Seeking asylum is a basic human right, and according to international law, an asylum seeker should be granted access to the territory of the country where asylum is sought. In an alarming development, as of July 2nd, rumors have spread that the border to Hungary will completely close soon. These rumors are likely related to the new Hungarian law legitimizing pushbacks to Serbia, which will take effect on July 5th. As a result, hundreds of refugees and migrants have left and continue to leave Belgrade and other locations to quickly reach the north of Serbia. 240 persons expressed their intent to seek asylum in Serbia, bringing the total for July to 1,515 and for the year 2016 to 6,136 (Ministry of Interior). During this reporting period, Real Medicine Foundation continued to provide outreach medical support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across affected locations in the Belgrade city center.
From June 30th to July 3rd, 920 people on average were waiting for admission at the Kelebija and Horgos I border crossings. 41% are women and children. With rumors of the Hungarian border closing, numbers are estimated to increase to 1,500 or above. This is a particularly challenging and difficult protection and humanitarian situation, described by the United Nations as a ticking time bomb.
There are ongoing joint efforts to encourage asylum seekers not to wait at the border, but to wait in Subotica RAP. Concerns have been expressed regarding allegations of pushbacks and violence at the Hungarian-Serbian border, “disproportionate use of force by Hungarian authorities,” and there are regular testimonies of Hungarian authorities reacting brutally to irregular entry attempts. There were 2 casualties at the border on June 1st. Over 1,400 asylum seekers were present at the end of the reporting period at the Hungarian border: on July 13th, 756 were at Horgos I and 254 at Kelebija. 33 asylum seekers reported having been pushed back from Hungarian territory into Serbia without being allowed to file an application for asylum in Hungary. Apprehensions were made far deeper than 8km into Hungarian territory, and the Hungarian government has significantly enhanced border security with 10,000 soldiers and police officers, as well as drone, infrared, and helicopter surveillance.
On July 6th, over 120 asylum seekers reported to authorities, the UN, and partners that they were denied access to asylum procedures in Hungary and were instead pushed back into Serbia outside of readmission or return procedures. These developments are further aggravating the situation in Serbia, both outside the Hungarian “transit zones” of Horgos and Kelebija, and in Belgrade’s city center. Thousands of refugees are waiting in desperate and inhumane conditions to be allowed to enter EU territory. As of July 16th, 664 individuals have been sent back to Serbia through the fence.
During 2016, 4,814 persons have expressed their intent to seek asylum in Serbia. In Belgrade, the situation remains challenging. The numbers of refugees are swelling. New commercial possibilities are opening up for traffickers/smugglers and organized crime. People are offering hidden accommodation and charging vulnerable people high prices. The risks that persons of concern are exposed to is increasing. An average of 570 refugees/migrants stay over night in the Belgrade city center, while only around 190 asylum seekers are sheltered at the Asylum Centre of Krnjača.
Serbia continues to face an increasing number of asylum seekers: since the beginning of the refugee crisis, 393,069 people were registered in Serbia. Since January 2016, RMF has been responding to the refugee crisis by providing comprehensive protection and medical services to persons of concern. Our team works in and around Belgrade providing 24/7 access to needed services. Our main goal is to provide first aid and basic primary health care for refugees in Serbia. Our team also has the skills to identify and refer extremely vulnerable individuals—women, children, victims of sexual or gender based violence, victims of human trafficking, or victims of other forms of exploitation—for appropriate assistance and follow up by relevant institutions.
A two-year-old girl had flu-like symptoms a few days before and had a fever. At the beginning, the changes on her skin where vesicular, and they changed to pus and then crust. We suspected that she had chickenpox. We measured her fever at 38.2 degrees. Her throat and lungs where clear. We gave her 7.5 ml of paracetamol syrup (one dose) and advised the mother to see a doctor again if the young girl’s fever persisted.
A sixteen-year-old boy with a three-day fever explained that MDM doctors had given him amoxicillin. We examined him and found that his lungs and throat were clear, his abdomen was soft, and he seemed to have hepatosplenomegaly. He had a fever 40.4 degrees. We gave him Ibuprofen and 1 paracetamol tablet. The boy told us that he had malaria six months ago in Afghanistan. We suspected that he had malaria again. We asked our next shift (because it was the end of our shift) to take him to the Infectiv Clinic and Emergency Center. They brought the boy there, and he was confirmed to have malaria (Plasmodium vivax) and admitted to the hospital.