CH ALLEN G ES O F FO R CED
M IG R ATIO N IN S ER B IA
THE STATE OF HUMAN RIGHTS OF ASYLUM SEEKERS AND
RETURNEES BASED ON THE READMISSION AGREEMENT
Grupa 484
Group 484
Fondacija za otvoreno društvo, Srbija
Open Society Foundation, Serbia
CHALLENGES OF
FORCED
MIGRATION IN
SERBIA
THE STATE OF HUMAN RIGHTS OF
ASYLUM SEEKERS AND RETURNEES
BASED ON THE READMISSION
AGREEMENT
Group 484 realises the project „Towards Europeanisation of Serbia monitoring established policies and practices in the asylum and
readmission related areas in the Republic of Serbia project “with
support of Foundation for an Open Society Serbia. The views
expressed in this document do not necessarily reflect the views of
Foundation for an Open Society – Serbia
Belgrade, July 2012
Grupa 484
Group 484
Fondacija za otvoreno društvo, Srbija
Open Society Foundation, Serbia
Challenges of forced migration in Serbia: the state of human rights of
asylum seekers and returnees based on the Readmission Agreement
Authors:
 Anđelković Marija (1975)
 Brajković Rastko (1975)
 Jelačić Miroslava (1984)
 Krkobabić Damir (1977)
 Malbaša Dijana (1979)
 Milenković Branislav (1960)
 Rakić Danilo (1971)
 Savković Marko (1980)
 Šošić Milena (1978)
 Tilinke Zoran (1952)
 Zorić Jovana (1983)
Publisher:
 Group 484
Pukovnika Bacića 3
11000 Belgrade
www.grupa484.org.rs
Issuer:
 Vladimir Petronijević
Editor:
 Miroslava Jelačić
Proofreading (Serbian):
 Gordana Danilović
Translation (English):
 Dragana Pokrajac
 Jelica Lepori
Design:
 Saša Đorđević
Printing:
300
ISBN 978-86-86001-55-9
Printed by Group 484
CONTENT:
I ASYLUM SEEKERS IN SERBIA ................................................................................................................................................ 5
MIXED MIGRATION FLOWS AND ASYLUM SYSTEM IN THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA....................................................................... 6
SERBIA ON THE ROUTE OF IRREGULAR MIGRATIONS ................................................................................................................. 7
VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING AS PART OF IRREGULAR MIGRATIONS OF FOREIGNERS ON THE TERRITORY OF
SERBIA ....................................................................................................................................................................................... 12
ASYLUM SYSTEM IN THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA ......................................................................................................................... 17
PROCEDURE FOLLOWING AN ASYLUM APPLICATION AND COMPETENT AUTHORITIES........................................................... 18
FIRST INSTANCE PROCEDURE ........................................................................................................................................................ 19
REJECTION OF APPLICATION ON THE GROUNDS OF THE SAFE THIRD COUNTRY CONCEPT ............................................................................ 23
SECOND INSTANCE PROCEDURE .................................................................................................................................................... 26
COURT PROTECTION OF ASYLUM SEEKERS ....................................................................................................................................... 28
CAPACITIES FOR ACCOMMODATION OF ASYLUM APPLICANTS ............................................................................................... 29
MEASURES FOR UNACCOMPANIED MINORS (PROCEDURES AND ACCOMMODATION) .......................................................... 31
II RETURNEES FROM WESTERN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES ................................................................................................ 34
TWO PARTS OF THE PROBLEM: REINTEGRATION OF RETURNEES AND PREVENTION OF IRREGULAR MIGRATION ................. 35
STATISTICS ON THE READMISSION ........................................................................................................................................... 37
ASYLUM SEEKERS FROM SERBIA AFTER THE ABOLITION OF THE VISA REGIME WITH THE EU– POLICY AND
MEASURES AIMED AT PREVENTION OF IRREGULAR MIGRATION ............................................................................................ 40
RETURNEES FROM WESTERN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES BEFORE THE ABOLITION OF THE VISA REGIME ................................... 44
REINTEGRATION AND ACCESS TO RIGHTS ................................................................................................................................ 46
ACCESS TO PERSONAL DOCUMENTS ............................................................................................................................................... 47
ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE ............................................................................................................................................................. 47
ACCESS TO SOCIAL WELFARE......................................................................................................................................................... 48
ACCESS TO EDUCATION ............................................................................................................................................................... 49
ACCESS TO THE LABOUR MARKET................................................................................................................................................... 50
ACCESS TO HOUSING .................................................................................................................................................................. 51
CONCLUSION .......................................................................................................................................................................... 54
INTRODUCTION
With the project “Towards the europeanization of Serbia – monitoring the established polices and
practice in the fields of asylum and readmission in the Republic of Serbia”, and with this publication, we
strive to affect the activities of state institutions competent for these areas. We expect them to keep
adapting their work continually to the changes taking place at the level of the European Union policies
and the European integration process, as well as changes `in the field` – behavior of the people
immediately involved in migrations. Further to this, we made efforts to indicate to the possibility for
improving relevant policies of the Republic of Serbia, in accordance with the EU standards and the
obligations stemming from the EU accession process.
Within the report, we also elaborated on the wider phenomenon of irregular migrations. We analyzed a
special form of `organized illegal migrations` – human trafficking – especially taking into account that
asylum seekers are exposed to higher risk of becoming victims of trafficking in humans or some other
form of exploitation. In addition, special attention was paid to the position of underage asylum seekers,
since children seeking asylum, especially when not accompanied by parents or guardians, are in much
worse position and exposed to higher risks.
Apart from this, we detailed on a very important issue - Readmission Agreement, clearly recognizing the
changes that took place after the abolishment of visa regime and unquestionably highlighting
observance of human rights and social inclusion processes.
The publication ``Challenges of forced migration in Serbia: the state of human rights of asylum seekers
and returnees based on the Readmission Agreement`` – coordinated by Group 484– was made by the
team which gathered representatives of eight civil society organizations: ASTRA, Belgrade Center for
Safety Policy, Belgrade Center for Human Rights, Red Cross of Serbia, Ecumenical Humanitarian
Organisation, Initiative for Development and Cooperation, Nexus Vranje and Novi Sad Humanitarian
Center. * Within the wider consultation process, representatives of state administration, certain local selfgovernments, other nongovernmental and international organizations have also made their
contributions.
We would like to thank to all who participated in the creation of this publication, especially European
Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) for their support in realization of all project activities.
*
Representatives of nongovernmental organizations operated within the two topic-based working groups, with the aim of
producing documents which will present the most important open issues as regards the position of asylum seekers and
returnees based on the Readmission Agreement. The composition of working groups, as well as the applied method – joint
coordinated work of a number of nongovernmental organizations – represents an inheritance of the project EuropeanSerbian cooperation on (Forced) migrations (ESCOM), which Group 484 realized within the June 2010 – June 2011 period.
The project was supported by the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia and the Foundation Open
Society Institute (OSI-ZUG), while European Council on Refugees and Exiles was a project partner. Within the project, a
thematic document was created titled ``Challenges of Forced Migrations in Serbia, Position of Refugees, Internally Displaced
Persons and Asylum Seekers``. Apart from this, the document “Underage Asylum Seekers in Serbia: on the Verge of Dignity”
was separately published.
Chapter 1:
ASYLUM SEEKERS
IN SERBIA
MIXED MIGRATION FLOWS AND ASYLUM
SYSTEM IN THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA
Members of working group for asylum:





Marija Anđelković (ASTRA)
Jovana Zorić (Belgrade Centre for Human Rights )
Marko Savković (Belgrade Centre for Security Policy)
Milena Šošić (Initiative for Development and Cooperation)
Rastko Brajković (Initiative for Development and Cooperation)
Coordinator of the working group:
 Miroslava Jelačić (Group 484)
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
MIXED MIGRATION FLOWS AND ASYLUM SYSTEM
IN THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA
The reasons for people`s migrations are various, complex, and subject to changes; in addition, people
who migrate are not easy to classify - due to the differences in their circumstances of living and their
1
origin.
The sensitivity of the Western Balkans area, which represents a transit knob for smuggling, human
trafficking and generally illegal migrations, is the reason for attention of authorities when classifying
certain categories of migrants, while simultaneously observing international and internal standards on
rights which are guaranteed to them. Apart from this, the challenge is even bigger in the Republic of
Serbia due to the fact that in the previous period notable number of individuals expressed their
intention to seek asylum. Furthermore, the individuals who are in vulnerable situations, which can be
even the consequence of leaving the country of origin, are exposed to risk of becoming victims of
human trafficking. UNHCR highlighted the existence of increased risk from human trafficking in case of
forced migrants, having in mind the hardships they face during their transport and exile. 2
A migrant may successfully “move” from one category to another, following his/her own decisions or
being forced by circumstances. 3 The difference between the reasons for migration is not always clear
and easily visible, and the separating lines that the internal legal framework of the Republic of Serbia
sets between certain categories of migrants require the creation of clear and coherent practice and
institutional framework which can respond to challenges of actual situation, with full respect of
international standards of protection of human rights of all migrants.
Establishment of such system requires harmonized action of all relevant institutions, both those
involved in creation of certain policies, and those operational whose task is to implement them. In
addition, mixed migration flows that Serbia is facing impose the need for more immediate connections
and coordinated work of authorities competent for different categories of migrants- asylum seekers,
irregular migrants and victims of human trafficking.
1 See: Gabriela Rodrigez Pizzarro, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Annual report for 2004, UN Doc.
E/CN.4 /2005 /85, 27 December 2004, paragraph 74
2 Combating Human Trafficking. Overview of UNHCR Anti –Trafficking Activities in Europe, Bureau for Europe Policy Unit,
2005, http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/pdfid/43fd782d4.pdf
3 In this way, an economic migrant may become a refugee while he/she is in destination country. A refugee may lose its
status and become irregular migrant because the circumstances which caused fear from persecution do not exist in the
country of origin anymore. Economic migrants may become victims of human trafficking. A refugee may become a victim, or
a potential victim, of human trafficking, in case that fear from the fact that he/she was a victim of human trafficking or fear
that he/she might again end up in a cycle if he/she returns to the country of origin bay serve as grounds for seeking asylum
protection, provided there is a connection between the fear and some grounds for obtaining refugee protection proscribed
by the UN 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.
6
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
In connection with the above stated, we approach the analysis of the position of asylum seekers and
functioning of the asylum system in Serbia 4 from wider perspective, by analyzing both the position of
irregular migrants and the risks to which these persons are exposed – above all the consequences of
their ``wrong`` classification, as well as the possibility to become victims of sexual or some other
exploitation.
SERBIA ON THE ROUTE OF IRREGULAR
MIGRATIONS
Serbia is on the main and very familiar route of migrants from Asian and African countries towards
Western Europe. Their route starts at Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia or Eritrea, and, as a rule, leads
across Turkey, Greece, Macedonia to Serbia. Permeability of Turkish-Greek border has continuous
negative effect to the situation in the Republic of Serbia. During summer months of 2011, according to
FRONTEX estimation, more than 6,000 persons a month– 200 daily – managed to cross Turkish-Greek
border; while in January 2012, this number decreased to approximately 2,800. 5 Greek Citizens'
Protection Minister reported that 99,368 persons were arrested in 2011 because of illegal entry or
residence and that 9,311 asylum appeals were submitted, 9, 175 of which were rejected 6. The trend of
illegal movement across the borders in the region, above all Macedonian-Serbian border, will continue.
Terrain configuration, elaborated routs of smugglers, vicinity of settlements and borders, all create
favorable environment for this phenomenon to take place in future.
