4 July 2014

In its latest report on the state of asylum in Serbia, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) raises concerns regarding asylum seekers’ access to Serbian territory and asylum procedures. BCHR stresses that in 2013, Belgrade airport officers recognised only the intention of two people to seek asylum and to BCHR’s knowledge only one of them had access to Serbian territory. Asylum seekers in 2013 complained to the BCHR that the police failed to issue them with certificates of their intention to seek asylum.

BCHR underlines that the work of border authorities in fulfilling their obligation to enable asylum seekers to access the asylum procedure needs to be more transparent and subject to independent monitoring. BCHR recommends that this be conducted by NGOs, as it is the case in other countries in the region, such as Croatia.

According to BCHR, in 2013, Serbia’s Asylum Office continued to automatically apply the safe their country concept, pursuant to the 2009 Government Decision on List of Safe Countries of Origin and Safe Third Countries (that has never been amended). This practice leads to the risk of violation of the principle of non – refoulement.

The report stresses that the Government of Serbia has failed to obtain guarantees that the countries it was declaring safe review asylum applications in efficient and fair proceedings before it adopted the list. In determining whether a particular country is safe, the Serbian Government only takes into consideration the opinion of the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, whether the country has ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention and whether it has a visa-free regime for Serbian citizens.

Serbia’s list of safe third countries includes all of Serbia’s neighbouring states and some countries with very problematic and inaccessible asylum systems, such as Greece. In 2013, the Asylum Office dismissed the applications of most asylum seekers having passed through or lived in a country on the safe country list without examining whether that state fulfilled the other requirements to be qualified as safe.

5,066 people expressed their intention to seek asylum in Serbia in 2013, including 598 unaccompanied children. In the same period, 742 asylum seekers were registered and 153 asylum applications were submitted. The Asylum Office delivered 193 decisions. The review of 176 applications was discontinued. Only 19 asylum seekers were interviewed and only four people were granted international protection.

Most people who expressed the intention to seek asylum were from Syria (1,338), Eritrea (624), Somalia (507) and Afghanistan (249).

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 4 July 2014.
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