Refugee situation: Rapid and flexible assistance along the Balkan route

10.11.2015 – Mobile teams are in operation. GIZ is also assisting municipalities along the transit route that are finding their capacities stretched.

Refugee flows to northern and western Europe are currently building up at the Croatian, Slovenian and Hungarian borders. On their arduous journey, the refugees have already passed through Macedonia and Serbia. Take the Gevgelija border crossing in Macedonia. Up to 10,000 people arrive here every day, waiting hours to pass through, which could turn into days as winter approaches. Mobile teams from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH are working on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to provide assistance to particularly needy refugees at the hotspots in Macedonia and Serbia.

The social workers, psychologists, interpreters and assistants in the teams offer advice and support to those on the move, including pregnant women, families and the disabled, and hand out tea and waterproof jackets. There are eight teams in total with some 35 staff, several of them working on a shift basis. They coordinate their activities with the aid organisations on the ground and the relevant municipalities.

In addition to working directly with the refugees, GIZ is also assisting the overstretched municipalities along the transit routes. This is where its long-standing experience of on-site cooperation makes the difference. James Macbeth oversees GIZ’s work with refugees in this region: ‘We meet with those in positions of responsibility to find out exactly what their needs are and where the problems lie. For instance whether waste-management, sewerage, water-supply and waste-water-management systems are able to cope with the additional demand.’

Work is being done to improve waste collection and disposal at landfills. New waste containers have been purchased for the affected communities, funding provided to subsidise repairs to a faulty waste-collection truck, and additional vehicles hired at short notice to meet demand. Diggers and bulldozers are set to be deployed at the landfills in the near future.