Land route, Macedonia–Serbia–Hungary was dominant in the previous period. Determination of the
authorities of Serbia, Hungary and Austria to oppose this trend resulted in signing Joint declaration on
the necessary steps for efficient fight against illegal migrations. 7 Hungarian border police operates with
the support of Austria, and together with them are Hungarian sides of the border and representative of
Serbian Ministry of Interior when joint activities are undertaken. The facts that the Hungarian border is
better equipped, as well as those circumstances in Hungary have significantly altered 8 , contributed to
4 The authors of this document have previously created a report containing a detailed description of the proscribed policies
of the Republic of Serbia and regulatory framework, but also an overview of their implementation. The report follows the
structure of EU Questionnaire, more precisely its segment dedicated to the asylum system in Serbia. Document is available
at: http://www.grupa484.org.rs/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=63&Itemid=112
5 Nikolaj Nielsen, 26 March 2012, ``Asylum seekers flock to EU safe haven“, http://euobserver.com/9/115702 (accessed 9
May 2012)
6See: http://www.astynomia.gr/index.php?option=ozo_content&perform=view&id=12630&Itemid=73&lang
7 Joint declaration between the federal Minister of Interior of the Republic of Austria, Minister of Interior of the Republic of
Hungary and Minister of Interior of the Republic of Serbia was signed in Budapest on 6 October 2011
8 Hungary was initially rejecting large number of asylum applications without serious consideration. Afterwards, based on
the amendments of the Law on Asylum, the regulation proscribing that the migrants from the countries hit by violence
(above all Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia) are to be detained until the final decision about their application was brought,
started to apply. Due to this, as many as 1,102 persons sought asylum from detention during 2011, which is two thirds of the
total number of submitted applications for asylum in Hungary. UNHCR,``Hungary as a Country of Asylum“, Geneva: UNHCR,
page 15
7
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
the important shift in movement across Croatia starting from November 2011.9 According to the data of
the Serbian Ministry of Interior, 844 migrants who are foreign citizens, illegally crossed to the territory
of Hungary and were returned according to the Readmission Agreements in 2011. In the first four
months of 2012, this number amounted to 270 10. According to the data of Hungarian Helsinki
Committee 11, as many as 3,752 deportations were recorded at the border between Hungary and Serbia
in 2011. 12
The states from which the majority of migrants arrive to Serbia are still Afghanistan, Somalia and
Pakistan, while significant number also comes from Palestine and North Africa - Algeria, Libya, Tunisia
and Morocco. Although there are not many persons coming from Syria, if the conflict in this country
continues to escalate it may be expected that more Syrian citizens will arrive. Ministry of Interior of the
Republic of Serbia reports that, about 9,500 irregular migrants were registered until December 2011, 13
as compared to 2010, when approximately 2,500 were recorded. The common characteristics of these
people are that they mostly do not possess any personal documents, that their identity is determined
based on their statements, and that they illegally enter the territory of the Republic of Serbia, often
using the services of smugglers.
``Majority of irregular migrants, foreign citizens, detected while illegally crossing state borders, unlawful
stay or transit across the territory of Serbia, were identified by respective authorities as economic
migrants, while the number of asylum seekers is much smaller” 14
Apart from irregular migrations taking place on land, there appears a new trend of arrival by plane for
the citizens of Turkey, characteristic for the whole region. Citizens of this country come to Serbia legally,
as they are not required visas neither for Serbia nor for the other countries in the region, from where
they make further attempts to illegally enter some of the EU countries.15
Law on State Border Protection 16, as well as Law on Foreigners 17 prescribe legal responsibility of any
individual for unallowed crossing of the state border of the Republic of Serbia and illegal entry of
9Western Balkans – Risk Analysis for 2012.FRONTEX, April 2012 http://www.frontex.europa.eu/news/western-balkansannual-risk-analysis-2012-K8uVsa
10 Source: Politika, Illegal Migrants Rush towards Subotica, published on 20 May 2012
http://www.politika.rs/rubrike/Hronika/Ilegalni-migranti-hrle-ka-Subotici.lt.html
11 More details at: http://helsinkifigyelo.hvg.hu/
12 See: Serbia as a safe country, revised, Hungarian Helsinki Committee, June 2012,
http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/publisher/HHC.html
13 Source: RTV Vojvodina, Illegal migrants, a shared problem, December 12, 2011, http://www.rtv.rs/sr_lat/drustvo/ilegalnimigranti-zajednicki-problem_289050.html, web site visited on 27 May 2012
14 Protection of the rights of migrants in the Republic of Serbia, manual for state officials and officials of local selfgovernment, International Organization for Migrations –Mission in Serbia, Dr Ivana Krstic, Assistant Professor, Belgrade,
2012, page 14
15 Western Balkans – Risk Analysis for 2012, FRONTEX, April 2012 http://www.frontex.europa.eu/news/western-balkansannual-risk-analysis-2012-K8uVsa
16 Law on State Border Protection, `Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia`, No. 97/08, Article 10, paragraph 2, i.e. Article
65 paragraph 1 and Article 41, paragraph 1, i.e. Article 65, paragraph 4
17 Law on Foreigners, `Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia` No. 97/08, Article 85, paragraph 1, position 3
8
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
foreigners into the Republic of Serbia. The offender may be fined (from 3,000 to 50,000 dinars) or
detained (3 to 30 days). 18
Based on the data obtained from the Magistrates` Courts in Serbia 19, 2,951 persons were penalized in
2011 for the actions referring to illegal crossing of state border and stay on the territory of the Republic
of Serbia 20. Notably, the majority of sentences were pronounced by the Magistrates` Court in Subotica –
1,104, out of which 76 referred to unaccompanied minors, and the court in Presevo - 566. Until May 1
2012, the number of pronounced penalties for misdemeanors amounted to 1,375, while the number of
procedures in progress is 946, and yet again the majority of sentences are pronounced by Magistrates`
Courts in Subotica and Presevo.
As regards the activities of Magistrates` Courts, the practice of treating foreign citizens who had
previously offended the Law on State Border Protection and are returned according to the Readmission
Agreements from some of the neighboring states, is uneven. Some individuals are taken before the
locally responsible Magistrates` Courts, while some Magistrates` Courts take the position that this is not
within their scope of authorities, as there is no reliable evidence that a person made an offence at the
territory for which the court is in charge. 21
One of the possibilities for court action is also pronouncing protective measures of removing a
foreigner from the territory of the Republic of Serbia 22, and the total number of the pronounced
removal measures in 2011 was 648, out of which 401 by the Magistrates` Court in Presevo. In 2012 (until
18 Law on Protection of State Border, Article 65 proscribes the following: a fine of 5,000 to 50,000 or up to 30 days
imprisonment shall be imposed on a natural person committing an offence by:
1) Crossing or trying to cross the state border outside a certain border crossing point, outside working hours at the border
crossing point or contrary to the purpose of the border crossing point; or crossing or trying to cross the state border at a
border crossing point without valid travel or other document prescribed for crossing of the state border; 2) Not possessing a
document prescribed for crossing the state border or refusing to present it to police officer, i.e. refusing to submit to border
control or leaving the zone of the border crossing point before the border control is completed or trying to evade border
control in some other way, 3) Failing to declare weapons for hunting purposes, i.e. weapons for shooting sports purposes
and ammunition which are brought into the Republic of Serbia, 4) Debarking or embarking a vessel, upon its arrival from
abroad or upon departure from the Republic of Serbia outside a border crossing point
The Law on Foreigners, Article 85, states: A fine amounting to RSD 6.000 to 30.000 shall be imposed for offence to a
foreigner who stays unlawfully on the territory of the Republic of Serbia.
19 Excluding the courts in Paracin, Sremska Mitrovica, Backa Palanka, Raska, Vranje and Mladenovac, which have not replied
to request to access information of public importance by Belgrade Center for Human Rights.
20 Penalties are pronounced based on the Article 10, paragraph 2, i.e. Article 65, paragraph 1, and Article 41, paragraph 1,
i.e. Article 65, paragraph 4. of the Law on State Border Protection, as well as based on the Article 85, paragraph 1 position
3of the Law on Foreigners
21 Source: Miljan Vuckovic, Head of the Asylum Department of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, interview
dated 26 July 2012
22 Article 57, Law on Misdemeanors - Deportation orders from the territory of Serbia issued against foreigners may be
pronounced against foreign nationals who committed a misdemeanor because of which their further stay in the country is
undesirable. The court order referred to in § 1 of this Article may be pronounced for a term of from six months to three
years. The term of the pronounced court order is calculated from the effective date of the judgment, but the imprisonment
time shall not be included in the term of the court order. The conditions under which the enforcement of the court order
referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article can be temporarily postponed can be prescribed by a separate law
9
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
now), 143 measures were pronounced, with the Magistrates` Court in Presevo again at the forefront
with 109 pronounced measures.
On the other hand, according to the provisions of the Law on Asylum 23, the person seeking asylum will
not be punished for illegal entry or stay in the Republic of Serbia, if he/she without any delay submits
asylum application and provides reliable explanation for his/her illegal entry and stay in the country. In
order to avoid the cases of punishing persons who wish to express their intention to seek asylum for
illegal entry and stay, Magistrates` Courts are obliged to consistently apply the provisions of the Law on
Misdemeanors, above all those relating to the obligation to truly and completely determine the facts
important for making decisions, to take care that ignorance or lack of education of such persons do not
endanger their right, and that the provisions regarding language, i.e. interpreting to the language those
persons comprehend with the assistance of court interpreters, are actually applied.
Due to the violation of the provisions of the Law on State Border Protection 24 and the Law on
Foreigners 25 between the 1 January 2012 and 1 May 2012 period, 2,522 in total resided in penal
institutions of the Republic of Serbia 26. Majority of foreigners served their sentences in municipal prison
in Subotica, 1939 persons in 2011, while between January 1 and June 20, 2012 this number amounted
to 905. 27 In Municipal Court of Subotica only men are detained, and it is uncertain what happens with
women and children. The identities of the captives in Subotica are determined by the police and prison
employees who do not undertake special procedures for verification of the identity or age, so it often
happens that their users are also minors who claim to be of age before authorities, police, and
Magistrates` Courts. 28 Until now, not any person detained in Subotica has expressed intention to seek
asylum. The employees of the prison in Subotica have concluded that there is a need for their users to
acquire necessary information about their rights, especially the possibility of seeking asylum 29. In
addition, the prison is not in the position to use the services of official interpreters, and captives or
employees speaking English are used for interpreting.
The fact that is especially disturbing is the lack of reliable information about the destiny and movement
of these people after they have served their sentence. The way of their treatment may be very different
in practice. Namely, a number of them, with certificates confirming that they have served their sentence,
23 Law on Asylum, `Official Gazette` No. 109/07, Article 8
24 Article 10, paragraph 2, i.e. Article 65 paragraph 1, and Article 41 paragraph 1, i.e. Article 65, paragraph 4 of the Law on
State Border Protection
25 Article 85, paragraph 1 position 3 of the Law on Foreigners
26 We obtained this information based on the data which, on the grounds of Article 15, position 1 of the Law on Open
Access to Information of Public Importance, was provided to us by all penal institutions except municipal prisons in Negotin
and Novi Sad
27 Interview with the Director of the municipal prison in Subotica, 20 June 2012
28 Ibid.
29 Belgrade Center for Human Rights, which since the beginning of 2012 has been offering legal support free of charge to
asylum seekers, as implementation partner of UNHCR, it plans to start this year with distribution of materials with
information on the asylum system practice in Serbia
10
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
are released, some other are escorted by the police to the Padinska Skela reception center for
foreigners, while the third option is to deport these people directly to Macedonia 30.
