Slovenia: People in transit in urgent need of assistance

Thousands of people are entering Slovenia each day from different points along the border with Croatia. While some are staying in overcrowded transit centres, others are forced to spend nights in the open, sleeping in fields. Teams from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are currently working alongside the Slovenian Ministry of Health in the transit camp of Brezice, while  increasing their provision of humanitarian aid elsewhere in the area.

Since Hungary closed its borders, refugees heading for Germany and northern Europe are taking a route through Serbia, Croatia and then Slovenia. Although Slovenian authorities were prepared for their arrival, the recent massive influx of people has been overwhelming, with up to five times more new arrivals than expected. Up to 6,000 people are arriving daily at entry points into Slovenia, when there is the capacity only to accommodate 2,500 people across the entire country. As a result, thousands of people are staying in overcrowded conditions at Brezice transit centre or sleeping in the open around Brezice and in fields in Rigonce and Dobova, in the east of the country, without access to shelter, food or sanitation facilities. This is having an impact on both their mental and physical health, and is leaving aid agencies struggling to deliver medical aid to every person in need. With temperatures falling as winter approaches, the situation is deteriorating fast.

People are exhausted

An MSF medical team has been supporting the Slovenian Ministry of Health at Brezice transit centre since 21 October. Thousands of people, including families with young children and the elderly and disabled, are spending nights out of doors around Brezice transit camp with no shelter to protect them from the cold.

“People are extremely exhausted and there’s nothing here for them,” says MSF nurse Sandra Miller. “They sleep in the cold and have no place to stay, no warm food, nothing.”

Currently, the team is mainly treating people for exhaustion, hypothermia, respiratory infections and flu symptoms. “From a medical point of view, what people need most is a heated shelter and some warm soup,” says MSF doctor Susanna McAllister.

Growing numbers of new arrivals

After assessing the situation in the Brezice area on 24 October, MSF will increase its medical and logistical support, providing medical care and helping to improve living conditions, increase the transit capacity and reduce tensions in the camps.

The number of new arrivals is expected to grow, as between 10,000 and 15,000 people are currently arriving in Greece each day, and are likely to take the Balkan route to continue their journey to northern Europe.

Humanitarian crisis

“The lack of coordination between EU countries is creating a humanitarian crisis,” says Margaretha Maleh, president of MSF Austria. “These people have a right to dignity and to get basic humanitarian assistance along their journey, including a warm and dry place to stay, proper food, hot showers and medical attention.”