They come from all over: Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. Some are refugees from war. Others are escaping economic plight. And though their backgrounds vary, they have a common goal: They are journeying toward what they hope will be a better life.
Their odysseys have also brought them to Bihac, a city in Bosnia’s northwestern borderlands. They have alighted here because it is on the way to where they hope to end up, Croatia. Associated Press photographer Manu Brabo has traveled there to examine the conditions these migrants face.
In this article, Brabo describes the conditions he finds migrants coping with in Bihac. As winter sets in, one of the top priorities for the migrants is finding shelter. They take it where they can find it, whether that be in abandoned buildings or factories. If they’re lucky, Brabo notes, they may be able to find shelter in Bihac’s migrant center.
Regardless, they push on, having already traveled long distances, avoiding authorities while traversing mountainous terrain and forging streams and rivers. The final push, if they can make it, is daunting, as well. To get from Bosnia to Croatia, the migrants have to make it over an alpine pass where they are often turned away by border patrols.
Brabo describes the difficulties facing those looking to make it to Croatia:
It’s toughest for families with small children. Babies can’t stop crying. Parents bring the children as close to the fire as possible to keep them warm, but they are tired and the cold nonetheless bites at their tiny faces.
A family from Syria and a couple from India paused briefly this month before moving on in sub-freezing temperatures, loaded with personal belongings and carrying children. The women, Fatima, 24, from Syria, and Nishademi, 22, from India, are tired and scared.
Elsewhere near the border, at an abandoned house, a group of young men are camping as they prepare to set off along a snowy road toward Croatia. Many wear only sneakers for shoes and have to wrap themselves in blankets.
About 20 migrants from Afghanistan eventually went toward Croatia, but half of them gave up along the way and returned. The snow had fallen overnight, and it became too cold.
While Brabo’s words underscore the toughness of the migrants’ task, his photos are even more searing. They show, in vivid detail, migrants laden with personal belongings trudging along snow-blanketed paths, sometimes during the day, sometimes at night. We see migrants hoisting each other into abandoned farmhouses, illuminated just by the light of mobile phones. Multiple photographs show groups huddled in blankets or sitting by fires together, a harrowing refrain underscoring just how tough trying to find a better life can be.
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