20 November 2015

On 10 November, the European Commission published the annual progress reports on Macedonia and Serbia. While refugees continue to transit along the Western Balkans route to seek international protection in the EU, asylum seekers have difficulty accessing asylum procedures in Macedonia and Serbia, Consequently, their guarantees of protection are minimal. In Macedonia, asylum law is not fully implemented. Similarly, the European Commission reports that the Serbian asylum and migration framework is generally weak.  Short-term measures undertaken in recent months, have been insufficient to meet the needs of thousands refugees.

In Macedonia, refugees, are not adequately identified, especially the most vulnerable groups and children, which risks undermining their protection needs. In addition, they are not well informed about their rights and obligations or asylum procedures. While asylum applicants continue to increase, very few of them have been granted refugee status; only five in 2015. Moreover, if they decide to appeal, they face long delays and submit repeated appeals, as the Administrative Court processes the request on procedural rather than substantive grounds.

In Serbia, there is no protection-sensitive screening mechanism within the asylum procedures that would allow for the identifying of people in need of international protection, especially refugee children and vulnerable groups. The EU’s report also highlights the current lack of well-trained staff to register asylum applications, as well as insufficient accommodation. Overall, the EU urges Serbia to launch a comprehensive reform of the whole asylum system in order to align it with EU and international standards.

As candidates to the EU membership, Macedonia and Serbia are obligated to harmonise and implement their legislation and policies in line with EU standards, including in the area of asylum and migration.

See more detailed information in the Western Balkans News Brief 7 – 13 November 2015

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 20 November 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.