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Hungry, destitute and cold, they are often visited by Serbian men who offer to pay them for sex - knowing some are so desperate that they will do anything to survive. Hundreds of child migrants have arrived in Serbia since last year, traveling for months to escape fighting and poverty in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria. Like Ali, many are stuck in Serbia unable to continue their journeys to Western Europe because of snow and closed borders, having spent most of their money on smugglers who got them this far.
Around 7, migrants live in Serbia, the U. Save the Children estimates that 10 percent of migrants in Serbia are unaccompanied minors. The charity said it had not heard reports of lone child migrants selling sex in the country. Serbia, which is not part of the European Union, was a focal point for migrants last year, when hundreds of thousands of migrants traveled through the Balkans to reach Western Europe.
Although that route was closed off last March, Serbian authorities estimate a further , migrants have passed through the country, many using smugglers to cross Serbia and its barbed-wire border with Hungary. The eldest son in his family, Navid said he fled to Europe for a better life after suicide bombings devastated his hometown in northeast Afghanistan. If you go to school, they plant bombs and kill people.
His bed, a dirty rug on a concrete floor, is in stark contrast to the heated, government-run refugee centers where some 6, migrants live, mostly women and children. The two teenage boys said the warehouse was their only choice and they feared deportation if they looked for shelter at state-run migrant centers. But with the borders closed and around migrants arriving each day, Serbian centers are reaching breaking point, says aid agency CARE International.
Bucan said the poor living conditions outside of official camps as well as deportation fears are pushing many desperate migrants into the hands of smugglers and human traffickers. Despite a traumatic journey that has left him afraid for his life, Ali said he intended to use a smuggler to get him to Calais in France and onto Britain. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, global land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, women's rights, climate change and resilience.