According to the provisions of the Law on Foreigners, a foreigner for whom forced removal is not
possible, for whom is not possible to define identity or does not possess any travel documents, as well
as in all other cases defined by the Law, relevant authorities will, by means of decision, direct him/her to
the reception center of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, for residence under the
reinforced police monitoring 31. Stay in the reception center lasts until the forced removal of foreigners
and at the time of stay in cannot be longer than 90 days. After the deadline is expired, a foreigner`s stay
may be prolonged in the reception center provided that his identity has not been determined yet, that
he/she intentionally prevents forced removal and that he/she has applied for asylum during the
procedure of forced removal. In total, foreigners cannot stay longer than 180 days in reception center.
In 2011, 7 foreigners expressed their intention to seek asylum (Afghanistan - 2; Palestine 1; Tunisia- 3;
Iran-1), average length of their stay in reception center was 14 days. In the first four months of 2012,
there were no foreigners in the reception center who expressed their intention to seek asylum. 32
In case there are persons in the reception center for whom it is impossible to determine identities even
after the expiry of specified maximum period of potential stay, or persons who are citizens of the
countries in which it is not possible to deport them to although their identity has been determined (for
example Afghanistan), these persons will be released after the time specified by the Law33.
Reception center has necessary conditions for accommodation of both men and women, and the
principle of family unity is respected. Accordingly, all family members are accommodated together in a
room located in the area intended for females. Under certain circumstances, defined by Article 52 of the
Law on Asylum, it is also possible to accommodate minors. In 2011, four minors who are foreign
citizens stayed in the reception center (Palestine - 2; Algeria- 1; Pakistan -1), while in the first four
months of 2012 there were 3 (Afghanistan 2; Bangladesh-1).34 In order to protect the interests of
minors and when necessary, the reception center employees contact the responsible social center from
Palilula.
Responsible higher instance courts bring final court orders about the appeals to the pronounced
decisions, i.e. the measure of prolonged stay in the reception center. The appeal does not withhold the
execution of the decision. Facts that the legislator clearly defined the period of the validity of the
30 Report about the visit to municipal prison in Subotica, Ela Meh, Migreugroup. The visit was organized on 25 April 2012,
within the International Open Access Campaign.
31 This kind of restriction of freedom of movement is not completely identical, nor same measures are applied in case of
staying in penal institutions
32 Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia (MoI of RS), Minister`s Office, Bureau for information of public importance
01 No:5722/12-3, 6 June 2012
33 Source: Dragan Romcevic, MoI of RS, interview dated 26 July 2012
34 Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, Minister`s Office, Bureau for information of public importance 01
No:5722/12-3, 6 June 2012
11
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
measure, as well as the possibility that higher instance court decides upon the decision of the
authorized body are of special importance. 35
Recommendations:
1. It is necessary to significantly improve the quality of work of Magistrates` Courts as regards penalties for
irregular migrants for illegal entry and stay at the territory of the Republic of Serbia. Magistrates` Courts
are required, in accordance with the Law on Misdemeanors, which proscribes an obligation to truly and
completely determine the facts important for making decisions, to investigate all circumstances for every
migrant, above all to avoid the cases of punishing persons who wish to express their intention to seek
asylum. To this objective, it is necessary to organize additional education of certain number of judges of
Magistrates` Courts, who will be specialized for recognition of necessity for asylum protection.
2. It is necessary to ensure that the migrants from penal institutions are informed, in the language they
understand, about their rights, above all the right to seek asylum. To this purpose, it is necessary to
create special or distribute the existing materials with basic information on the asylum system,
conditions for obtaining the status, asylum procedure, rights and obligations of asylum seekers, whom
they can turn to for assistance in the procedure, and similar.
3. It is necessary, within the shortest terms possible, to provide continuous funds from the budget for
interpretation services in all procedures in which the interests, rights and obligations of migrants are
decided upon. Having in mind the delicate position of the asylum seekers and long-term consequences
of poor interpreting, the state is obliged to ensure that the interpreters are independent and competent,
and to provide them with diverse kinds of trainings which will raise the level of their professional skills in
the procedures related to migrants and protection of their rights.
VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING AS PART OF
IRREGULAR MIGRATIONS OF FOREIGNERS ON
THE TERRITORY OF SERBIA
Today, state institutions accept the fact that human trafficking is a form of organized crime affecting
everybody, regardless of gender, age, citizenship or nationality. Among numerous risk groups 36,
literature often highlights asylum seekers as one of the most risky categories. An example from a
refugee camp for people from Kosovo may serve as an example. The employees of IOM reported that
human traffickers lured victims in refugee camps and that some young women were even kidnapped.
IOM stated that this was an extreme example how ``human traffickers use unfavorable situation in which
forced migrants are`` 37.
35 Before the adoption of presently effective Law on Foreigners, there were cases that individuals stayed in the reception
center for more than a year, in situations when it was not possible to determine their identity or return them to the country
of origin. Source: Dragan Romcevic, MoI of RS, interview dated 26 July 2012
36 Other groups considered as risky for becoming victims of human trafficking include children, youth, persons without
parental care, people with developmental disabilities, persons from dysfunctional families, persons affected by poverty,
violence, natural catastrophes, and families of displaced and persons and refugees
37 IOM, `Traffickers Make Money through Humanitarian Crises` Trafficking in Migrants, No. 19 (July 1999):1-2
12
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
Serbia is a country of origin, transit, and destination of victims of human trafficking, with rising share of
internal trafficking in humans 38, i.e. within Serbian borders. It accounts for 44% of all cases in our
country since 2008. 39 Speaking of geographical presence of the problem of human trafficking in Serbia,
it is difficult to find exact data on the number of identified victims or persons who were offered
assistance, not just because the grey number in human trafficking is significantly high 40, but also due to
different needs for which the data are required, different methodologies by which the data are collected
and recorded, and statistical parameters according to which the data are processed. Namely,
organizations which offer assistance keep records about their users, the Department keeps a database
on persons to whom the status of victim has been recognized, while police data are based on the
number of criminal charges which have been pressed and the number of perpetrators and the damaged
parties involved in these charges, while courts count the procedures which are underway, first instance
and second instance verdicts 41. Apart from this, actors which possess certain data in line with their
scope of work do not always encounter the same victims of human trafficking. On the other hand, a
number of victims has passed through a few organizations and institutions which made separate
records for each of them. As comparison of individual cases has never been performed, it may be
expected that the overlapping is significant.
The following data are usually taken as relevant indicators of the situation in Serbia:




The Office for Coordination of Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking identified 574 victims
of human trafficking in the period March 2004 – March 2012 42
ASTRA identified or assisted to 403 victims of human trafficking by SOS telephone line from
March 2002 until May 2012
Temporary home ``Atina`` has provided for 123 victims of human trafficking within its three
programs since June 2004 43
NGO Counseling Centre against Family Violence 44 provided for 270 victims of human trafficking
in its shelter for victims of trafficking of women and in safe houses for victims of family violence
between January 2002 and October 2010 45.
38 Form of trafficking in humans where luring and exploitation of victims is done in the same country
39 Majority of the identified victims are domestic nationals. Out of the total number of victims that ASTRA identified 75%
were the nationals of Serbia. Until the end of 2004, majority of identified victims were foreign nationals, but in the period
2006-2007 this ratio changed to the advantage of victims who are domestic nationals (73, 9%). According to the data by
ASTRA, as well as the data of the Office for Coordination of Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking, domestic nationals
account for 95% of victims of human trafficking identified during 2010 and 2011and 100% of victims identified since the
beginning of 2012. All the children identified by ASTRA, and to whom this organization assisted since 2007, were domestic
nationals
40 Limanowska B. (2005), Trafficking in Human Beings in South Eastern Europe 2002 – Current Situation and Responses to
Trafficking in Human Beings in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the
Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, UNICEF, UNOHCHR, ODIHR, page 142
41 The length of court proceedings is just one of the reasons why the number of the submitted applications and decisions
are not the same for the same year
42 Data obtained for the purpose of this report
43 Galonja A., Jovanovic S. (2010), ``Protection of victims and prevention of trafficking in humans in the Republic of Serbia``,
Joint Program of UNHCR, UNODC and IOM for fighting against human trafficking, Belgrade, page 147
13
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
Data by the Office for Coordination of Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking 46
Total identified victims
2010
2011
47
88 48
89
Citizens of Serbia
85
73
Foreign citizens
4
15
2010
2011
Total identified victims
37
40
Citizens of Serbia
36
38
1
2
2010
2011
3
-
2010
2011
n/a
9
2010
2011
Citizens of Serbia
73
72
Foreign citizens
3
2
Data by ASTRA SOS telephone
Foreign citizens
Data by Counseling Centre against Family Violence
Number of users of shelter
Data by NGO Temporary home Atina
50
Number of users of temporary home
Data by the Ministry of Interior
51
49
TABLE 1. IDENTIFIED VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN SERBIA IN 2010 AND 2011
According to the statistical data from the past few years, domestic citizens form the majority of victims.
The data of ASTRA, as well as the data of the Office for Coordination of Protection of Victims of Human
Trafficking, domestic nationals accounted for 95% of victims of human trafficking identified in 2010 and
2011.
Taking into account rise of the ``industry`` of human trafficking, special attention needs to be paid to
the possibility for traffickers to find their victims among asylum seekers. Particular risk comes from the
fact that large number of irregular migrants and asylum seekers use the services of smugglers52 in order
44 This nongovernmental organization does not admit the victims of human trafficking in its shelters since October 2010
45 Data obtained from the organization for the annual ASTRA; this number includes the children of victims who stayed in
the reception center with their mothers
46 The Office does not publish its results on web site, but provides them upon request
47 Out of 89 identified persons, 61 were recognized as a victim and 28 as potential victims of human trafficking
48 Out of 88 identified persons, 76 were recognized as victims and 12 as potential victims of human trafficking
49 NGO Counseling Centre against Family Violence does not offer support to the victims of human trafficking since October
2010
50 NGO Atina offers accommodation to the victims identified and directed by the Office for Coordination of Protection of
Victims of Human Trafficking
51 Data cited from annual reports of coordinator for fight against human trafficking
52 Factor which additionally differentiates human trafficking from smuggling immigrants is the presence of force, coercion,
or deception throughout or at certain phases of the process, where force, deception or coercion are used for the purpose of
exploitation. As a rule, potential migrant is the one who contacts a smuggler first and is aware that he/she is being smuggled
at the border, as different from the person whom the traffickers have chosen to be their victim, and who at that moment
usually does not know anything about his/her destiny of the victim of human trafficking. Seen from the viewpoint of the
object of protection, smuggling persons is an act against the state which breaches its law on borders and immigrations while
14
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
to reach the desired destination country. It is possible and well known in practice that the same routes
for transfer are used, i.e. that the same actors are engaged for both transfer, transport and hiding of
smuggled persons and transfer, transport and hiding of victims of human trafficking. On the other hand,
the decision on exploitation of a person being smuggled may be brought in some of the phases of
transfer across the border or hiding in the destination country, 53 if smugglers, or traffickers, estimate
that the conditions are favorable, i.e. when the position of the smuggled person is such that they may
be considered as easy prey.
Analysis of the statistical data on nationality of foreign citizens who are victims of human trafficking
clearly indicates that only two identified victims were citizens of the countries from which majority of
irregular migrants, i.e. asylum seekers, comes from.
