Report from Opatovac

Report from Opatovac

On Friday and Saturday (17-18 October 2015) the registration of refugees was quite quick and the waiting time in the camp of Opatovac was really short. Due to the recent closure of the Hungarian/Croatian borders and the shift of migration route toward Slovenia which is limiting the entrances into its territory, there are now more arrivals than departures from the camp. The camp was full yon Sunday (around 3500 persons) and many refugees had to spend the night there. The amount of tents was not sufficient, many refugees had to sleep outside under a light rain and in the cold as the number of blankets was also not sufficient. The nights are really cold and it is unbearable to sleep outside. Many families, babies and children were waiting outside, not knowing how long they will have to stay in Opatovac. Fortunately, during the night, blankets were delivered to the camp by a Swiss NGO, allowing us to distribute them. These are thermal blankets and despite the explanation we provided many refugees do not know how to use them and then throw them quickly. The situation was quiet yesterday till 22h, but when leaving, a big amount of refugees were arriving to the camp by foot from the Serbian border. As Croatia was not letting them in and not driving them with bus anymore, they went by their own means. It created a huge chaos on the roads. Croatian police was trying to find them and bring them with the police cars. It results that many families were separated and were expecting to find each other again in the camp of Opatovac.

Many tents do not have a ground done with pallets and planks of wood, letting the water infiltrating. The ground inside these tents gets wet and muddy making it impossible to lay down and rest. In the tents, there is no light, no electricity and no heating. People are laying in the dark. Lots of them need to charge their telephone to stay in contact with their families but there is no option for this. Outside, the roads and the waiting areas are also muddy and sliding as they are not covered with stones or sand. One problem is that as the refugees are really cold, they are burning the pallets to do fire to warm themself during the night.

The waste is not cleaned very quickly and a strong smell is always in the camp. The same with the used waters which are not evacuated correctly, stagnating and stinking. The food tent was surrounded by wastes for nearly 3 hours before the cleaning team arrived to take them away. We could not open the food tent for a long time as we were not enough volunteers. In the meanwhile, new refugees were taking old blankets out of these trashes. Some were also starving and they were eating from the wastes they found.

As the camp is full and the movement to Germany slowed down, tension is high among the refugees and among the police. Problems and fights appear between communities, mainly between Afghans and Syrians, because of stealing issues and places inside of the tents. To prevent problems, the police was forcing the refugees to remain in the tents and did not let them go out which resulted in the situation cooling down. But it always remains on a thine line.

Fortunately, the camp will close on the 26th of October (normally) and the refugees will then be driven to a new building in Slavinski Brod. This new camp is build out of containers and will allow a bigger amount of places inside for refugees (15000 persons).

There is also an absolute lack of volunteers during the night shifts and during the weekends. It was hard to conduct food distribution yesterday evening as the tension was high and there are really not enough volunteers. In some sectors of the camp, the army and the police had to do the food distribution as nobody else could do it and the refugees were really hungry. With the tensions and the high number of people, the police are monitoring the food distribution to avoid the chaos, which is good and helpful as it makes an easier job for the volunteers as it is more organized. Sometimes it is really difficult because the refugees are pressed to take the food too quickly, making it falling in the mud or going without receiving all that they should have received.

Lots of people arrived injured and some of the volunteers are tasked to take the refugees to the doctors as they cannot go by themselves outside of the sleeping area. Fortunately, the camp is separated in 3 zones, so the volunteers can work first in one zone before to move in another one.

Contacts for volunteering at Opatovac:
Caritas: Coordinator, Vanja Grundmann,

Volunteers can sleep close to the camp if they have a tent or in Osijek where a car from Caritas will come to pick you up before your shift.

What is needed at Opatovac:

Lots of male refugees are still coming with flip flops and in t-shirts. We urgently need the items listed below:
– Male Shoes, size 40-45
– Jackets for men
– Blankets
– Scarfs
– Stones, sands and pallets to cover the ground when it is raining.
– Heaters in the tents.


– The camps was divided into 3 sectors, allowing a better flow of the refugees and less tensions. It is also better for the volunteers who can work with less people at the same time. It is much more easier to manage.

– For the volunteers, there are problems when there is a change of shift. The volunteers should begin a bit earlier (maybe arriving 15mns before the others finished) so that the ones leaving do not have to leave their posts empty before the substitution is arrived. Otherwise, we have to close the food and clothes tents during the shift changes and it gets chaotic with the refugees who are waiting.

– Giving tea before the departure when people are waiting for the bus is good, but do small glasses otherwise they do not have time to drink it. Try to do it without sugar as it makes you want to urinate and as they are in the bus, they cannot go to the toilet anymore.

– Do not serve the tea too much in advance, then it is cold and the refugees cannot warm themselves by drinking it.

– For refugees who are separated from their families, redirect them to the Red Cross service so that they can register to Restoring Family Links:

– Due to the tense situation and the increasing tensions, it is good not to favor some refugees because it creates jealousy and even more tensions and chaos.