Those fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia are increasingly suffering from colds and the flu after days or weeks on the move in the rain and the mud -- and winter is on the way.
BAPSKA, Croatia (AP) — Doctors treated migrant children — including newborns — for exposure as dropping temperatures Monday worsened the plight of asylum-seekers walking for days trying to reach sanctuary in Europe.
One group of migrants crossed into Croatia near the small village of Bapska, walking through cornfields and forests late Sunday to pass through a small gate that marks the border with Serbia.
Vladimir Bozic, a physician from Doctors without Borders, said he had treated many young children for temperature-related illnesses.
“We saw a 1-month old baby, even (one just) 15 days,” Bozic said.
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Volunteers from the U.N. High Commissioner from Refugees handed out blankets, warm drinks and food to those fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Many are suffering in rising numbers from colds and the flu after days or weeks on the move in the rain and the mud.
“I expect even more, with the worsening of these cold conditions,” Bozic said. “Winter is coming.”
Migrants lined up at Croatia’s Opatovac transit center Monday to take trains out the country. About 78,000 asylum seekers have crossed into Croatia since Sept. 15, when Hungary closed its border with Serbia, diverting the migrants to Croatia.
Saed Al Mousawi, who fled from Afghanistan, said the drop in temperatures had made many feel unwell, especially the children. The route has been hard, but he’s determined to keep going.
“We have dreams to have a peaceful life, without war, without any other distractions,” he said.
Little peace remained, though, between Balkan rivals Serbia and Croatia. The two former Yugoslav nations, which were at war in the 1990s, imposed tit-for-tat border regulations last week before backing down and removing them under apparent pressure from the European Union.
Croatia has been accusing Serbia of sending thousands of migrants to its border instead of channeling them north to Hungary. On Monday, the two nations resumed sniping at each other.
Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, who is running for re-election, said he no longer wanted to speak to his Serb counterpart, Aleksandar Vucic, on the issue of migrants.
“We are dealing with a country that can be an organized state, but with a leadership which isn’t capable of making it,” Milanovic said. “They are not telling the truth, they are not sticking to the agreements.”
Vucic shot back that he would “speak even to the devil” if he thought that would be beneficial to Serbia and to regional stability.
“Maybe it’s not bad that the difference over the issue can now be openly seen,” he said.
Associated Press Writer Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia and Danica Kirka in Zagreb, Croatia, contributed to this story.