Nationality
ASTRA
MoI
Office
2010
BiH
Moldova
Croatia
Macedonia
Montenegro
Romania
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
2011
BiH
1
5
Russia
1
Ukraine
1
1
Montenegro
1
2
Afghanistan
2
Austria
1
Moldova
1
Albania
1
Slovenia
1
Turkey
1
TABLE 2: CITIZENSHIP OF FOREIGN VICTIMS OF HUMAN TRAFFICKING, DATA FOR 2010 AND 2011
human trafficking is a serious offence against victims including some kind of exploitation after lawful crossing of a state
border. In addition, as different from illegal migrations which imply illegal crossing of international borders based on a
voluntary decision and such engagement of smugglers who, after advance payment (in majority of cases), assist a migrant to
illegally enter the country of his/her choice, human trafficking does not necessarily imply border crossing (as is the case with
internal human trafficking), Criminal Justice Response and Jurisprudence in the Area of Anti-Human Trafficking in Serbia,
Joint Program to Combat Human Trafficking `UN GIFT SERBIA`, Prof. Milan Zarkovic, professor at the Academy for
Criminalistics and Police Studies, and group of authors.
53 Criminal Justice Response and Jurisprudence in the Area of Anti-Human Trafficking in Serbia, Joint Program to Combat
Human Trafficking `UN GIFT SERBIA`, Prof. Milan Zarkovic, Professor at the Academy for Criminalistics and Police Studies,
group of authors.
15
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
The centers for asylum seekers, as well as the reception center for foreigners have not registered any
victims of human trafficking so far. In direct interviews with the representatives of center for
accommodation of asylum seekers and representatives of the Red Cross of Serbia engaged in the
center for accommodation of asylum seekers in Bogovadja, we were informed that the employees had
not passed special trainings on identification of potential victims of human trafficking and provision of
assistance to these persons 54. Apart from this, the interviews with the asylum seekers are conducted by
the representatives of the Asylum Department, which are not specially trained for identification of
victims of human trafficking. Representatives of the Office for Coordination of Protection of Victims of
Human Trafficking 55 do not have the practice of regular visits to centers for asylum seekers.
With the aim of timely identification of victims, as well as prevention of human trafficking 56, it is
necessary to organize additional education for all persons who are in contact with asylum seekers, so
that they would become able to identify and assist them, as well as to introduce them to mechanisms of
potential victims of human trafficking. Apart from this, it is also important to offer necessary
information to asylum seekers in their own language not just about the potential risks of human
trafficking, but also to provide them with the contacts of nongovernmental and governmental bodies
for assisting victims of human trafficking.
Further to this, there is no mechanism, i.e. model, according to which activities would be taken for
providing for the persons who are asylum seekers and simultaneously identified as victims of human
trafficking. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, a procedure has been established according to which from the
moment of submission of asylum application, a victim of human trafficking enjoys full protection as an
asylum seeker, which excludes the application of regulations referring to the right to residence of
foreigners-victims of human trafficking. Therefore, for example, a victim of human trafficking seeking
asylum in Bosnia and Herzegovina is granted residence permit as asylum seeker and will not be given
residence permit as a victim of organized crime. Additionally this person cannot be punished for illegal
entering or staying in Bosnia and Herzegovina 57.
It is a positive fact that the authorities of the Republic of Serbia are aware of the need to formalize the
connection between the asylum system and human trafficking within the Joint Program for Fight
against Human Trafficking `UN GIFT SRBIJA`, they started with trainings for representatives of the
Department for Foreigners of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, including also the
Department for Asylum, Commissariat for Refugees of the Republic of Serbia, and nongovernmental
organizations which offer assistance free of charge to asylum seekers. 58
54 Visit to the Asylum Seekers` Accommodation Center in Bogovadja and interview with Svetlana Jovanovic, Director of the
Asylum Center in Bogovadja, 4 May 2012
55 Office for Coordination of Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking operates within the Ministry of Labor and Social
Policy –Institute for Education of Children and Youth, whose key role is protection of human rights of victims during their
identification and during the process of providing assistance and support
56 Collective centers for accommodation of refugees, displaced persons, asylum seekers are considered the most risky
places for recruitment of victims of human trafficking
57 Manual on the Protection of Victims of Human Trafficking in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Office of High Commissioner
for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sevima Sali Terzic and a group of authors, page 66
58 More details at: http://www.ungiftserbia.org/srp/?p=933
16
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
It is also important to note that the experience of the trafficked person can itself represent a
persecution which leads to the recognition of the refugee status. As stated in the UNHCR Guidelines on
International Protection 59: ``the forcible or deceptive recruitment of women or minors for the purposes
of forced prostitution or sexual exploitation is a form of gender-related violence or abuse that can even
lead to death. It can be considered a form of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In
addition, trafficked women and minors may face serious repercussions after their escape and/or upon
return, such as reprisals or retaliation from trafficking rings or individuals, real possibilities of being retrafficked, severe community or family ostracism, or severe discrimination.``
Recommendations:
4. With the aim of timely identification of victims and the prevention of human trafficking, it is necessary to
organize additional education for all persons in contact with asylum seekers. In this way, it would be
possible to have all these persons able to identify and offer initial assistance to potential victims of
human trafficking. Organization of trainings would not require additional funds from the budget, taking
into account that the relevant nongovernmental organizations organize these trainings regularly and free
of charge. Apart from this, it is also possible to organize trainings that would be held by officers of the
Ministry of Interior who possess training skills and have been working in the field of asylum for a number
of years.
5. It is necessary to introduce the procedure for action described in detail and the procedure for providing
for the persons who are simultaneously asylum seekers and identified victims of human trafficking.
6. It is necessary to provide key information to asylum seekers in the language they understand not just
about the potential risks of human trafficking, but also about the work of nongovernmental and
governmental bodies specialized for offering assistance to victims of human trafficking.
ASYLUM SYSTEM IN THE REPUBLIC OF SERBIA
`Permeability of Serbian-Macedonian border` and introduction of more strict control there undoubtedly
influenced the increase of the number of irregular migrants on the territory of Serbia, but also brought
more intense pressure to the asylum system in the Republic of Serbia. Strong rising tendency in the
number of persons who expressed their intention to seek asylum in the Republic of Serbia was first
spotted in 2010. Namely, in 2010 this number doubled in comparison to 2009 (2009 - 275; 2010 - 522).
Statistical data from 2011 undoubtedly confirmed this trend. The number of persons who expressed
their intention to seek asylum in the Republic of Serbia increased 6 times in comparison with 2010, so in
2011 3,134 persons in total expressed their intention to seek asylum in the Republic of Serbia. Majority
came from Afghanistan, Somalia and Pakistan followed by Palestine, Iran and some North African
countries.
59 Guidelines on International Protection: Gender-Related Persecution within the context of Article 1A(2) of the 1951
Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees (position 18)
17
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
Within the first six months of 2012, 974 persons expressed their intention to seek asylum in Serbia,
majority comprising of the nationals of Afghanistan, Algeria, Pakistan, Morocco, Somalia, Palestine, and,
what is especially important to note, nationals of Syria (49). This number also includes 176
unaccompanied minors, among which there were no girls. 60
During the last two years, greater number of families, i.e. mothers with children 61, were recorded among
the asylum seekers, as they are trying to reach Western Europe. Accordingly, 46 families were recorded
only in Bogovadja center during 2011, and for the first four months of 2012 20 families coming from
Afghanistan i.e. 7 mothers with children 62. Increase in the number of recorded asylum seekers has
additionally emphasized the lacks of the asylum system in Serbia, both those concerning the
procedures of examining the grounds for asylum applications and institutional and infrastructural
capacities of competent authorities.
PROCEDURE FOLLOWING AN ASYLUM
APPLICATION AND COMPETENT AUTHORITIES
The examination of eligibility of asylum applications is carried out in a two instance administrative
procedure 63. All the asylum issues which are not regulated by the Law on Asylum 64 are tackled in
accordance with the regulation of general administrative procedure 65, while in case of scope, contents
and forms of rights and obligations for persons seeking asylum, persons who have been granted
shelter, subsidiary or temporary protection, and which are not specified by this Law, the provisions
defining the movement and residence of foreigners are applied 66. Legal protection of asylum seekers is
also provided during the procedure in such as way that it is possible to initiate administrative court
proceedings against the second instance decision.
60 Report: Position of asylum seekers in Serbia (January- June 2012), Belgrade Center for Human Rights,
http://www.azil.rs/documents/category/izvestaji
61 In 2011, Center in Bogovadja accommodated 9 two-member families. During 2009 and 2010, asylum seekers were mostly
adult males, without families
62 Interview with Svetlana Jovanovic, Director of the Asylum Center in Bogovadja, 4 May 2012
63 Regulations of the Republic of Serbia do not define abbreviated (accelerated) procedure, so the procedure is identical for
all asylum seekers
64 Article 67 of the Law on Asylum anticipates the adoption of by-laws which would further define the provisions of the
stated law and provide for its more efficient implementation. Majority of regulations has already been adopted and
enforced, but we are still waiting for the adoption of a by-law which would regulate the method of recording and registering
of persons seeking asylum and Ministry of Interior is in charge of preparation of these by-laws. Civil society suggested
including an obligation of the competent Minister of Interior in this Article to adopt a special Rulebook on legal assistance
but this proposal was rejected. All the adopted by-laws are available at http://www.apc-cza.org/sr/pravilnici-rs.html
65 Law on General Administrative Procedure (`Official Gazette of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia`, No. 33/97 and 31/01), Law
on Amendments of the Law on Administrative Procedure (`Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia` 30/10)
66 Law on Foreigners, `Official Gazette of RS` No. 97/08.
18
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
First instance procedure
First instance procedure is carried out in four phases: recording, registration, hearing and decisionmaking.
Foreigner wishing to seek asylum in Serbia may express this attention verbally or in writing, at the
border or police offices anywhere on the territory of the Republic of Serbia. This kind of application
must be recorded, after which a certificate is used serving as evidence that the person has expressed
intention to seek asylum.
In 2011, the majority of persons expressed the intention in local police directorates -3018, then at borders – 87,
in accommodation center for minors unaccompanied by parents or guardians -22 and reception center for
foreigners – 7 people.
Within the January 1- April 30, 2012 period, 409 intentions were recorded in the local police directorates - 409,
69 at borders, 8 in accommodation center for minors unaccompanied by parents or guardians, while there were
no expressed intentions recorded in the reception center for foreigners 67.
`Nikola Tesla` airport, with its international flights, has not recorded any expressed intentions. UNHCR and
nongovernmental organizations offering the services of free legal aid do not have access to transit zone 68 and
therefore it is not possible to determine whether there have been any cases of offending the prohibition of
forced return69.
67 Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, Minister`s Office, Bureau for Information of Public Importance 01, No.
5722/12-3, 6 June 2012
68 Presentation of the UNHCR Office in Serbia held on 20 April 2012 in Suncana reka, within the training Standards and
practices in the areas of asylum and readmission. The training was organized within the project Networking and capacity
building for more effective migration policy, realized by Group 484, in partnership with Belgrade Center for Human Rights
and Belgrade Center for Safety Policy with financial support of Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway and within the program
Strengthening Civil Society in the Republic of Serbia
69 The principle of prohibition of returning or deportation (non-refoulement principle). Prohibition of deportation (nonrefoulement) is a principle of international law, and many countries are obliged to respect it by numerous instruments of
international law (Convention on Refugee Status (Official Gazette of Federative People's Republic of Yugoslavia –
International and Other Agreements No. 7/60), Protocol on Refugee Status (Official Gazette of Socialist Federative Republic
of Yugoslavia – International and Other Agreements No. 15/67), European Convention on Protection of Human Rights and
Fundamental Freedoms (Official Gazette of Serbia and Montenegro– International agreements No. 9/2003, 5/2005, Official
Gazette RS – International agreements No. 12/2010), Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading
Treatment or Punishment (Official Gazette of Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia – International agreements No.
