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Serbia urges migrants to get out of frigid cold

Migrants queue for food in front of an abandoned warehouse in Belgrade, Serbia, on Wednesday. (AP)
BERLIN: Serbian authorities are urging all migrants to move to the Balkan country’s asylum centers during the cold spell that has gripped the country bringing heavy snow and extremely low temperatures.
Hundreds of migrants have remained in makeshift shelters for the past several days braving polar conditions with temperatures way below zero even during the day.
They have occupied an abandoned warehouse and train wagons in central Belgrade, the Serbian capital.
The Serbian government’s refugee agency says that around 400 people have agreed to move away from the streets since the weather worsened last week. The statement says that no women and children are sleeping rough in parks or unofficial shelters.
Many migrants are reluctant to seek official help, fearing they would not be able to move on toward Europe.
Sub-freezing temperatures across the continent have claimed over 60 victims in recent days — notably in Poland, Romania and the Balkans.
Six people died in Poland and seven more in the Balkans over a 24-hour period. Authorities in Warsaw said the toll of hypothermia deaths in the country since Nov. 1 had now risen to 71.
Polish police urged people to help those most vulnerable, especially the homeless, as the mercury sank to below -20 degrees Celsius (minus four degrees Fahrenheit) in some regions.
“Another six people died due to exposure over the last 24 hours,” the center for national security (RCB) said on Tuesday in a statement.
Local authorities have also issued smog alerts across Poland, urging children and the elderly to remain indoors as coal and waste-fired home furnaces drive up air pollution to the highest levels recorded in years.
Last winter in Poland was unusually mild but still claimed 77 lives in the nation of 38 million, compared to 78 in 2013-2014 and 177 in 2012-2013.