Serbia: Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support
Serbia Progress Report – April 28th-May12th
May 18, 2016
Summary of Activities
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that they (together with partners) assisted between 260 and 380 refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants per day in Belgrade.
- May 3-4, there were 75 irregular arrivals: 34 from fYR Macedonia and 41 from Bulgaria.
- May 9-11, there were 294 irregular arrivals: 232 from fYR Macedonia and 62 from Bulgaria.
- The actual statistics are thought to be much higher.
From the beginning of April to now, the numbers of refugees accessing Hungary have increased exponentially from 60 to an estimated 600 asylum seekers waiting at the border crossings with Hungary.
- 178 persons expressed intent to seek asylum, bringing the total in May to 265 and for the whole of 2016 to 2,804 (statistics courtesy of the Ministry of Interior).
Monthly Asylum Statistics indicate 598 registered intentions to seek asylum in Serbia during April.
- 52% were made by men
- 13% by women
- 35% were registered as children
The majority was made by nationals of Afghanistan (40), Syria (21.9) or Pakistan (11.5%). 31 asylum applications could be launched formally. During April, one person was granted refugee status and two subsidiary protection, while seven asylum applications were rejected.
- At peak times (during rainy weather) up to 260 asylum seekers, including many women and children, are waiting to be admitted into the two “transit zones” near Kelebija and Horgos I border crossings every day.
Sanitary conditions remain of grave concern as there are no toilets or facilities to take a shower. Requests to place chemical toilets are pending approval from authorities. We were told this would not be approved as neither the Hungarian or Serbian governments wish for people to stay in no-man’s land, they ”do not want another Idomeni on this border.”
- 15 families with children are allowed to enter Hungary each day but only 2 single men. Lunch packages, water bottles, jackets, raincoats and blankets are needed as well as other food and non-food aid for children. RMF Belgrade team facilitated an assessment of medical needs on May 11. MSF is working across three sites in the North, and at this stage it appears that the medical needs are largely covered. The current gaps are primarily in the provision of essential humanitarian aid food, water, shoes, clean clothes, hygiene kits.
Treating the individual as a whole
The majority of our referrals come from UNHCR. Our team has a close working relationship with a number of humanitarian actors operating in Belgrade and have a close working relationship with MSF. We treat our patients as a whole, individually supporting them using a holistic approach to their issues.
Basic Survival Necessities
Our team collaborates with the Asylum Information Center in the provision of clothes, shoes and other NFIs such as hygiene kits. We provide referrals to and collaboration with NGO Praxis for water and food and to the AIC for support with protection related issues.
Finally an office space
We have secured an office space and have finalized a purchase of a car (rather than using the rental we’ve been using for six weeks). A number of work tables have been ordered from a local carpenter (supporting the local economy). We still need a telephone and two to three laptops. In 15 days, we will have a completed ambulance which we designed.
Hiring Additional Staff
The majority of legalities for the foundation set up have been finalized, including legal working permits for our staff. There are a number of working documents still required by the Government for the RMF to pass an inspection and RMF has hired a bookkeeper who works as a mediator between our Foundation and the State. She is responsible for the approval of all payments from the RMF account. Her paperwork is available for us at any time and will be copied and forwarded to RMF head office once per month. The RMF Serbia currently employes 15 staff, including a Program Director.
Desperate for Resources
While the number of illegal entries has increased exponentially, the number of NGOs working in Serbia has decreased, and those that have stayed have lost funding largely as a result of redirection to Greece.
As our teams try to treat the whole person, not just medical needs, we rely heavily on the Asylum Information Center and PRAXIS NGO for food, water and other NFIs. Available resources have decreased to a point where often there is nothing to give.
Distribution Center demolished
On April 27, 2016, Miksališe, a refugee aid and distribution center, was demolished by 30 “masked men”, driving excavators, locking eyewitnesses in a hangar, and the Government claims no responsibility. The site of the demolition is contentious as it comprises part of the proposed “Belgrade on Water”, an investment from the Middle East, which Belgradians do not want to go ahead. A new site has been found for Miksaliste 2.0, RMF is currently in negotiation to include a women’s health program within the site, and possibly a pediatrician. Currently, there is neither of these positions available to refugees in Serbia. We should know of the outcome of these discussions in the coming days.
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