9/91), Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment amended and
supplemented by Protocol 1 and Protocol 2 with Convention (Official Gazette of Serbia and Montenegro–International
Agreements No. 9/2003)). Law on Asylum prescribes that not any person may be deported or returned to the territory
where his/her life or freedom would be endangered due to his/her race, religion, nationality, support to a certain social
group, or political views (Article 6, position 1 of the Law). This principle is always applied, both inside and outside, i.e. at
state borders, and refers to refugees with recognized status and asylum seekers, so persons seeking asylum should be
allowed to enter and access the procedure of granting asylum in order to avoid the possibility of violating the principle of
non-refoulment. It is of major importance that the legislator accepted the civil society initiative and added to this Article
the third position stating that not any person may be deported or returned against his/her own will to the territory at which
there is a risk for his/her to be subject to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and and by adding the
stated position the Article became harmonized with the Article 3 of the European Convention for Protection of Human
Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
19
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
The certificate enables lawful stay on the territory of Serbia for the following 72 hours, and during that
time, the person is obliged to register at the Asylum Office or asylum center – in Banja Koviljaca and
Bogovadja. Majority of persons recorded as asylum seekers do not register within the legally defined
period in the centers for admission of asylum seekers. In 2011, 3,134 persons expressed their intention,
but only 771 passed through the asylum centers. Undoubtedly, the discrepancy between the number of
expressed intentions and the number of people who stayed in some of the accommodation centers for
asylum seekers is the consequence of numerous factors. First of all, this is due to the facts that
significant number of people does not actually want asylum protection 70 and that the territory of the
Republic of Serbia is used only for transit, but also the fact that the capacities for accommodation of
asylum seekers are insufficient and that in the previous period, for certain number of people, although
they had applied to some of the centers, the accommodation could not be provided, so these persons
were forced to find private accommodation in the vicinity of the asylum center 71.
With the exception of recording expressed intention, Asylum Office is authorized for implementation of
all activities in the first instance procedure (registration, hearing 72), including bringing first instance
decisions. Asylum Office has not yet been formally established, so all the activities from its scope of
authorities are performed by the Department for Asylum, special unit within the Department for
Foreigners of Border Police Directorate of Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia 73. Capacities of
personnel of the Department for Asylum are still insufficient, as the announced job classification of the
Ministry of Interior has not been carried out yet. According to the existing one, Department for Asylum,
as part of the Department for Foreigners, comprises of 11 employees, and 7 positions are taken74.
The first activity that the officers of the Asylum Office perform is registration 75, after which identity cards
are issued to asylum seekers. There is no precisely defined period within which registrations and issuing
of identity cards needs to be completed 76. Until now, the practice of MoI was to register only the
persons accommodated in the asylum centers 77, while the registration of the other recorded asylum
70 More in the section Rejecting application by applying the concept of safe third country
71More in the section Capacities for accommodation of asylum applicants
72 In legal context the term `interview` or some other related euphemistic term should be used, quoting that this first
instance activity is carried out in accordance with the provisions of the Law on General Administrative Procedure which
regulate hearings
73 Wider public is not familiar with the fact that the Asylum Office has not yet been formally established and, accordingly,
when we speak about a state body competent for acting in the first instance in cases of asylum application, usually it is the
Asylum Office. with the purpose of easier following of explanations of the procedures proscribed by the Law on Asylum, as
well as the fact that Asylum Office is expected to start working formally within the next few months and start it formal
existence, we will hereinafter speak about the Asylum Office
74 More details at: Challenges of Forced Migrations, Group 484, April 2011, page. 87
http://www.grupa484.org.rs/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=63&Itemid=112
75 Authorized officer of the Asylum Office carries our registration, which implies determining identity, taking photos, taking
fingerprints and temporary holding of all documents which might be of importance in the asylum procedure
76 Formally, the procedure starts only at the moment of submission of application, but the terms within which the activities
preceding the procedure itself are performed naturally affect the moment in which the first instance procedure will be
completed
77 In the second half of 2011, the number of asylum seekers who stayed in Banja Koviljaca was incomparably higher than
accommodation facilities of this asylum center. In such situation, the authorities introduced the practice of `waiting lists` for
20
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
seekers was rejected. In addition, identity cards were issued only at the moment of formal submission of
application 78.A few weeks passes between the moment of expressing intention and obtaining identity
card, which negatively affects the right of freedom of movement in the first place, as well as other rights
of asylum seekers 79. In 2011, 422 identity cards were issued, but we should have in mind that identity
cards are not issued to minors accompanied by parents or guardians.
Procedure for obtaining asylum is initiated by lodging an asylum application with the authorized officer
of Asylum Office. Not any person can submit asylum application until he/she is given a special form by
the officer of the Asylum Office. However, we should speak about the initiation of asylum procedure
and status of asylum seeker from the moment when a person expresses intention to seek asylum, i.e.
does this verbally, not finally, when the form is filled out. It is a fact that there are a few activities of
authorized body (recording, registration) before lodging the application. The procedure for obtaining
the right to asylum is in its nature an administrative procedure, and according to the Law on
Administrative Procedure, it is considered that the procedure has been initiated when competent
authorities undertake any activity with the purpose of conducting the procedure.
Furthermore, differentiating between the expression of intention and formal submission of application
to be granted the right to asylum also affects the process of decision making, concretely decisions on
suspension of the procedure. Asylum Office brings the decision on suspension of the procedure in case
when an asylum seeker gives up applying for asylum, or simply leaves the place of residence, as well as
in some other cases 80 proscribed by the Law on Asylum. Asylum Office brings the decision on
suspension of the procedure even in situations when formal application has not yet been lodged, i.e. if
only recording and/or registration activities have been done and the respective person is no longer
available to responsible authorities (after recording a person has not registered with competent
authorities and/or left one of the asylum centers within the legally defined period of time).
Applications are submitted in the proscribed form and in the period that the Office schedules in
advance separately for each person. Submission of applications is carried out in asylum centers, as well
as hearing, which is the next activity in the procedure. Officers of the asylum office in asylum centers
personally interview individuals seeking asylum and their authorized representatives are present at the
hearing 81. During the hearing, an authorized representative of the Asylum Office should establish all the
facts relevant for deciding upon asylum application, especially identity of a person seeking asylum,
admission to asylum center. Waiting list was formed in accordance with the time of their application, while mothers with
children and unaccompanied minors were prioritized. A person who expressed intention was under obligation to register at
the center within the legally defined period of 72 hours, after which his/her name would be put down on the waiting list.
Persons who had the status of asylum seekers and who resided outside the center were given so called `white card` for
foreigner, issued by police directorate in Loznica, and they were obliged to report daily to the Manager of the Center
78 Source: Belgrade Center for Human Rights and Center for Protection and Assistance to Asylum Seekers, nongovernmental
organizations offering legal support to asylum seekers on the territory of Republic of Serbia.
79 Report: position of asylum seekers in Serbia (January - April 2012), Belgrade Center for Human Rights
http://www.azil.rs/documents/category/izvestaji
80 Article 34, Law on Asylum
81 NGOs Belgrade Center for Human Rights and Center for Protection and Assistance to Asylum Seekers offer legal
assistance to asylum seekers
21
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
reasons upon which asylum application is grounded, movement of an asylum seeker after leaving the
country of origin, as well as whether the person has already sought asylum in some other country.
Minutes are written during the hearing, whose truthfulness and accuracy are confirmed by the
signatures of all persons present at the hearing. The acts of hearing and writing minutes are key
instances in the procedure of examining asylum, since they are used not only by the first instance body
for making decisions, but they also form an integral part of the documents in the appeal procedure
delivered to the second instance body. In most cases the minutes, apart from the appeal itself,
represent major source of information for second instance body 82.
After competent authority has collected all relevant facts and statements from asylum seekers, it brings
first instance decisions. Asylum Office may bring a decision by which it grants the right to asylum and
acknowledges the right to refuge, or grants subsidiary protection or, on the other hand, decides to
reject asylum application and orders the foreigner to leave the territory of the Republic of Serbia within
a certain period, if there are no other grounds for residence. It was mentioned previously that Asylum
Office may bring a decision to suspend a procedure for granting asylum in certain cases defined by the
Law. In addition, officers of the Asylum Office have the possibility to bring a decision refusing the
asylum application.
Number of recorded asylum seekers
3134*
Number of registered asylum seekers
488
Number of submitted asylum applications
248
Number of hearings
118 (75 cases) 83
Number of first instance decisions (resolutions) of the Asylum Office
55 (87 persons)
TABLE 3: OVERVIEW OF THE NUMBER OF ASYLUM SEEKERS FROM THE MOMENT OF EXPRESSING
INTENTION TO BRINGING FIRST INSTANCE DECISION , DATA FOR 2011 (*INCLUDING THE TWO ` OLD
CASES` – PERSONS WHO WERE ALREADY REGISTERED UNDER DIFFERENT NAMES)
In the preceding year, Asylum Office brought 55 decisions concerning 87 persons. In majority of cases
the Office brought decisions to reject applications, so there were 53 decisions rejecting the applications
for 85 asylum seekers in total. Two decisions were brought rejecting the applications for two asylum
seekers. Not any asylum application was approved. In the first four months of this year the practice
remained the same. In total 18 decisions rejecting 29 asylum seekers were brought 84.
82 Source: Interview with Jovo Puletic, Chairman of the Asylum Committee in previous mandate 25 July 2012
83Each asylum seeker in Serbia submits an individual asylum application. Under certain circumstances, the Office may
decide to unite applications of certain persons (e.g. persons from the same family), but even then it is under obligation to
carry out the hearing with each asylum seeker individually. For each of the cases, after the procedure is finished, the Office
brings one decision, so the decision can refer to more than one individual.
84 Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, Minister`s Office, Bureau for Information of Public Importance 01
No.:5722/12-3, 6 June 2012
22
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
Rejection of application on the grounds of the safe
third country concept
In case when Asylum Office by means of decision rejects asylum application, it does not deal with the
substance of the application, and therefore, does not examine whether a person seeking asylum fulfills
the conditions for recognition of the right to asylum.
Mostly used grounds for rejecting applications refers to the concept of safe third country 85. According
to the Law on Asylum, safe third country is a country from the list of states defined by the government.
Basically, this is a state which observes international principles on protection of refugees included in the
1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the added Protocol from 1967, and in which an
asylum seeker stayed or through which he/she passed immediately before entering the territory of the
Republic of Serbia, in which he/she had an opportunity to apply for asylum, and where he/she would
not be exposed to persecution, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or returning to the state in
which his/her life, safety or freedom would be jeopardized.
Actually, this leads to the situation that a person should be returned to the country from which it came
from, and which is declared safe by the Decision of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, and
submit an application in that country. However, primary responsibility of providing protection is on the
state in which an application was submitted and when applying the safe third country concept, this
responsibility is reflected in securing a guarantee that the state to which asylum seeker will be returned
will accept to decide on the eligibility of asylum application and that asylum seeker in that country
would enjoy efficient protection from refoulement86.
Regardless of the serious drawbacks of this concept, majority of European countries recognizes return
of asylum seekers to `safe third countries` in their legal acts, as prescribed by the EU Law. The methods
in which countries introduce this concept in their systems are different, and therefore there are states
with lists of countries which they consider safe, and those who assess the `safety` of a certain country at
the moment when estimation of needs is carried out in order to solve a particular case. The Republic of
Serbia falls into the category of countries with a list 87.
The existence of lists of safe countries of origin or safe third countries for all asylum seekers in all
circumstances is not a proper solution, even if a listed country is one of Western Europe ones. The
example which best illustrates negative sides of a list is Greece. Namely, during 2011, European Court
85 Safe third country is the state from the list of countries determined by the government, which observes international
principles on protection of refugees included in the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the added
Protocol from 1967, and in which an asylum seeker stayed or through which he/she passed immediately before entering the
territory of the Republic of Serbia, in which he/she had an opportunity to apply for asylum, and where he/she would not be
exposed to persecution, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or returning to the state in which his/her life, safety or
freedom would be jeopardized.
