Refugees in the mud in Opatovac

Crisis reached yet another village in the region. Upon hearing reports from Croatian volunteers we drove to the village of Opatovac with donations from Oltalom Karitatív Egyesület (Shelter Charity Association) and we saw a dreadful state of affairs.

Association staff set off yesterday to take a van full of donations to Opatovac. A generous donor provided a van and a driver; donations were collected in the Association’s storage units and we purchased groceries and basic hygienic products on the way.

We were agitated to see that the reports were indeed true. There were tens of thousands of refugees, among them many children waiting in horrible circumstances in the temporary camp. It became obvious what experts meant when they said new arrivals into the region were  to be poorer and presumably had significantly less money to spend on transport and food. They probably had been travelling a long while and likely had lived in worse circumstances originally than refugees who came before them.

As usual, news crews had discovered the new area of crisis sooner than charity organisations. The lack of volunteers and donations were blatantly obvious at first glance.

The local Red Cross welcomed our donation with delight and gratitude, they began to distribute the goods as soon as the van stopped. It was clear right away that the volunteers lacked resources to properly take care of the refugees. There was next to nothing in the storage tent, according to a social worker member of our group it was disastrously little for such a big crowd of people. They were working on setting up more tents for the refugees in the area where autumn downpours turned the site into a sea of mud. Staff of the Croatian Red Cross and the local police were doing a great job in the camp as well as in the region, they were patient and humane.

Refugees patiently waited in the cold and the rain to be allocated a place to sleep then to proceed with their journey. The Croatian-Hungarian border is to be closed in the next few days (we saw several signs of it) and tens of thousands may get stuck in Opatovac indefinitely, in these horrible circumstances; the situation may eventually turn into a catastrophe.

Text: Anna KERTÉSZ, a volunteer and reporter
Photo: MTI – Zoltán BALOGH

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