Frozen Afghan Boy Unable to Speak Found in Lojane

Marija Tasev

“We found him alone, sitting frozen and cramped in front of the Red Cross storage place in the village of Lojane. Who knows how cold he must have been and how he survived the bitterly cold night with only one blanket. He was already freezing when we went to him to give aid. Who knows how he might have ended up” – Sandra Tomovska, Red Cross Team Coordinator. The Red Cross has been active with mobile teams for some time now at the border region between Macedonia and Serbia, assisting refugees that are on the move there. The boy, who later stated to be 17, coming from Afghanistan, is just one of the most recent cases that this team managed to save. He was on the brink of exhaustion.

Across borders even at the expense of one’s life

The Afghan boy told that he entered Macedonia after having been deported from Serbia the night before; he walked all alone throughout the entire night across the forests near the Tabanovce border crossing. Upon entering the village, he was directed to the Red Cross storage place.

His face was gripped with fear and cold. He didn’t utter a word when we approached him. Of course, we warmed him up immediately, gave him food, new clothes and shoes and the boy recovered consciousness. Indeed, it is a miracle that he is alive, taking into account the fact that he crossed the border illegally and walked through mountains and forests. Yet, he is not the only returnee from Serbia into Macedonia. There are days when groups of women and small children are found almost frozen in the vicinity of the mining colony at Lojane. There are refugees that come to us on their own and seek assistance; it is then that we realise that they are desperate. They are so determined to leave, that when we offer them aid, water, they just shake their head and go their way” – says Sandra Tomovska while exploring the terrain with us, a terrain around Lojane village where refugees are on the move.

The young Afghan boy is currently accommodated at the reception-accommodation centre of Tabanovce, where he is being taken care of. Whether he plans to stay here or go back to Greece was something we did not manage to find out. When our team entered the Tabanovce centre to talk to him so that he retells us his odyssey, we were prevented by the social workers, that is, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy representatives. The justification provided was that they are his guardians now and that the mentioned Ministry decides whether a given journalist can speak to him.

Walking along the routes in the deep snow at the border crossing, where it is visible that people are transiting, the Red Cross team claims that the refugee movement across the borders is now not restricted to the direction of Serbia.

“If before we used to meet people that walked only northward, looking for a way to cross into Serbia at any rate, we now come across an increasing number of cases where people are crossing from Serbia into our territory. Perhaps they want to go back to Greece or spend the winter here and try to cross again into Serbia if the borders open in the meanwhile.” – state these humanitarian workers.

Eating dry corn

None of the locals in Vaksince and Lojane village touches upon the topic of refugees. The streets are almost empty and inaccessible. Only a few kids can be observed still enjoying sledging down the slopes in the snow. During our visit to the village, we did not notice any refugees in the houses. But rumour has it that refugees pay around 5 euros to overnight here.

Red Cross teams patrol in the area of the border villages every day. Not a day passes without almost one freezing refugee seeking aid.

“When we meet them, we accommodate some of them in the Tabanovce centre, and those in need of medical aid are taken to hospital. The border police is also helping us. We haven’t had a case where the border police saw that refugees are at risk without reporting it to us. Recently, the border police came across a family with 2 children and a mother in critical condition. They called us immediately and what we saw was devastating. The mother had suffered a miscarriage in the meantime, she had been in her fifth month of pregnancy, and when we found her, she was struggling for her life. We took care of her, took her to the doctor and saved her life. Once we put our jackets over the children, they fell asleep on the road where we found them. These are horrifying sights. “ – Tomovska states.

She goes on to mention a case where 2 starving refugees were found with corn in their hands.

“They had been eating dry corn for days. I truly don’t know how long this human ordeal will last” – Tomovska adds.

The Red Cross team counts 4 more girls, a doctor, a social worker, administrator and doctor-assistant. These brave girls are constantly at risk wandering around the border villages.

Just a few metres away from the Serbian border, we met border police teams, as well, who in -10 degrees Celsius are inspecting the area. The police have no shelter, except for the parked vehicles and a fire to somewhat warm up.

They claim that the refugees are still there and the extreme cold, snow or wild animals are not preventing their movement.

“They often walk as if they are lost, wandering, not knowing where the road takes them. Luckily, there are people helping.” – they stated.

Asking for help only if desperate

The abandoned mining colony, at the hill of the Lojane village, is a common place for overnighting of refugees, where they muster up the strength to continue the journey.

“When the weather conditions allow for it, we check all the caves in the proximity of the villages, all the stables and abandoned places, we walk for miles to meet those that need help. Even when we meet people, nobody discusses their plans or tells us where they are going. They ask for help only if they are desperate, on the verge of exhaustion and there is nowhere else to turn to. We also have a great deal of support from the local population as well, especially when there are children or a person at risk among the refugees. They direct them toward us. Our job is to help them.” – Tomovska states.

Source: Dnevnik