Serving forgotten refugees and forcibly displaced people on the Balkan route

16 November 2022

JRS Croatia and JRS Bosnia and Herzegovina join forces to serve refugees and other forcibly displaced people travelling the Balkan route.
JRS staff and partners assist people on the move at the Rijeka railway station in Croatia.

In recent weeks, a large number of migrants have been staying at the Rijeka railway station. At the invitation of the Archdiocese of Rijeka, JRS Croatia engaged in providing assistance and made available its employees, volunteers, and material resources. JRS Bosnia and Herzegovina, too, responded to the invitation. The following is a description of what they witnessed.


There are many passengers at the railway station in Rijeka. Some of the faces are familiar. Close. We met them in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in temporary reception centers, and then outside official camps, so-called outreach locations. Their journey continued; they are one step closer to their goal. Rijeka is just a stopover, another temporary stop.

At the old railway station, next to the railways, they stay for a short time, until they travel further, they sleep in the old station building in their sleeping bags, their only beds. They stay longer if the bus lines to Lupoglav and Istria are overbooked. And then they continue their journey through the greenery, on foot towards Slovenia, Italy… New stations are waiting for them. Some with sore feet, some with skin disease, which is acquired when traveling for a long time and without conditions, without hot water and showers, and some with a high temperature from exhaustion, which they quickly treat with ibuprofen.

With them are the volunteers of JRS, Caritas of the Archdiocese of Rijeka, and the Red Cross.

... they are not alone, they have gained friends, brothers, and sisters on their long journey.

The road from Afghanistan, through Iran, Turkey, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, all the way to Rijeka, leaves traces. We look at those traces, everything they have gone through, and all their hardships open before our eyes, because we are familiar faces. They are happy because they see us, they call us Habibi, out of joy. In their language, habibi is a person from the family circle, or someone close on whom they can rely.

It means that they are not alone, they have gained friends, brothers, and sisters on their long journey. Someone who will listen to them, understand them, and help them. We followed them for part of their journey, and we are happy that we are here again, together, they are close to the goal, and we want to make ourselves available again for the mission, this time together with the Croatian office, because only together we can do more for our friends in Rijeka.

Our past experience of serving and living among migrants in temporary reception centers, Blažuj, Lipa, and Ušivak, as well as presence and assistance outside the camps, at locations in Kladuša and Bihać, can help in organizing and providing similar forms of assistance to people in need.

To enable them to refresh, see familiar faces who care about them, who will encourage them, help them stand on their feet, and move towards their future strengthened.

It gives them hope that they can continue to walk miles toward a better future.

Even the minimum of humanity, which we take for granted, such as hot water, showers, clean clothes, a warm meal, and seeing wounded feet, restores their strength and provides a feeling of welcome. It gives them hope that they can continue to walk miles toward a better future.

For us, providing help to them does not only mean saving the citizens of Rijeka from a potential humanitarian disaster, infection, or dirt, nor does it mean that we will collect the remains of their stay, which they themselves have nowhere to remove. It does not mean merely providing the most basic humanitarian assistance that the civilized world must provide.

It means more to us, it means to offer mercy, because the person who feels and receives mercy, spreads it around the world. Charity changes a person. And this world needs a change. Europa is an old railway station building, life in it is dying out, and it needs renovation.


This news was first published by JRS BiH.