Migrants in Belgrade endure week in nasty weather

It was a week in frigid hell for hundreds of migrants squatting in an abandoned warehouse in the Serbian capital of Belgrade while trying to move on toward Western Europe.

When the weather suddenly turned nasty before Orthodox Christmas Eve on Jan. 6, temperatures plummeted way below 0 C (32 F) and a cold wind pushed into every corner of the makeshift migrant shelter.

Men and boys occupying the sprawling complex — a vast crumbling building with few windows or doors — found themselves in danger of exposure while aid groups scrambled to help.

Wrapped in blankets, migrants huddled next to each other, desperately trying to warm up by the fires they lit inside and outside the warehouse.

A search for firewood became a morning routine — migrants chopped branches from frozen trees or burned old wooden railway tiles they picked from the abandoned tracks by the warehouse.

Thick, choking smoke filled the warehouse. Migrants said two people have been hospitalized with respiratory problems from inhaling the smoke.

Muhammad Yusuf Navid from Afghanistan said he couldn't sleep at night: "It is too bad, too cold. I did not sleep for one hour."

At lunchtime every day, hundreds of migrants lined up, with a blizzard brushing wind and snow against their faces, to receive a warm meal distributed by aid groups.

Holding plastic dishes, the men looked for a quiet corner or squatted in the snow to eat the meal of cooked cabbage or beans. Some melted the snow to wash themselves despite the freeze.

Migrants appealed to European nations to open their borders — graffiti on one wall of the Belgrade warehouse reads: "The problem is borders."


In this Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017 photo, a migrant washes himself outside a crumbling warehouse that has served as a makeshift shelter in Belgrade, Serbia. When the weather suddenly turned nasty, it sent temperatures plummeting way below zero and cold wind started to blow pushing into every corner of the make-shift migrant shelter. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

In this Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 photo, a migrant warms up by a fire inside a crumbling warehouse that has served as a make-shift shelter for hundreds of men trying to reach Western Europe in Belgrade, Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

In this Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 photo, migrants squat in the snow as they eat warm meals distributed by aid groups as others queue for their portion outside a crumbling warehouse that has served as a makeshift shelter in Belgrade, Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

In this Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 photo, two migrants carry a wooden railway track to use as firewood inside a crumbling warehouse that has served as a make-shift shelter for hundreds of men trying to reach Western Europe in Belgrade, Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

In this Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017 photo, migrants queue for food in front of an abandoned warehouse in Belgrade, Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

In this Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 photo, a migrant walks through a crumbling warehouse that has served as a make-shift shelter for hundreds of men wishing to reach Western Europe, in Belgrade, Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

In this Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 photo, a migrant walks through a crumbling warehouse that has served as a make-shift shelter for hundreds of men wishing to reach Western Europe, in Belgrade, Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

In this Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017 photo, a migrant eats donated food in front of an abandoned warehouse in Belgrade, Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

In this Saturday, Jan. 14, 2017 photo, migrants wash themselves outside a crumbling warehouse that has served as a makeshift shelter in Belgrade, Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

In this Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017 photo, a migrant shaves himself inside a warehouse that has served as a make-shift shelter for hundreds of men trying to reach Western Europe in Belgrade, Serbia. Wrapped in blankets, people huddled next to each other desperately trying to keep warm by the fires they lit inside and outside the building. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

In this Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017 photo, migrants queue for food in front of an abandoned warehouse in Belgrade, Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

In this Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 photo, migrants sleep inside a crumbling warehouse that has served as a make-shift shelter for hundreds of men trying to reach Western Europe in Belgrade, Serbia. Wrapped in blankets, people huddled next to each other desperately trying to keep warm by the fires they lit inside and outside the building. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

In this Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017 photo, a migrant walks outside a crumbling warehouse that has served as a make-shift shelter for hundreds of men trying to reach Western Europe in Belgrade, Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

In this Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017 photo, migrants warm themselves by the fire in an abandoned warehouse in Belgrade, Serbia. It was a week in frigid hell for hundreds of migrants squatting in an abandoned warehouse in the Serbian capital of Belgrade while trying to move on toward Western Europe. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

In this Sunday, Jan. 8, 2017 photo, a migrant stands in an abandoned warehouse in Belgrade, Serbia. When the weather suddenly turned nasty it sent temperatures plummeting way below zero and cold wind started to blow pushing into every corner of make-shift migrant shelter. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

In this Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017 photo, migrants warms themselves up by a fire next to a crumbling warehouse that has served as a make-shift shelter for hundreds of men trying to reach Western Europe in Belgrade, Serbia. Wrapped in blankets, people huddled next to each other desperately trying to keep warm by the fires they lit inside and outside the building. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)


Text from the AP news story,  AP PHOTOS: Migrants in Belgrade endure week in nasty weather, by Darko Vojinovic.

Photos by Darko Vojinovic

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