Kindness that warms the heart and soul
New non-food item packages donated in Krnjaca Asylum Centre
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Belgrade, 6 December 2022 – “I have this new jacket now and I can stay outside longer and play with my friends,” nine-year-old Sara from Iran says proudly. She arrived at the Asylum Centre in Krnjaca in November with her mother and sister. Sara wants to be a doctor when she grows up. But right now, she’s very happy. Children need so little. Her younger sister, two-and-a-half-year-old Zulfa, wants to carry, in her small arms, all the clothes she received – a jacket, boots, tracksuit, t-shirts, and underwear.
Their mother Limu left Iran 8 years ago and has been on a dangerous and difficult journey ever since, first with Sara and then with Zulfa too. She knows just how important it is that her children are ready to face the winter months - to always have warm clothes and shoes and to be healthy and safe.
“For years we’ve faced hunger, cold, crossing the most dangerous borders, sleeping in forests. Winter is starting now, and it’s best to stay here at the Centre in Krnjaca for a while. Everything the children have received now means a lot because we don’t have the money to buy it for them,” explains Limu.
Apart from Sara and Zulfa, winter clothing is being distributed to an additional 58 children who are staying at the Krnjaca Asylum Centre.
A crowd is slowly forming outside the building where the winter clothes are being handed out. Patiently waiting in line are several families from Burundi, a mother with five children from Mongolia, boys from Afghanistan.
Among them are six-year-old Visam and two-year-old Zakariye with their mom Ala. She came to Serbia from Syria four years ago, together with her older son and her husband. Her younger son, Zakariye, was born in Serbia. Both boys know Serbian but are too shy to speak it. In their stead, their mom Ala shows us what they have received, with tears in her eyes.
Now they have matching blue T-shirts and tracksuits, grey jackets underwear, winter boots with wool lining. This means a lot to us for the winter, says Ala.
Next week, the three of them are leaving for Austria where their dad is waiting for them. These clothes will keep them warm on their journey this cold December.
A boy with curly black hair runs out of the crowd and shouts: “Mine, mine, look!” He is carrying little boots in his arms and showing them to everyone. Everyone at the Centre knows him. His name is Ferhad, he is two and a half years old and has been in Krnjaca for three months with his mother Rihad and his older brother Ali.
It’s important that they have these clothes, as it’s going to be colder soon, and the kids want to be outside. My older son Ali is now a big boy, and he likes going for walks in the city, says Rihad.
She left Iraq 9 years ago and she also knows what a difficult journey looks like and how important it is for children to have warm clothes and shoes.
This year alone, according to official data, around 99,000 refugees and migrants entered Serbia, which is 100 per cent more than last year. There are around 6,500 refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in reception and asylum centres at any given moment, of which 250 are children. Most of them are in transit to Western Europe, which means that they are constantly on the road and therefore at a higher risk of getting ill or injured. That is why the biggest challenge, especially during winter, is to provide children with enough warm clothes, shoes, and hygiene products.
UNICEF recognizes this as a priority and, together with the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration of the Republic of Serbia and the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, has been providing winter clothing for children in families, as well as for unaccompanied boys and girls, since the start of the refugee and migrant crisis in 2015. This is important for their health and safety, as well as to allow them to engage in everyday activities, including going to school and staying outdoors.
Every year, the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration of the Republic of Serbia, in cooperation with UNICEF, provides children with clothes for the winter, because it’s the most difficult period for refugees and migrants. We also work together on delivering hygiene packages, nappies for babies and other things depending on needs, says Djurdja Surlan, Manager of the Asylum Centre in Krnjaca.
Like in previous years, winter shoes and clothes are being distributed to all girls and boys staying in reception and asylum centres and in three child protection institutions in Belgrade and Nis.
Ensuring access to adequate clothing, shoes and hygiene products is only one part of UNICEF’s programme for children on the move. UNICEF is also providing technical assistance and guidelines in the field of protection, education, health and nutrition to the state and other stakeholders through coordination, trainings of professionals. Moreover, women and children on the move have direct access to psychosocial support and protection services to ensure that children from the most vulnerable groups have access to all rights in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.