Serbia: Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support

Serbia Progress Report – March 21-27, 2016

April 13, 2016

Situation Assessment

On March 8th, 2016,  it was declared that the Zagreb declaration would no longer apply. Schengen code no longer applies. Trains from Preševo to Šid commuting through Serbia also stopped. ​

  • 850 people are currently stuck in Sid, Serbia
  • 500 in the Grey House near the Šid train station
  • 300 in Adasevci Hotel 
  • 682 in Preševo, Serbia
  • 302 in four different Asylum Centers
  • 9 in Centers for Minors

2,000 persons, that we are aware of, are currently in Serbia, and up to 1,200 are in Belgrade at any given time. A meeting was held in Greece last week that warned us to be careful when talking about stranded populations. 


“Such terminology raises an expectation that refugees will be allowed to continue their onward journey”.  It is clear that the borders will remain closed. 

For some refugees, legal pathways can be pursued but for many others there are no options other than voluntary assisted return provided by the IOM. The strict border closures encourages the trade in people smuggling.  Idomeni camp is reportedly full of smugglers and people traffickers. In Serbia there continues to be a steady flow of people being smuggled into the country, which is rapidly increasing as refugees seek out alternative paths. 

As of March 28th, 2016, refugees have started entering Serbia once again after taking new paths via Albania and Montenegro.  The people coming through Serbia are those who mostly have very special concerns that must be dealt with on an individual basis.

Our work continues in quality but not in the previous quantity.

Women are avoiding communication and appear to be highly depressed. Last week there was a case of young Afghani men who walked from Idomeni camp to Belgrade to Šid (10 days trip).  This is the first example of people who have made it to Belgrade since the border closuresand more will follow. 

UNHCR is currently looking at re-deploying some resources to enhance and step up protection and border monitoring in the North and the East of Serbia. 

Integration support is desperately required and now is the time to build systems. 

We need to look at different solutions on how we can provide support to refugees wishing to stay in Serbia including the facilitation of public awareness campaigns.

The majority of NGOs working in Serbia (including Oxfam, Care and MSF) left for Greece the week of March 14th – 20th.  Together with the rapidly increasing migrant flow due to new routes this has opened up new opportunities in the humanitarian space for RMF.  Our original project design of a mobile medical outreach and protection unit fits the current gap and provides an urgent linkage between our beneficiaries and state service providers, particularly as no other medical services have access to a vehicle.  The RMF teams will act as mediators providing a link between the target group and their assessed needs, service providers and referral institutions.  This mediating service, involves linking but also advocacy, which is currently deficitary and critical for exercising the rights of extremely vulnerable individuals.
RMF provides a 24 hour service and hence, is the only doctor in the field after 4pm.


Project Achievements and Impacts


Program Structure

  • Met with lawyer who reviewed the registration papers and submit to the APR Government agency responsible for approval of foundation registrations.
  • This RMF registration was approved on the March 28th, paperwork and certificate to be received by April 1st.
  • Met with NGO Atina CEO and Project Director to discuss RMF plans regarding working with women and children and to discuss possible areas of collaboration.  We will aim to
  1. Fill existing gaps in service provision,
  2. Minimize overlap,
  3. Enhance current programming
  • Scheduled a meeting with the Commiserate for Refugees to be facilitated during the week of March 28th. The purpose being to strengthen relationships between RMF and the government of Republic of Serbia to obtain approval to work inside the refugee camps within Serbia.
  • Finalized the development of referral pathways and disseminated a list of contact and referral mechanisms to mobile outreach team.

Medical Needs

  • Interviewed eight doctors: one Farsi translator and one Arabic translator to work in the mobile medical and protection unit.
  • Developed a fieldwork protocol package for mobile medical and protection outreach staff.
  • Facilitated 2 hour induction training on March 27th for the Project Coordinator, Medical Officer, and the eight doctors who began the mobile medical outreach on March 29th. This included…
  1. A meet and greet with Asylum Info Center staff, who provided an explanation of needs in the field, a visit to the “Afghani” park at the Economic Faculty
  2. Visit to see where refugees are waiting for the bus to Krnjača camp (a service which leaves at 6pm each day)
  3. Introductions to the doctors on duty at the UNHCR container in the park 
  4. Discussion with “Info Park” to seek info regarding meals, monetary funds that can be used to purchase medicine and to buy tickets to the refugee camps  
  5. A visit Mikšaliste to meet doctors of the world and make formal introductions

Fine Details

  • Developed a security procedures manual and purchased staff ID tags
  • Received quotes for visibility items (jackets and t-shirts)
  • Sought out six different quotes for the procurement of medical supplies
  • Formulated shifts for medical staff (7am-3pm, 3pm-11pm and 11pm-7am)
  • Started a WhatsApp group called “RMF team” to share information regarding in field activities (please forward our number if you would like to join it)
  • Purchased a hotline number and disseminated the number to all humanitarian service providers




  • Most NGOs have taken their translators and interpreters to Greece leaving a depleted skilled and trained workforce to effectively address the refugee crisis in Serbia.  RMF currently has one Arabic and one Farsi translator; the other translators are being borrowed from the Asylum Info Center with whom we are collaborating closely with.
  • Post-rape kits, including the distribution of PEP to prevent HIV infection after rape and emergency contraceptives are not available in Serbia.  It is hoped that if suitable donor money can be raised the medical outreach would switch its operations to a professionally converted mobile clinic (cost of the van is approximately 40,000 euros).
  • A medical fund should be set up.


  • The majority of international NGOs are pulling out of Serbia and relocating to Greece. This is leaving gaps in the current response within Serbia.


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