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What's it like bathing in sub-zero temperatures? A refugee explains.


What's it like bathing in sub-zero temperatures? A refugee explains.

WATCH | An Afghan refugee describes living conditions in Serbia

We never thought it would be bad like this. But we have no other way. We must keep trying because we have too many problems in Afghanistan.

When Abdul Saboor fled Afghanistan, he never imagined he would end up in Serbia, sleeping in sub-zero temperatures. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates he is among 1,500 refugees and migrants living in abandoned warehouses in the Serbian capital of Belgrade.

Eating On The Ground.jpg

Save the Children estimates as many as 300 children are at risk of freezing to death.  

The barracks are completely derelict building with no windows. It's completely unfit for human living.
Mirjana Milenkovski, UNHCR in Serbia

Doing what it takes to stay warm

In addition to hypothermia and frostbite, smoke inhalation is a problem. To stay warm inside the warehouses where they sleep, residents burn whatever they get their hands on, including tires - which are toxic.

What's it like bathing in sub-zero temperatures? A refugee explains.

"Many people haven't taken showers in as many as four months because they don't have a place to [privately]," Saboor says.  

Others brave the cold, washing themselves in unsanitary water that's been heated over a fire. 

Saboor provided Circa with these photos he took with his phone that show living conditions for refugees in Belgrade. 

Turned away at the border

Saboor is determined to make it to Western Europe. He said he paid a smuggler the equivalent of $8,000 to get him from Afghanistan to Germany, but he said he was abandoned along the way. Since then, Saboor has tried nearly a dozen times to cross the border from Serbia to Croatia, only to be turned away by border guards each time.


Saboor's experience is far from unique. Since November, an estimated 1,600 migrants have been illegally forced back across the borders of Balkan countries in what Save the Children calls "a disregard for human rights." 

We did document people that accused people of kicking them, of punching them, of hitting them with batons.
Bill Frelick

Punching, kicking, hitting 

Human Rights Watch and other humanitarian organizations have documented cases of asylum seekers being turned away -- often with violence.

In the meantime, refugees like Saboor are stuck in a waiting pattern in Serbia, hoping to have their asylum claims processed or find more permanent shelter. 

"We must keep trying," he said.

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