When you see a woman carrying a baby freezing in the open, you will turn away and leave only if you are a stony-hearted person, said a volunteer from the northern town of Tuzla helping the incoming migrants to overcome the troubles of homelessness.
The family of Gearang Begzadeh left Iran 16 months ago. After ten hours of desperate walk through Bosnia, they arrived at the Tuzla bus station to catch a bus to Sarajevo.
Their country is rich and beautiful, they said, but unbearable thanks to its authorities.
“We had problems in my country. We had problems with the government. Iran doesn't like women who want to go to court. Because of everything, we had to leave the country and go to another one,” said Begzadeh.
The Iranian family was accompanied by one from Afghanistan.
“My country's in a war. The bombs keep shelling, people are being attacked. There's no life for people in Afghanistan and that's a huge problem,” said a national of Afghanistan, Qais Razaei.
The first migrants arrived in Tuzla nine months ago. That is their transit spot, which they reach after crossing Bosnia's eastern border and passing the towns of Bijeljina, Zvornik, Sapna, Kalesija.
Once they reach Tuzla, the migrants are exhausted. Their only help are the citizens and volunteers who got organised through social networks.
“The picture you see when you come to the bus station at minus 6 degrees, while it is snowing. You see a pregnant woman in the seventh or eighth month, carrying another little baby, sitting in the open, starving, frozen, lightly dressed. You simply have to react. If you're stony-hearted, you will turn away and leave,” said Edis Mesanovic, a volunteer.
The volunteers have warned that institutions are ignoring this problem.
“There is no state institutions that we did not contact. They're ignoring this problem and it goes in their favour that the refugees are not willing to stay long in Tuzla. We, volunteers, prevented huge harm many times,” said Nihad Suljic, also a volunteer.
The migrants come from various countries – from Pakistan, Eritrea to Morocco, Algeria. They are of various religions and ethnicities. They walk a thorny path and their biggest wish is to reach the western Europe countries, to start a normal life.
“After (we left) Greece, we came to Serbia. We encountered big problems. There are no major problems in Bosnia but we do have trouble because we have to walk, we have no transportation, we got nothing. But people are very generous here, they help our group, give us food, everything. We like the people in Bosnia,” said Razaei.
Tuzla Canton police recorded no incident involving the migrants every since their first arrival in this town. According to official figures, 1,714 migrants were registered in Tuzla area and 153 since the beginning of 2019. Volunteers believe this number is much higher as the migrants often leave Tuzla before the authorities register them.