86 See footnote 72
87 Decision of the Government of Serbia on determining the list of safe countries of origin and safe third countries ( `Official
Gazette of the Republic of Serbia`, No. 67/2009)
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Asylum Seekers in Serbia
for Human Rights, in the case M.S.S. against Belgium and Greece 88 established that the procedure for
granting asylum is inefficient and that the rights of asylum seekers are systematically violated. After the
decision of the European Court for Human Rights, significant number of EU member states suspended
the practice of returning asylum seekers to Greece 89 by applying Dublin Regulation 90. Apart from this,
the list includes some countries which, due to the cruel violation of human rights, should not be
considered safe, such as Tunisia or Belarus 91, as well as Turkey which ratified with reservation the 1967
Protocol on Convention of Refugees. The reservation restricts the application of Convention only to the
persons who became refugees due to events taking place in Europe.
In addition, it should be taken into account that all neighboring countries are declared safe third
countries. Applications of majority of asylum seekers in the Republic of Serbia are rejected due to the
fact that they have crossed Macedonia on their way to Serbia. It remains unclear whether Serbian
authorities are given guarantees indeed that he applications of these persons will be considered in a fair
procedure and that they will not be returned to Greece. 92.
The practice of the European Court of Human Rights, as well as of the signed and ratified convention,
which guarantee protection and fundamental human rights to asylum seekers, are a part of the internal
legal system and authorities are obliged to apply them. Simultaneously, it is also necessary to change
within the shortest possible terms the provisions of the Law on Asylum regulating creation of the list of
safe countries in order to prevent having legal acts in the Republic of Serbia which ``provide for the
possibility`` for state bodies to disrespect international obligations of the Republic of Serbia in their
activities.
We herewith emphasize that the Asylum Office should not reject an asylum application before it
examines the persons seeking asylum about the circumstances which exclude reasons for rejection of
asylum application. In the light of applying the concept of safe third country, the fact that one country is
a safe country of origin or a safe third country for a certain group of people does not mean that an
individual cannot be exposed to persecution or inadequate protection there. It is essential that this
88 M.S.S. against Belgium and Greece, Application no. 30696/09, Grand Chamber decision dated 21 January 2011
89 More details: Joint Submission of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) and of the European Council on Refugees
and Exiles to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in the case of M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece (Application
no. 30696/09), May 2012
90 Dublin II replaced the Dublin Convention from 1990, which established criteria regarding the responsibility of EU Member
states for examining asylum applications. The major goal of Dublin II is to determine within the shortest terms possible,
which country is responsible for examining asylum application and preventing abuse of asylum procedure by lodging an
application of one person in a number of countries. See: http://eurlex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32003R0343:EN:NOT
91 Report: Position of Asylum Seekers in Serbia (January- April 2012), Belgrade Center for Human Rights
http://www.azil.rs/documents/category/izvestaji
92 Transfer of responsibilities may be defined only between the states that have compatible protection systems, based on
the agreement which clearly specifies them. Opposite to this, a `safe third country`, as defined by the Law on Asylum of the
Republic of Serbia, is grounded on a unilateral decision of a state to declare a third country responsible for examining an
asylum application. In addition, a third country needs to confirm clearly that it accepts asylum applicant on its territory and
that asylum application will be considered in a fair procedure
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Asylum Seekers in Serbia
concept is applied respecting the circumstances of every particular case, i.e. that each asylum applicant
has the possibility to show that certain state cannot be considered safe in a concrete case.
Recommendations:
7. It is necessary to enable access for UNHCR and nongovernmental organizations protecting human rights
of migrants to the transit zone at `Nikola Tesla` airport, due to international flights, in order to create
control mechanism for prevention of refoulment and so that persons who express intention to seek
asylum would have access to regular procedure of examining the eligibility of their claims.
8. It is necessary to create conditions as soon as possible to formally establish Asylum Office and to improve
the capacity of its staff. Insufficient number of employees, with the increasing number of asylum seekers
and the activities to be carried out, results in the situation that the tasks cannot be performed efficiently,
and further constant risk that the asylum procedure will not be carried out in accordance with general
principles, including the standards as regards reasonable duration of the procedure.
9. It is necessary to prescribe deadlines within which all activities preceding the formal submission of
application must be performed, as the time within which the activities preceding the procedure itself
define the moment of finishing first instance procedure.
10. To review and immediately amend the Decision of the Government of Serbia on determining the list of
safe countries of origin and safe third countries, taking into account that there are some countries
presently on the list which do not even fulfill formal conditions to be declared safe (e.g. the Republic of
Turkey). It is also necessary, as soon as possible, to amend the provisions of the Law on Asylum, in such a
way that it does not prescribe adoption of the list of countries, but to include only the criteria based on
which it will be assessed whether certain country from which asylum seekers comes from may be
considered a country of origin, i.e. safe third country. Alternatively, it is also possible, although such
solution would not be of the same quality level, to amend relevant provisions of the Law on Asylum in a
way that adoption of the list of safe countries is prescribed, but also to include precise definitions and
criteria which will be considered decisive in pronouncing certain country safe and the deadlines within
which the list would be revised.
11. It is essential that the concept of the safe third country is applied considering the circumstances of every
individual case, i.e. that each applicant is allowed to prove that a certain country cannot be considered
safe in his/her case. In addition, in order to fully apply the concept of safe third country, actual
connection between the asylum applicant or close relation with the third country must be proved, and
these ties need to be stronger than the ones with the country in which the person seeks asylum. Only in
this case it is fair and reasonable to require from this person to submit asylum application in that third
country, provided it is proved that it is safe for him/her. mere transit across a third country itself does not
necessarily represent such bond or connection. The wish of the asylum applicant regarding the state in
which he/she will submit asylum application should be taken into account as much as possible.
12. It is necessary to enable access for UNHCR and nongovernmental organizations protecting human rights
of migrants to the transit zone at `Nikola Tesla` airport, due to international flights, in order to create
control mechanism for prevention of refoulment and so that persons who express intention to seek
asylum would have access to regular procedure of examining the eligibility of their claims.
25
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
13. It is necessary to create conditions as soon as possible to formally establish Asylum Office and to improve
the capacity of its staff. Insufficient number of employees, with the increasing number of asylum seekers
and the activities to be carried out, results in the situation that the tasks cannot be performed efficiently,
and further constant risk that the asylum procedure will not be carried out in accordance with general
principles, including the standards as regards reasonable duration of the procedure.
14. It is necessary to prescribe deadlines within which all activities preceding the formal submission of
application must be performed, as the time within which the activities preceding the procedure itself
define the moment of finishing first instance procedure.
15. To review and immediately amend the Decision of the Government of Serbia on determining the list of
safe countries of origin and safe third countries, taking into account that there are some countries
presently on the list which do not even fulfill formal conditions to be declared safe (e.g. the Republic of
Turkey). It is also necessary, as soon as possible, to amend the provisions of the Law on Asylum, in such a
way that it does not prescribe adoption of the list of countries, but to include only the criteria based on
which it will be assessed whether certain country from which asylum seekers comes from may be
considered a country of origin, i.e. safe third country. Alternatively, it is also possible, although such
solution would not be of the same quality level, to amend relevant provisions of the Law on Asylum in a
way that adoption of the list of safe countries is prescribed, but also to include precise definitions and
criteria which will be considered decisive in pronouncing certain country safe and the deadlines within
which the list would be revised.
16. It is essential that the concept of the safe third country is applied considering the circumstances of every
individual case, i.e. that each applicant is allowed to prove that a certain country cannot be considered
safe in his/her case. In addition, in order to fully apply the concept of safe third country, actual
connection between the asylum applicant or close relation with the third country must be proved, and
these ties need to be stronger than the ones with the country in which the person seeks asylum. Only in
this case it is fair and reasonable to require from this person to submit asylum application in that third
country, provided it is proved that it is safe for him/her. mere transit across a third country itself does not
necessarily represent such bond or connection. The wish of the asylum applicant regarding the state in
which he/she will submit asylum application should be taken into account as much as possible.
Second instance procedure
Asylum Commission, an independent body of the government of the Republic of Serbia comprising of 9
members with four-year mandate, is authorized for second instance procedures, acting upon the
appeals on the decisions brought by Asylum Office. The mandate of the first Commission elected in
2008 ended on 17 April 2012, and at that time the leaving government did not appoint new members.
The instructions for making decisions on dismissal and appointment of members were created, but
nothing else was done afterwards.
During 2011, the Commission brought 49 decisions.
26
Asylum Seekers in Serbia
Appeals filed to the Commission
49
Rejected appeals
39
Suspended procedures after filing appeals
1
Adopted appeals
9
Independently solved cases
1
TABLE 4. DECISIONS OF ASYLUM COMMISSION (SECOND INSTANCE DECISIONS) IN 201193
In the first four months of 2012, 13 appeals were filed with the Asylum Commission. Out of this number,
5 appeals were rejected, 5 accepted, while 3 were in the procedure 94.
During its four-year operations, some decisions were brought unanimously and some by majority of
votes. Until the end of its mandate, the Commission had always complied with the deadlines for
bringing decisions. There was a practice that each member was assigned one case to examine, inform
other members about the facts and suggest a decision which should be brought.
According to the Chairman of the Commission of the last mandate, previous members possessed
adequate knowledge and experience to be engaged in the activities of the Commission and they
performed their duties in a very responsible manner. However, it is also the fact that, taking into
account the complexity of the situation, there should have been far more education. Until the end of
mandate, two decisions were annulled by the Administrative Court. The disputable issues dealt with
lacks of the procedure itself, and referred to the minutes on consideration of the case and voting of
Commission members95.
Within its previous mandate, Asylum Commission had mostly attracted attention of other actors
involved in the asylum system due to two major issues. Besides confirming the decisions of the first
instance body which relied on the safe third country principle, its composition was also disputable.
Following the government`s decision on appointment of members of the Commission in 2008, the then
Assistant to the Head of Border Police Directorate within the Ministry of Interior was appointed
President, while, among others, the incumbents of Commissariat for Refugees, Ministry of Labor and
Social Policy, Office for Human and Minority Rights, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Exterior and Ministry
of Justice were chosen to be Commission members. Thus all the Commission staff came from the state
bodies and the most questionable was the election of the Chairman of the Asylum Commission due to
the fact that it organizationally belongs to the same directorate of Ministry of Interior as Department for
Asylum.
93 Source: Ministry of Interior or the Republic of Serbia, Minister`s Office, Bureau for Information of Public Importance 01
No.:5722/12-3, 6 June 2012
94 Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, Minister`s Office, Bureau for Information of Public Importance 01
No.:5722/12-3, 6 June 2012
95 Interview with Jovo Puletic, Chairman of the Asylum Commission in previous mandate, July 25 2012
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Asylum Seekers in Serbia
Key procedural guarantee which stems from the Law on General Administrative Procedure and is
essential for the concept of efficient legal remedy, in accordance with Article 13 of European
Convention on Human Rights, is that an appeal must be reviewed by bodies different and independent
from the decision making body.
Open letter signed by 19 nongovernmental organizations invites the government to apply the model
for appointing new members of the Commission which was until recently very successfully implemented
in Croatia. Namely, civil society organizations ask that faculty staff teaching legal subjects, who have
professionally distinguished themselves in the area of human rights protection, as well as jurists from
nongovernmental organizations dealing with promotion and protection of human rights, should be
appointed members of second instance body. Apart from all other legally proscribed conditions,
members of the Commission would have to fulfill an additional one - active knowledge of the English
language. Application of these additional criteria is in accordance with positive regulations and would
not require amendments to the Law on Asylum.
