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Feeding the fearful on the refugee frontline

It’s 35C, the smell of teargas is clearing and hundreds of refugees are in an orderly queue for food from a Tearfund partner.

Mark Lang | 22 Sep 2015

Photo: Horvathne Lovas Ildiko/Tearfund

  Mark Lang

It’s 35°C, the smell of teargas is clearing and hundreds of refugees are in an orderly queue for food from a Tearfund partner.

The supplies are appreciated by a band of people who have been stuck on a Serbian road to the Hungarian border for over a day, their progress blocked by riot police with water cannons.

For now these refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea are in a waiting game, with tents springing up on crowded verges as people hunker down.

Photo: Horvathne Lovas Ildiko/Tearfund

Facing an uncertain future - refugees on the Serbian side of the border with Hungary. Photos: Horvathne Lovas Ildiko/Tearfund

Some have leg and foot injuries, betraying the arduous journeys they have taken, while others are reeling from the effects of teargas. What they don’t have is any information about what’s going to happen next.

Staff from Tearfund’s partner, Hungarian Baptist Aid, are working closely with refugees to provide them with the types of food they want, such as white bread, tinned fish and cream cheese, which are light, don’t take up too much room and can be consumed while on the move.

The end of summer sun in this part of Eastern Europe is still powerful, so water is also handed out to help keep people cool in the stifling heat, while mums receive nappies for their tired and bewildered kids.

Claire Tiffen, Tearfund’s Humanitarian Support Manager, said, ‘It was encouraging to see that our partner was meeting the basic needs of these people, who were pleased to receive food and water.

Photo: Horvathne Lovas Ildiko/Tearfund

Teargas, the heat and exhaustion take their toll, while others take shelter on the road. Photos: Horvathne Lovas Ildiko/Tearfund

‘We talked to a lot of people and there was a real sense of desperation and confusion after travelling so long to reach the border. But there remained a determination to continue their journeys, summed up by two men called Amar and Hago, a Muslim and a Christian, who had fled Syria three months ago. They kept saying: "Open the door".’

Tearfund, which continues to offer vital support to refugees in Lebanon and Jordan, is also supporting Middle East refugees in Greece.

On the streets of Athens, our partner Faros is planning to distribute vouchers which will enable refugee families to buy food in supermarkets.

Parents with young children and elderly people are sleeping in parks and squares, according to Danae Serafemidi from Faros.

‘Among them are young children who have lost their guardian on the way or who have made the journey on their own,’ said Danae. ‘They’re being exposed to trafficking and exploitation.

‘And this is just a glimpse of the Europe’s worst migration crisis since the Second World War.’

Here's how you can support our work helping Syria's refugees

Photo: Horvathne Lovas Ildiko/Tearfund

Food and water is handed out to hundreds of refugees by staff from our partner. Photos: Horvathne Lovas Ildiko/Tearfund

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