23 October 2015

According to UNHCR, despite improvements in the registration procedures, by 1st October only one third of refugees arriving in Macedonia have been registered. More problematic, many vulnerable refugees, including unaccompanied children, are not adequately identified, thereby undermining their specific protection needs.

In Presevo (Serbia), reports stress the absence of effective mechanisms to properly identify most vulnerable refugees, including unaccompanied children, who, consequently, are at high risk of   trafficking. This is also due to insufficient registration and accommodation capacities. For instance, on 8 October, 2,000 refugees had to spend the night in the cold, outside the Presevo centre. Similarly, as highlighted by UNHCR on 8 October, there was no mechanism for the identification and referral of vulnerable refugees arriving in Croatia.

Winter temperatures cause further challenges for refugees crossing the Western Balkans, who are often forced to sleep in the open, due to insufficient reception capacities. International organisations and NGOs continue to provide refugees with humanitarian and medical support, such as additional temporary shelters, special winter equipment, as well as raincoats, blankets and winter clothes. Nevertheless, more and more refugees remain in need of further medical assistance and winter items.

Between 25 September and 14 October, due to discontinuous transportations, refugees had to travel across Macedonia packed in overcrowded trains, paying ticket prices three times higher than that required for Macedonian citizens. Most vulnerable refugees received prior transportation, resulting in many families being separated at border crossing points. Both in Macedonia and Serbia, UNHCR has been working to reunite family members that were split up. At the Croatian border, as of 8 October, NGOs and volunteers have faced difficulties to gain access and provide assistance for refugees at the Tovarnik crossing point.

From 3 to 14 October, the Macedonian police, in cooperation with lawyers from the Macedonian Young Lawyers Association (MYLA), have registered more than 30,000 refugees who expressed their intention to seek asylum. This brings the total up to 143,279 refugees registered from June 2015. In Serbia, according to IOM, 173,891 refugees entered the country up to 14 October,. Increasing number of refugees also arrived from Bulgaria; 350 refugees entered through Dimitrograv on Wednesday 6 October.

On Thursday 8 October, EU ministers, and their counterparts from the Western Balkans, agreed on a declaration, at the high-level Conference on the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkans Route. The EU confirmed the intention to; increase immediate humanitarian assistance, improve accommodation capacities and assistance and strengthen registration and return procedures. Meanwhile, refugees will have to pass stricter border checks and negotiate reinforced border police surveillance.

For more detailed information, refer to the Western Balkan route News Brief 14 October 2015


This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 23 October 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.