Serbia: Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support

Holistic Medical Care Provided to 1,161 Patients: November 2016

January 01, 2017

N’Deane Helajzen

Summary of Activities

During the November reporting period, RMF Serbia treated 1,161 patients—an average of 39 patients per day. Approximately 800 referrals were made to MSF/Miksalište for the treatment of body lice and scabies. A high number of refugees in the Belgrade city center are considered extremely vulnerable individuals, many with pressing medical needs that go beyond performing basic triage in the field.

RMF is the only medical service provider whose core work is to provide holistic medical care, which involves transportation, escorting, and cultural mediation services. Once RMF’s outreach team identifies a patient, an examination and assessment is made of the individual’s health condition and referral options. We then treat the patient in situ to stabilize their condition, before seeking referral papers and transferring the patient to secondary or tertiary care if needed. RMF’s outreach team then stays with the patient for the duration of his or her consultation and therapy to provide support with cross-cultural interpretation and translation, comfort, and reassurance. We then transport the patient back to his or her chosen location. Such consultations can take up to 8 hours due to patient wait times within the state facilities.

RMF Serbia also worked to maintain and build partnerships through the following activities:

  • Attended the Refugee Protection Working Group meeting at Hotel Zira on Thursday, November 3rd, 2016.
  • Attended the UNHCR Belgrade coordination meeting on November 14th.
  • Participated in the thirteenth monthly Partner’s Briefing on the Refugee and Migration Situation in Serbia, hosted by the UN country team and the Government of Serbia on November 30th.
  • Provided monitoring and follow-up services for our patients, and received referrals from UNHCR/DRC doctors, Palilula Health Center doctors working within Camp Krnjača, Doctors of the World (MSM), Médecins Sans Frontières, Save the Children, Praxis organization, Info Park, Miksalište, ADRA Serbia, and the Asylum Information Centre (AIC).
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Results &


Centers Reaching Capacity

Referrals Directed South

With all asylum centers (ACs) and transit centers (TCs) fully occupied, the police continued to refer newly registered asylum seekers to the reception centers (RCs) of Preševo and Dimitrovgrad only. Both centers are located in the south of Serbia, close to the border with Macedonia.


Rough Conditions

During the month of November, some 1,000 refugees and migrants slept outside or in rough conditions in the city center, while Krnjača AC sheltered 1,080 asylum seekers. Humanitarian agencies provided counseling, referrals, and transportation to accommodation in government centers, registration with the police, child protection, and medical services.

Refugees Seeking Assistance

Encouraged to Relocate

The government of Serbia continued to call on humanitarian actors to halt activities and the provision of assistance to refugees and migrants in the city center of Belgrade, especially food distribution, in order to encourage refugees and migrants to move to centers across Serbia. The government of Serbia currently views humanitarian actors as a pull factor to Belgrade.

Lice and Scabies

Challenges and Treatment

According to health authorities, the affliction of refugees and migrants with body lice and/or scabies has improved, but has not yet been fully eradicated. By the end of November, a fourth round of treatment and disinfection was concluded in all three TCs in the west, as well as RC Preševo. The incidence of body lice and scabies continues to rise in the Belgrade urban center, and challenges remain in our efforts to treat the epidemic due to the lack of access to sanitation facilities.

250 Arrive Daily

Continued Influx of Refugees

Authorities, UNHCR, and partners encountered a stable number of around 6,400 refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants during this time period. Over 5,290 (83%) were accommodated in thirteen government facilities, while the remainder were counted sleeping outside or in rough conditions in the Belgrade city center or at the border with Hungary. For the month of November, roughly 250 people arrived every day in Serbia.


Support and Collaboration

On November 30th, RMF attended the thirteenth monthly partner’s briefing on the refugee and migration situation in Serbia hosted by the UN country team and the government of Serbia. In addition to providing a general overview of significant developments since the twelfth briefing of October 28th, this briefing applied the New York Declaration to the Serbia context, in particular concerning access to territory and asylum, UASC, and solutions.

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& Objectives


RMF has been responding to the refugee crisis in Serbia since January 2016, by providing comprehensive protection and medical services, including emergency triage, to persons of concern. Our teams work in and around the Belgrade city center and at Obrenovac Transit and Reception Centre, the second largest refugee camp in Serbia. We operate 3:00 PM to 10:00 PM five days a week at our mobile medical clinic located in Obrenovac, with a second medical team providing referrals for secondary and tertiary care institutions. From 2017 to 2018, we also provided services near the border with Croatia, operating the medical clinic at Adaševci Transit Centre from 4:00 PM to 12:00 AM, seven days a week.

Additional programs include a mobile dental clinic at Obrenovac Transit and Reception Centre—the first of its kind in Serbia—providing dental care for migrants, who previously only had access to emergency interventions. RMF Balkans also distributes hygiene kits at six camps throughout Serbia to help improve personal hygiene and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. To improve the residents’ quality of life, RMF renovated Obrenovac Transit and Reception Centre in 2018 and continues to maintain and use the renovated facilities to conduct cultural and empowerment activities.


  • Provide comprehensive protection and assistance response
  • Provide material assistance and information
  • Provide psychosocial support
  • Provide translation and cultural mediation services
  • Support existing medical institutions with capacity and mobility
  • Establish an information dissemination hotline
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1,161 patients

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Man from Afghanistan

Age: 34


He cut the dorsum of his hand attempting to cross the Hungarian border.


RMF transported him to the orthopedic hospital, where an incision was made to remove a large abscess and skin infection. RMF provided interpretation services and patient advocacy, as well as antibiotics and anti-tetanus protection.