Celebrants Mark World Refugee Day Beside Serbian Lake

Refugees, NGO workers and local residents gathered at Ada Ciganlija Lake in Belgrade on Thursday to celebrate World Refugee Day at an event organized by Info Park, a Belgrade-based NGO.

To celebrate the day, 11 refugee girls and women aged from nine to 22 ate a picnic in the park, rented bicycles and then painted a tarp. Eight male refugees, meanwhile, aged 17 and younger, played a game of football, in which they were joined by several Belgrade residents. Most of the refugees are staying at the Krnjaca refugee center near Belgrade.

"Every year, on World Refugee Day, we try to … have a day where we can just relax, do something in nature [and] play sports," said Irena Abdelalem Abdelmaksoud, a protection officer and specialist in unaccompanied and separated children who works for Info Park.

On World Refugee Day, she added, the youngsters can "just for the day, or for a few hours, forget about everything that they've been through and their problems and worries about the future".

Mina, aged 22, from Afghanistan, said it had been "her dream to ride a bicycle". She said her brothers had their own bicycles, but she "was never allowed" on them. Several of the other girls also said that they had never ridden a bicycle before, as women are not permitted to do so in strict Muslim societies.

About 3,000 migrants currently live in Serbia, according to the Serbian Commissariat for Refugee. According to its June 20 press release, a quarter of this number are children who have been enrolled in the Serbian school system.

Refugee girls rent bicycles at Ada park. Photo: BIRN/Haley Raphael

Girls ride their bicycles. Photo: BIRN/Haley Raphael

Girls gather during their bike ride. Photo: BIRN/Haley Raphael

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