“We heard Angela Merkel said Germany welcomes people,” says 37 year old Omar al Caise from Iraq. “So we came here.”
Omar is a journalist from Baghdad sitting on the floor of the central bus station in Belgrade.
Last week he decided he was going to take his wife and two young children to Europe.
Five days later they are less than 200km away from Hungary and the EU’s Schengen passport free travel zone.
“In Baghdad there are big problems. It is dangerous, lots of bombs,” he says. “We left my parents behind.”
He made the decision to leave Baghdad, he says, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s pledge to take in Syrian refugees.
That offer was aimed specifically at Syrian refugees, not Iraqis, and there was also a subsequent German U-turn and reinstating of border controls.
Despite this, Omar insists it was a key reason he decided to come to Europe.
“Germany is big. It has big factories and jobs. We can have a better life,” he says.
Omar’s story mirrors the journeys made by many other refugees and economic migrants but is perhaps noteworthy due to its speed.
He and his family flew from Baghdad to Istanbul on Wednesday last week with all their belongings packed into two rucksacks.
They then travelled to the Turkish coast and paid people smugglers $8000US to get a boat to Greece, before continuing north, entering Macedonia and then reaching Serbia.
They have just bought bus tickets to Hamburg, Germany and Omar’s wife, Duaa, says they are looking forward to arriving.
“We are really tired after all the travelling,” she says.
Other Iraqis, as well as Afghans and Syrians, are also waiting at the bus station.
Temperatures are dropping and many are sheltering from the cold and rain.
“It’s very difficult. We don't have anywhere to live. It’s too cold. We do not have any jackets, any blankets,” says 18 year old Hanif from Kunar, Afghanistan.
He’s one of a group of Afghans who say they fled the Taliban and hope to get asylum in Europe.
Hanif has run out of money though and his friends are due to move on without him.
“I have no money. I can’t afford food or a bus ticket. For now I am stuck here,” he says.
Author: Duncan Crawford