30 April 2015

A report by the Belgrade Center for Human Rights (BCHR) shows that obstacles for asylum seekers to access international protection and the lack of integration prospects in Serbia are driving many refugees to travel irregularly, and further, to reach EU countries.

The report highlights that asylum seekers can be denied access to international protection, because Serbian authorities consider that they should return to the countries they consider to be safe and through which they have transited on their way to Serbia. Serbia considers ‘safe’ all its neighbouring countries, including Turkey, the FYR of Macedonia and Greece. However, according to the BCHR, the Serbian authorities do not take into account whether the rights of asylum seekers are protected in these countries, a practice which was also criticised by UNHCR and other NGOs.

Furthermore, asylum seekers risk being detained and returned, as authorities do not issue ID cards immediately after the registration of the intention to seek asylum. This violates Serbian law and leaves many asylum seekers residing in Serbia without personal documents for months. Of the 16,490 people seeking asylum in Serbia in 2014, only 460 were granted an ID card.

BCHR firmly deplores the lack of integration programmes in Serbia and underlines that recognised refugees have no access to proper accommodation, education, language classes and vocational trainings.

From 2008 to the end of 2014, only 18 people were granted international protection in Serbia. 

Of the 388 persons who were able to submit an asylum application in Serbia in 2014, 325 left the asylum centres in an attempt to travel to EU countries.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 30 April 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.