Military and special police forces guard the Serbian border with Macedonia. “No, everything is quiet and peaceful,” says an officer.“We have bigger problems,” he motions to the mountains, beyond which stretches Kosovo – a country Serbia doesn’t recognise.
Over the 8 kilometer stretch refugees travel from Macedonia to Serbia – although, the flow has decreased dramatically since Macedonian government forbade access to non Iraqi, Syrian or Afghan nationals. “This is probably the last long walk they’ll have to do,” says Marta Behdrendt, one of over 100 international volunteers.
Presevo, in the most southerly part of Serbia, is surrounded on three sides by Macedonia and Kosovo. In this one of Serbia’s most deprived regions, refugees are met with minarets – over 90% of the people here are Albanian Muslims.
“Supporting refugees became trendy, at the beginning no one wanted to help,” laughs Abdula Ahmedi, who works for a Serbian NGO – “Now the local people and businesses compete who will help and donate more.”
Some Serbians and Albanians don’t miss the chance to profit from the exhausted families – illegal taxis transfer from the border to the town, where trains and buses go to Croatia for 15 and 30 euros respectively, or they take the refugees themselves to the Croatian border for more than 600 euros.
“We have money, but we don’t have safety,” says a girl from Afghanistan, when asked what she thinks about the irrational anger in Europe, that refugees with smartphones don’t need help.
“They have money, we don’t; We have passports, they don’t,” says a volunteer Harris, German-Bosnian, whose family fled from the 90s war. Marta, a German-Serbian who was also a refugee, adds: “I understand these people very well, we all lived through the same.”