9 October 2015

At the registration centre of “Vinojug” in Gevgelija, Macedonia, refugees have been registered more swiftly, thanks to additional data entry clerks in support of the police. From 25 September to 1 October, at least 100 vulnerable groups have been identified, including families and children who received priority registration. Nevertheless, many refugees transit across Macedonia without a certificate proving their intention to seek asylum, placing them in a vulnerable situation that results in no access to basic services, including shelters and medical assistance.  

As of 21 September, refugees crossing into Serbia from Macedonia, through the centre in Miratovac, lack access to sanitation and adequate shelter to protect them from the cold and winter weather. Between 28 September and 2 October, after being transported by IOM and UNHCR to the Presevo asylum centre, not all refugees could be registered, also due to insufficient capacities. Consequently, many have slept in the open, despite cold and rainy weather, as there were not enough places at the centre. Others have continued their journey on the way to Croatia without declaring their intention to seek asylum. In the reporting week, in Belgrade, refugees have been camping out in parks, in the rain, waiting for buses to take them to Croatia.

From Serbia, refugees have been transported by bus to border crossing points with Croatia, mainly in Bapska and Tovarnik. Here, refugees had to wait for hours before boarding overcrowded buses to drive them to the temporary reception centre in Opatovac. Meanwhile, according to reports on 30 September, NGOs and volunteers had limited access to border crossing points between Serbia and Croatia, so that many refugees could not receive supplies and basic assistance. From Opatovac, and also from Strosinci, many refugees left Croatia by train, without any information on where they were heading to. Reports from 28 September to 2 October raised further concerns about refugee families separated across the Western Balkan route, resulting in increasing number of unaccompanied children who continue the journey without their parents.

On the Serbian-Hungarian border, from 15 to 29 September, 176 refugees have been sentenced to expulsion to Serbia by the court of Szeged, for having crossed the border. Most of them were from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to information received by ECRE, from 19 June to 1 October, 111,361 refugees expressed the intention to seek asylum in Macedonia, including 3,934 unaccompanied children. Of them, only 50 refugees have submitted an asylum application, including 37 Syrians. As of 21 September 2015, 137,520 refugees have expressed their intention to seek asylum in Serbia this year. As of 21 September, UNHCR reported an average number of refugee arrivals of 4,200 people per day. From 16 September to 2 October, according to the Ministry of Interior, 98,901 refugees have entered Croatia.

The EU intends to increase immediate humanitarian assistance to refugees crossing the Western Balkan route. At a conference on 8 October EU ministers and their counterparts from the Western Balkans and Syria’s neighbours Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, agreed to offer more information and legal aid, especially to the most vulnerable refugees. The EU will also support prompt registration of refugees, while returning those not entitled to international protection. Meanwhile, refugees will have to pass stricter border checks and reinforced surveillance by the police.

See more detailed information in our Western Balkans News Brief from 28 September 2015

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 9 October 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.