Court protection of asylum seekers
The decisions of Asylum Commission may be contested before the Administrative Court of Serbia,
where the Chamber of three judges decides. Administrative Court has not so far been involved in
deciding on the merits, but has been questioning procedural correctness for granting asylum, i.e.
legitimacy of the decision. Only in one case the Court brought a decision on the merits 96.
Administrative Court in 2011 and 2012 did not bring any verdict accepting an appeal. In 2011, 13
appeals were directed to Administrative Court, and within the first six months of 2012 six appeals were
submitted – 2 of which were rejected and 4 procedures are still underway. 97
Recommendations:
17. It is necessary that the Government of Serbia within the shortest terms possible appoints new members
of Asylum Commission and, during the process of appointment, take into account the opinion of
nongovernmental organizations active in the field of human rights of asylum seekers, expressed in an
open letter of these organizations published upon the completion of mandate of members of Asylum
Committee and published on 12 April 2012. In this way higher level of independence and quality of
operations of Asylum Commission would be guaranteed. Apart from this, the possibility of a priori
questioning of impartiality of decisions made by Commission would be avoided.
18. As regards procedures related to determining the eligibility of asylum applications, it is necessary that
Administrative Court starts using legal possibility of deciding in the capacity of full jurisdiction and
consider asylum applications on their merits.
96 Decision No. U 8\3815/11, dated 7 July 2011
97 Report: Position of Asylum Seekers in Serbia (January – June 2012), Belgrade Center for Human Rights
http://www.azil.rs/documents/category/izvestaji
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CAPACITIES FOR ACCOMMODATION OF ASYLUM
APPLICANTS 98
Increase in the number of asylum seekers in 2011 resulted in insufficient capacities of the first asylum
center in Banja Koviljaca, so large number of asylum seekers were forced to find private
accommodation in Banja Koviljaca and pay from their own resources. Significant number of migrants in
Banja Koviljaca, dissatisfaction of local self-government and protests of citizens, resulted in
government`s decision to open a new asylum center in May 2011. The agreement was signed with
Belgrade Red Cross 99 on using their facility in Bogovadja for a year, and in 2012 the validity of the
agreement was extended till December 2012. Center in Bogovadja received first asylum seekers on 20
June 2011.
Since then, the Republic of Serbia has had two centers for accommodation of asylum seekers – asylum
center in Banja Koviljaca and asylum center in Bogovadja 100. Official capacities of the centers are as
follows: Banja Koviljaca - 84, Bogovadja- 150, although it happened that centers accommodated even
20 – 30 persons more. Nevertheless, even this expansion of capacities does not satisfy the needs of RS
in case of accommodation of asylum seekers.
Commissariat for Refugees of the Republic of Serbia is responsible for operation of the centers, which
are financed by funds from the state budget. The Republic of Serbia is obliged to provide
accommodation and basic conditions for living in asylum centers for asylum seekers until final decision
on their asylum applications is made 101. By-laws more closely define all the issues concerning the
accommodation of these persons in asylum centers 102. Centers are of open type, while asylum seekers
with restricted freedom of movement are accommodated in the center in Padinska Skela 103.
During 2011, 372 persons passed through the asylum center in Banja Koviljaca. 35 families, 181 men, 60
women, 46 boys and 35 girls were recorded. In addition, 50 minors unaccompanied by parents or
guardians also stayed in the center. Within the first three months of 2012, 46 persons passed through
98 More details on the conditions for residence in asylum centers: Challenges of Forced Migrations , Group 484, April 2011
http://www.grupa484.org.rs/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=63&Itemid=112
99 The building in Bogovadja is registered as state property, while its user is Red Cross of Serbia – Belgrade section
100 More details at: http://www.kirs.gov.rs/articles/azilcentri.php?type1=38&lang=SER&date=0
101 Accommodation for asylum seekers includes bed with linen, access to toilets, heating, use of electricity and water,
necessities for personal hygiene and hygiene of the facility. As proscribed by the Law on Asylum, fundamental conditions for
living are also provided, including: food (three meals a day and an additional meal for persons of special health conditions),
clothes, necessities for personal hygiene, financial assistance and similar. Further to this, additional amenities such as TV
room or playgrounds for children are also available to asylum seekers
102 Rulebook on health checks for asylum seekers during their reception to asylum centers, `Official Gazette of RS`, No.
93/2008; Rulebook on conditions of accommodation and provision of fundamental living conditions in asylum center,
`Official Gazette of RS`, No. 31/2008; Rulebook on social assistance for the persons seeking, i.e. persons being granted
asylum, `Official Gazette of RS`, No. 44/2008; Rulebook on the method of keeping and contents of records on persons
accommodated in asylum center,`Official Gazette of RS`, No. 31/2008; Rulebook on house rules in asylum center, `Official
Gazette of RS`, No. 31/2008.
103 More details in the section Serbia on the road of illegal migrations
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the center. 6 families, 15 men, 6 women, 7 boys and 6 girls were recorded as users. 12 male minors
unaccompanied by parents or guardians have also stayed in the center.
In total 399 persons passed through the asylum center in Bogovadja from 20 June, when it started its
operations, till 31 December 2011. 46 families, 220 men, 71 women, 49 boys and 31 girls were recorded
here. Apart from this, 28 minors unaccompanied by parents or guardians stayed in the center as well.
Within the first three months of 2012, 140 persons passed through the center. 16 families, 60 men, 28
women, 33 boys and 18 girls, and 1 unaccompanied minor were recorded as users.104
It often happens that the capacities of the center are full and that there are no conditions for
accommodation of new asylum seekers. In these situations, the center is not obliged to admit and
accommodate a directed person. In any case, he/she cannot be left without support. It is necessary to
emphasize that, in accordance with the provisions of the Law on Asylum, and above all Article 39,
position 1, competent authorities are obliged to provide accommodation to any person seeking asylum.
Aware of the limited capacities, the Government of the RS brought a decision to open a new center.
Second half of 2011 was marked with speculations on potential location of the new center. Government
and other competent authorities have never officially announced the location. However, in May 2012,
the information was spread in public that there were plans for building a new center in the vicinity of
Mladenovac, which caused protests of inhabitants of neighboring villages Mala Vrbica, Americi, Koracica
and Rajkovac against the construction of asylum center at the territory of the Mladenovac
municipality 105. Previously, members of Mladenovac assembly, at the session held in the end of April,
voted not to allow any kind of shelter for asylum seekers at the territory of this municipality. 106
Recommendations:
19. To increase the capacities for accommodation of all persons seeking asylum in Serbia by opening a new
asylum center. In order to avoid negative consequences and events which could have serious
consequences on safety of both the citizens of Serbia and asylum seekers, it is necessary that the
competent authorities prepare their plans for opening asylum centre in an open dialogue with local selfgovernments on whose territory it is possible to build a new center.
20. It is necessary to start as soon as possible with the realization of the projects aiming at sensibilisation of
local population in order to create conditions for accepting asylum seekers in local communities. This is
necessary in order to create conditions for adequate primary reception of asylum seekers but also in
order to establish social preconditions for integration of the persons to whom the right to refuge was
granted. It is necessary to organize campaigns at national level and, above all, activities at local levels, in
communities in which they are accommodated – or in which centers will be located- and in the
communities with significant number of irregular migrants. Relevant national nongovernmental
104 Source: Commissariat for Refugees, response to the note directed with the purpose of collecting information necessary
for creation of this report, May 8, 2012
105 Source:http://www.novosti.rs/vesti/beograd.74.html:379959-Mladenovac-Nece-azilante-u-MalojVrbici; http://www.blic.rs/Vesti/Drustvo/323767/Zitelji-Mladenovca-blokirali-kasarnu-ne-zele-azilante-u-komsiluku
106Source:http://www.blic.rs/Vesti/Drustvo/323767/Zitelji-Mladenovca-blokirali-kasarnu-ne-zele-azilante-u-komsiluku
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Asylum Seekers in Serbia
organizations and local civil society organizations should become reliable partner of competent
government institutions.
MEASURES FOR UNACCOMPANIED MINORS
(PROCEDURES AND ACCOMMODATION)
After police directorate officers or police station officers record the presence of minors unaccompanied by
parents of guardians on the territory of the Republic of Serbia, they are obliged to inform about this locally
competent social center as soon as possible. Social center further appoints a temporary guardian. Majority of
recorded minors are after this directed, together with their temporary guardian, to the Institutes for Education of
Children and Youth in Belgrade and Nis, which include special units for accommodation of underage foreigners
unaccompanied by parents or guardians. In case a minor during the recording procedure before the officers of
Ministry of Interior immediately expresses intention to seek asylum, he/she may be directed to some of the
asylum centers instead. According to the MoI data, within the first four months of 2012, 85 unaccompanied
minors were directed to the asylum centers, and 39 were accommodated – 8 in Banja Koviljaca and 31 in
Bogovadja 107.
In 2011, 8 underage foreigners were directed from the Institute for Education of Children and Youth Nis and 13
from Belgrade Institute to the asylum center in Banja Koviljaca, while Nis Institute sent 9 unaccompanied minors
and Belgrade Institute 3 unaccompanied minors to the asylum center in Bogovadja 108.
Operational units are responsible for primary reception of underage foreigners unaccompanied by
parents of guardians, so these operational units and their competences are not planned for minors to
spend longer periods of time as their `users`. However, reality is different and the average stay of a
minor in an operational unit today lasts for more than a month. The procedure after the admission,
which is nearly the same in both operational units, consists of a health check, appointing a guardian,
informing them of their rights and rules of behavior in the center during their stay. While in operational
units, minors can leave the area of Institute provided they are accompanied by a guardian or an
Institute employee. Depending on circumstances, whether minor wishes to seek asylum, different
procedures are undertaken.
Thus, in case they express their intention to seek asylum, what majority of them mostly does
immediately after the admission, 109 competent officers of MoI are informed within the shortest terms
possible, and activities are undertaken for their accommodation in one of the asylum centers. Minors
who do not express intention to seek asylum are not given the possibility to stay and are transported to
the state border. The Institute is in charge of their transport to border crossings.
107 Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia, Minister`s Office, Bureau for information of public importance 01
No:5722/12-3, 6 June 2012
108 Source: Commissariat for Refugees, response to the note directed with the purpose of collecting information necessary
for creation of this report, 8 May 2012
109 Until now, all minors admitted to the Institute expressed their intention to seek asylum, except an Albanian national.
Source: Dragan Rolovic, Director of the Institute for Education of Children and Youth `Belgrade`.
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After settling the financial issue 110, operational unit within the Belgrade Institute 111 has been working in
full capacity. The Institute can admit 12 minors within this operational unit. A special department has
not yet been planned for accommodation of female foreign minors, so that formally accommodation is
provided only for male foreign minors aged 7 – 18. Since the establishment of operational unit they
have had only one request for accommodating a female minor which was ad hoc realized by
accommodation in a private house.
After arriving to the Institute, minors are assigned guardians. The competent social center in Vozdovac
appoints Institute employees as temporary guardians, who are mostly social workers, although
guardianship is also assigned to special pedagogues.
The average length of stay of foreign minors is 25 days, while minors who express intention to seek
asylum remain somewhat longer - 40 days, due to the lack of accommodation capacities in asylum
centers. 112 Minors who express their intention to seek asylum are provided with interpreting services,
and are given the possibility of consulting the representatives of nongovernmental organizations
offering free legal aid.
