in 2015 and is still ongoing as millions of refugees stream into the European Union and Turkey. Now that borders are starting to close down many refugees are stuck in refugee camps in places like Serbia. Tzu Chi volunteers along with agents of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees carried out relief efforts in Šid, Serbia.
Shortly following the EU-Turkey Summit on March 7th, Macedonia, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia have announced the closure of borders to the transiting refugees hoping to seek asylum in the northern European states. This created not only a bottleneck of refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border, but also stranded asylum seekers along the Balkan route countries, including a total of 2000 migrants remaining within the Serbian borders.
In the continual worsening situation of the European refugee crisis, more than 200,000 refugees mostly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have entered Serbia from the Macedonia border since June last year. Near the end of December 2015, Tzu Chi Foundation has learned that Serbia desperately requires humanitarian aids to support the daily arrival of asylum seekers numbering up to an average of 2000 people per day, most of whom are in desperate need of winter clothing and sanitary supplies following a long, cold and arduous journey.
According to a 2015 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), some 795 million people in the world still do not have enough food to lead healthy active life, with the majority in developing countries. At the same time, disasters are happening through out the world almost every day. Global food shortage is becoming a serious issue.
As civil war ravages Syria, the country’s men, women, and children have been seeking refuge in nearby countries as a means of escaping their harsh reality in their own home. With the record-breaking influx of refugees arriving in Germany in 2015, Tzu Chi Foundation has taken the initiative to assist the refugees and their families, mainly those living in Soest. Under the supervision of the German Government, governmental and non-governmental organizations like Tzu Chi set up service locations to take care of refugees, providing counseling and consultation services to the refugees.
Language is one of the biggest obstacles for refugees to overcome. With only escape on their minds, refugees flee from their homes with little time to prepare for a new life in another country, and learning a new language was a low priority. As a result, refugees struggle to become accustomed to their new life in a new country. In a meeting on July 21, 2015, the Soest government requested that Tzu Chi provides a German language class for refugees. After discussing with volunteer Shu Wei, Tzu Chi volunteers visited the refugees for assessing the needs in the refugee camps.