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Serbian Police Officer and Smiling Syrian Boy Show Europe How Welcoming Refugees Is Done

The image was accompanied by a tweet quoting a Syrian refugee in Belgrade: "#Syrians are full of praise for #Serbian police. 'They're fair. They're the first who didn't treat us like animals'." Photo by Manveen Rana, used with permission.

The image was accompanied by a tweet quoting a Syrian refugee in Belgrade: “#Syrians are full of praise for #Serbian police. ‘They're fair. They're the first who didn't treat us like animals.'” Photo by Manveen Rana. Used with permission.

The photograph above first appeared online on the morning of September 9, and since then it has become a viral sensation on Twitter and Facebook. Two Serbian police officers stand at their posts somewhere in downtown Belgrade, one of them holding a Syrian toddler currently staying at the improvised refugee camp near the city's main train station.

The image was posted to Twitter by BBC Radio 4 senior broadcast journalist Manveen Rana, who seems to have traveled to Serbia with a group of refugees from Greece. Rana's Twitter feed is filled with tales of the journey, from claims of refugees having been beaten by police in Greece to all-night bus rides and images of the makeshift camp in downtown Belgrade.

While Syrian refugees passing through Serbia en route to Hungary and other EU countries seem to be experiencing generally better treatment than in other countries along the way, Rana reports that these people are still vulnerable to groups trying to take advantage of their desperation. Some Belgrade residents have reported and complained about street venders selling blankets and old clothes to refugees near the downtown train station—at prices three-to-four times higher than you find in retail stores, no less. Rana herself was charged some 70 euro by a man who was probably an unlicensed taxi driver (known colloquially as “wild taxis” in Belgrade) for a ride that would have run him about 10 euro in a licensed Belgrade taxi.

Rana noted on Twitter that cab drivers seem to target refugees with these high rates, when driving them to their accommodations in the city.

After so many recent reports of police brutality and unfair treatment of refugees in some European countries, Internet users in Serbia and elsewhere have celebrated the image of the police officer holding a smiling Syrian boy. Within a few hours, the tweet attracted more than 800 retweets and almost 1,000 favorites, and it soon spilled over to Facebook and other social networks, as it continues to be retweeted some 50 times per hour.

Although its unemployment rate is approaching 28 percent and there are murmurs expressing fear of what might happen to the economy if many refugees decide to remain, Serbia and its people have been generally accepting and often helpful. Both the public and state officials and police seem to have embraced an open-arms policy in this unfolding refugee crisis. Serbian social media users have been praising the police officer, and many people say such compassion is what they hope to see from law enforcement throughout the country and in other nations.

Read more of our special coverage: Streams of Refugees Seek Sanctuary in Europe

93 comments

  • Not as the author of this piece, but as a human being, I find it utterly disgusting that we are even discussing ethnicity after all that has happened in this region and after seeing the interaction between this police officer and child. To clarify – “Serb” is an ethnicity, “Serbian” is a nationality. One can be Serbian but not a Serb, just as one can be British but not English. Or one can be a Serb but not Serbian. This police officer, in a Serbian police uniform, is a Serbian citizen of Albanian ethnicity. And I, for one, am fortunate to have him as my countryman and would like to thank him for serving in our police forces and welcoming this little boy, wherever he may be from, to our country.

  • Aleks

    How the fuck you people on here turn something decent into all this bullshit I just read is beyond me. Who cares where this policeman is from he’s doing a decent thing which so many haven’t from all over the fucking world. He’s an Albanian living in serbia who is a decent man. I’m a serb from belgrade and we are all doing our best here with this situation.

  • kuqi

    Just read his name , pure Albanian name , if the police officer was serbian he wouldve been slapping the kid instead of kissing

    • jj

      That’s not true, because the Syrian migrants are saying that the police throughout Serbia are in general treating them much better than the other countries.

      So it is the policy of Serbia.

  • ga bu

    what a pathetic propaganda… Serbia wants to get in the EU really badly…

  • TriggerSampson

    Comments section is kind of interesting. People love “celebrating” their differences, be they from the Balkans or the Middle East. Then in the west, they’re all just “brown”. A lot of people in America think Syria is where Vlade Divac is from.

  • RKunga Chodron

    Who the F cares what the officer’s ethnicity is??? It’s called human kindness and that’s all that matters in this case. All of you wasting your time arguing should be ashamed that you’ve completely missed the point! Shut up already!

  • guest

    Lucky is the Marshal Tito, he doesn’t see all this mess.

  • Olivera Markovic

    Let’s focus on the nice moments like this one, let us embrace the kindness. it is not the platform for any political debate. let’s be proud all together for this act od kindness, this touch of humanity. let us be proud of this man who is representing us to the world so well.

  • […] by Danica Radisic · comments (89) Donate · Share this: twitter facebook reddit […]

  • […] of their family along with them. See BBC reporter Manveen Rana’s twitter feed for photos of her up close journey with Syrians through to the Serbian […]

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