Naasan, a Syrian refugee, clings to his four-year-old son, Muhamad. He and his wife lost the boy in a crowd at the border between Serbia and Croatia. It took four days, but UNHCR and Red Cross staff on both sides of the border worked together to reunite the boy with his parents. © UNHCR / Mark Henley
A mother and her children huddle under blankets in the mud at the Serbian border with Croatia. UNHCR distributes blankets and tents to help refugees keep warm, especially women, children and the elderly. © UNHCR / Mark Henley
Gabriel*, who was an English teacher in Syria, contracted polio as a child and walks with crutches. UNHCR staff pulled him from the line of those waiting to register at the Presevo reception centre in Serbia to check on his needs. *not his real name © UNHCR / Mark Henley
Gabriel* receives assistance at the medical unit at Presevo reception centre in Serbia. Refugees and migrants must pass through Presevo to register. They also receive clothing, food and medical treatment. *not his real name © UNHCR / Mark Henley
Ismail, an 80-year-old refugee from Syria, sits in his wheelchair outside a tent at Vinojug reception centre in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. He is waiting for the rest of his family, which includes 23 people spanning three generations. The family will receive food, clothing and medical help. © UNHCR / Mark Henley
Diana, a UNHCR protection officer, searches the crowd at the Berkasovo border, between Serbia and Croatia, for vulnerable people who need immediate help, including pregnant women, mothers with young children, the elderly and people with disabilities or serious illness. © UNHCR / Mark Henley
An Afghan woman wears a surgical mask for warmth while waiting at the Serbian border with Croatia. © UNHCR / Mark Henley
More than 705,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean Sea this year, including 562,000 in Greece. In many places strict border management procedures are now in place. Refugees are not allowed to cross for a certain time in order to avoid overcrowding and to wait until transit centers have capacity to receive more refugees. This creates backlogs, which can in turn lead to frustration, frayed tempers and more confusion.
It is a miserable wait. As ever, the most vulnerable—young, old, women and disabled—are at most risk.
To address this situation, UNHCR has called for a series of stabilization measures, including strong support to countries hosting the vast majority of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees; an information campaign about the dangers of the sea journey; and the development of legal pathways to seek protection in Europe.
By: Céline Schmitt