2 October 2015
From 16 to 22 September, in the registration centre of Vinojug, in Gevgelija, Macedonia, 11,187 people expressing the intention to seek asylum have been registered by the Macedonian Young Law Association (MYLA). This acceleration of registration procedures has been made possible by the placement of additional data entry clerks. Humanitarian and medical assistance has been provided regularly by NGOs and international organisations, such as the Macedonian Red Cross and Project HOPE. Thanks to the support of UNHCR, living conditions at the centre has been improved, including water and food provision, medical support as well as shelters and child areas. Nevertheless, hygiene conditions remain problematic at the Vinojug centre in Gevgelija. Exposure to winter temperatures and heavy rain has placed refugees at greater risk of health problems.
After registering, most refugees leave Macedonia for Serbia. Reports between 21 and 25 September told of refugees that have not received, from the police, the certificate of their intention to seek asylum. Instead, border authorities gave them a questionnaire, which does not allow refugees to move across the territory and access accommodation. Consequently, many have been sent back from Belgrade to the Presevo registration centre. At the same time, more and more refugees have been camping in parks of Belgrade for days, in the cold and heavy rain, either because they have not registered or are afraid to apply in the reception centres.
The few refugees who decide to apply for asylum have to wait for days before being interviewed by the police, under unlawful procedures. For instance, under the Criminal Procedure Code, asylum seekers cannot be advised by a lawyer. Due to procedural shortcomings, and insufficient humanitarian assistance, refugees either leave Serbia without applying for asylum or simply abscond from reception centres.
On Monday 20 September, Hungary deployed military troops at the Serbian borders and started building a fence between its territory and Croatia. Consequently, increasing numbers of refugees have been entering Croatia through Tovarnik and Bapska. On 22 September, the temporary centre of Opatovac was so overcrowded that approximately 8,000 refugees were prevented from entering, resulting in them having to sleep in the open. That same day, Croatia closed the crossing point in Bapska, and thousands of refugees where stuck in ‘no man’s land’, with no access to water, food and sanitation. In Tovarnik and Bapska, many families have been separated by the police. NGOs and international organisations are finding it very difficult to provide medical and humanitarian assistance.
According to IOM, from 19 June to 24 September, 94,842 refugees arrived in Macedonia, including 3,043 unaccompanied children. Most refugees were Syrians, followed by Afghans, Iraqis and Pakistanis. According to UNHCR, between 19 June and 16 September, 125,522 refugees arrived in Serbia. From 1st January to 18 September, Save the Children reported the arrival of 25,000 children refugees, including at least 5,753 unaccompanied. On Friday 25 September, the Croatian government reported that, from 16 September, 60,000 refugees crossed into the country. According to UNICEF, of those refugees arrivals between 14 and 21 September, 10,000 were children and women.
See more detailed information in our Western Balkan News Brief of 25 September 2015
This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 2 October 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.