Operational unit which provides for minors unaccompanied by parents or guardians has been active
within the Institute for Education of Children and Youth Nis as of 1 January 2011 113. The same as the
unit in Belgrade, it offers the possibility for accommodation exclusively to male minors. It can
accommodate 8 persons. Since the beginning of its operations it provided for 53 minors in total (in
2011 - 34; 2012 – 18) 114. In majority of cases these were minors whose presence at the territory of the
RS was recorded at the south of the country, and they come to the Institute accompanied by temporary
guardians of social centers in Nis, Kursumlija, Prijepolje, Vranje. Recording of their intentions is carried
out at the police directorate in Nis and all minors except one who stayed at this organizational unit
expressed intention to seek asylum. They are informed about their status, rights and obligations by the
employees of the Institute`s legal department. Consultations with nongovernmental organizations
offering free legal aid are available only after arriving to the asylum center. As regards interpreting,
financial means for this purpose are not assigned and the employees opt for other links to establish of
communication: in certain situations interpreters for English are hired, but they also communicate with
110 Since 1 May 1 2012 operational unit has been financed by funds from the budget of RS, more precisely Ministry of
Labour and Social Policy. Financing the accommodation of foreign underage asylum seekers is 7% higher in amount when
compared to monthly budget assigned for accommodation of other categories of minors in the Institute due to the specific
procedure and financing certain phases at the project, for example unsolved issue of health care, procedure which includes
appointment of temporary guardian, hiring an interpreter, collecting documentation and transport
111 More details: M. Jelacic and other, Underage Asylum Seekers in Serbia: at the Verge of Dignity, Group 484, Belgrade,
2011, available at http://www.azil.rs/documents/category/izvestaji
112 Presentation of the Director of the Institute for Education of Children and Youth in Belgrade, Mr. Rolovic, at the training
Standards and practices in the fields of asylum and readmission, held 18-20 April 2012, within the project Networking and
capacity building for effective migration policy, realized by Group 484, in partnership with Belgrade Center for Human Rights
and Belgrade Center for Safety Policy, with financial support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway and within the
program Strengthening civil society in the Republic of Serbia.
113 Decision on the network of social welfare organizations, `Official Gazette of RS`, No. 98/10
114 Source: Institute for Education of Children and Youth Nis, reply to the note directed with the purpose to collect
information necessary for the creation of this report, 18 May 2012
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Asylum Seekers in Serbia
the assistance of users who speak some foreign languages; certain period of time they had apprentices
who spoke English and used them for communication. Not one of the employees speaks any foreign
languages. The average length of stay for minors is 30 days and they are transported to asylum centers
by the Institute`s cars and accompanied by one of the employees 115.
Recommendations:
21. It is necessary that the behavior of all parties in contact with unaccompanied foreign minors should be
guided by the principle `the best interest of a child`. Article 3 of the Convention of Children`s Rights
imposes such obligation.
22. It is necessary to expand accommodation facilities of operational units and to create conditions for
adequate reception of female foreign minors within operational units.
23. It is necessary to provide budget funds for hiring competent interpreters and also order and enable
learning (at least only) English for all the employees of operational units for accommodation of foreign
minors unaccompanied by parents or guardians. This will ensure better understanding of the situation
and the needs of foreign minors, i.e. to improve the quality of information available to minors, and
thereby the quality of offered protection.
115 Ibid.
33
Chapter 2:
RETURNEES FROM
WESTERN
EUROPEAN
COUNTRIES
RETURN OF THE SERBIAN CITIZENS WHOSE
ASYLUM APPLICATION HAS BEEN REFUSED
OR WHOSE TEMPORARY PROTECTION HAS
BEEN LIFTED
Members of working group for readmission:




Branislav Milenković (Red Cross of Serbia)
Damir Krkobabić (Ecumenical Humanitarian Organisation)
Dijana Malbaša (Novi Sad Humanitarian Center)
Zoran Tilinek (Nexus Vranje)
Coordinator of the working group:
 Danilo Rakić (Group 484)
Returnees from Western European Countries
TWO PARTS OF THE PROBLEM: REINTEGRATION
OF RETURNEES AND PREVENTION OF IRREGULAR
MIGRATION
Ever since 2006, the Republic of Serbia has been top-ranked in the global list of the countries with the
highest number of asylum applications lodged by its citizens. Before 2006, it had been the case with the
State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, and with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. According to the
number of asylum applications lodged, Serbia and Montenegro ranked first in 2005 among 44
industrialized countries, with 21,970 asylum applications. 1 Five years later, Serbia ranked first on the list
(with 29,600 applications), and in 2011 it ranked fourth. 2 In EU Member States, in 2010, the Serbian
citizens took the third position, right after Afghanistan and Russia, according to the number of asylum
applicants (17,715 – excluding Kosovo and Metohija), and in 2011, they took the 5th position (13,900 –
excluding Kosovo and Metohija). 3 Four and five years earlier, in 2006, the citizens of Serbia and
Montenegro lodged 12,705 asylum applications and were the 3rd most frequent asylum applicants in
EU Member States. 4
Owing to the wars that took place in the territory of former Yugoslavia and to the repressive political
regime in the country, many of the Serbian citizens were granted a temporary protection in the Western
European countries during 1990s. 5
However, even after the democratic changes in October 2000, thousands of our citizens kept seeking
asylum in the Western European countries, and after the abolition of the visa regime with the EU
Member States in December 2009, the migration for the purpose of seeking asylum intensified even
more.
Applying for asylum for primarily economic reasons is interpreted as an abuse of the asylum system.
Although the number of asylum applications reduced in 2011 as compared to 2010, the fact that a large
number of the Serbian citizens still apply for asylum in EU Member States makes this a contentious
1 UNHCR, Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries 2005, March 2006.
2 UNHCR, Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries 2011, March 2012.
3 Eurostat, The number of asylum applicants registered in the EU27, March 2011.
4 Eurostat, Asylum applications in the European Union, March 2007.
5 They were recognised as refugees, but with a lower level of protection, which means that they were expected to return
after the conflicts ended. The temporary protection, however, can last for 10, 15 or even 20 years. Before the conflicts in
former Yugoslavia, if someone had been recognised as a refugee, this person could remain in a Western European country
for the unlimited time period, i.e. he/she could integrate in this country together with his/her family. In 1979, there was a
total of 70,000 asylum applicants in Europe, and in 1990s there were over a half of million of refugees from former
Yugoslavia registered only in Germany. Germany and other Western European countries were not ready for integrating so
many people and consequently they established the temporary protection regime. (UNHCR, The State of The World’s
Refugees, 2000, p. 158.) Their return started after the peace was established in BiH by signing the Dayton Peace Agreement.
Then, owing to the conflicts in Kosovo there had been another mass influx of refugees, and 13 years after the Kumanovo
Agreement was signed, which ended the war conflicts in Kosovo, the people whose temporary protection was lifted are still
returning.
35
Returnees from Western European Countries
issue in Serbia – EU relations and entails the risk of suspending the visa-free regime. The suspension
would undoubtedly seriously jeopardise the EU accession process, and it would most likely additionally
increase the animosity towards the Roma national community from which the majority of our asylum
applicants in EU Member States originate.
Having in mind that poverty, and not persecution, is mostly the reason for which these people run away
from Serbia, each of such asylum applications is mostly refused. On the other hand, the temporary
protection (which used to be granted before) is still being lifted, so that many people are currently
returning in line with the obligations our country took by signing the Readmission Agreements.
Unfortunately, these are poor people returning to a poor country, which additionally aggravates the
economic and social situation in the places of return and puts additional pressure on the labour market,
which is already heavily burdened with high unemployment rate, and on the social welfare system.
Now, the issue of returnees within the readmission process is two-faced.
On the one hand, there is still the issue of reintegration of people (returnees) who have spent many
years in western countries, and on the other hand, the current issue is the prevention of migration of
our citizens who apply for asylum in (some) European countries trying to solve their economic situation
(at least on a short-term basis).
In order to enable the reintegration of returnees under Readmission Agreements, in October 2008 the
Council for Integration of Returnees was established as an inter-ministerial body and then the Strategy
for Reintegration of Returnees under Readmission Agreements was adopted (13 February 2009).
Consequently, the Action Plan for 2009 and 2010 for the implementation of the Strategy was adopted.
Finally, the Action Plan for 2011 and 2012 for the Implementation of the Strategy was adopted on 29
September 2011.
On the other hand, for the purposes of prevention of migration, which is perceived by EU institutions as
the source of massive abuse of asylum system in European countries, the Government of RS has
established an inter-ministerial body - Commission for monitoring the visa-free regime with European
Union - in charge of monitoring the implementation of the visa-free regime and proposing measures to
the Government for its preservation and protection. This actually includes, above all or only, the
administrative measures for the reduction of the number of Serbian citizens lodging asylum
applications in EU Member States. For these purposes, in 2011, the Government of the Republic of
Serbia adopted a Regulation closer determining the manner of exercising border police officers’ powers
and performing duties of persons crossing the state border. 6
We should bear in mind the fact that irregular migrations are considered in EU as a political issue of
high priority and that processing asylum applications incurs real costs for tax payers in the EU countries.
Consequently, a large number of EU countries stopped providing assistance to those asylum applicants
from Serbia whose claims have been refused, and now the decisions on the asylum applications are
6 'Official Gazette of RS', No. 39/2011
36
Returnees from Western European Countries
frequently made within an accelerated procedure. Both in Serbia and in Western European countries,
there is an attempt to solve this issue through administrative measures above all and what is frequently
neglected is the fact that the cause of the problem is a generally poor economic situation in Serbia
which particularly influences certain regions and social groups, and the level of poverty of certain
populations and groups is frequently closely interconnected with their marginalisation and social
exclusion.
The abolition of visa regime with EU countries has practically enabled the reduction of the demographic
pressure caused by high unemployment rate and poverty by migrations towards western countries. A
significant number of Serbian citizens have decided to migrate in this direction. In most of the cases,
the asylum system in developed European countries is the only available way for these people to have a
decent life, regardless of how short it might be and of negative consequences it might have.
In future, there will be much fewer returnees under the readmission process who have spent many years
abroad under the temporary protection or waiting for final decision on their asylum applications. The
majority of the Serbian citizens are now already returning after having spent only a short period of time
in EU Member States. They went after the abolition of the visa regime, and lodged the asylum
application which was refused, frequently within the procedure which lasted for only several weeks, or
even a few days.
Those who had stayed abroad for a longer period of time 7 had problems upon their return with
realisation of their rights, which are different as compared to the problems of local vulnerable groups.
For this reason, it was necessary to introduce affirmative measures right upon their return to Serbia.
However, even when a refugee solves the issues of the necessary documents, health care and social
welfare, enrolment of children to schools or access to another right in the manner that would provide
him/her with the equal status as other citizens of Serbia, other unsolved issues, such as the
unemployment or the feeling of discrimination frequently present in the Roma communities, might
force this returnee to migrate again. For this reason, this document clearly emphasises that the
problem caused by a large number of asylum seekers from Serbia cannot be completely solved only by
administrative measures and that it is necessary to solve the Roma migration issue by various
affirmative measures that will actually contribute to their inclusion into the Serbian society.
STATISTICS ON THE READMISSION
On 18 September 2007, Serbia signed the Unique Readmission Agreement with EU. The Agreement
came into force on 1 January 2008 and it regulates the processes of readmission of the citizens of the
Republic of Serbia with all EU Member States, except with Denmark.8 By 2012, Serbia has also signed 16
bilateral Readmission Agreements with 18 counties.
7 A returnee under Readmission Agreements has spent five years abroad in average. Source: IOM, GARP, Government
Assisted Repatriation Programme of the Republic of Germany, REAG, Reintegration and Emigration Programme for Asylum
Seekers in Germany - Programme to provide financial assistance to refugees, January 2005.
8 'Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia', No. 103/2007
37
Returnees from Western European Countries
According to the estimates of the Commissariat for Refugees of the Republic of Serbia, about 40,000
Serbian citizens who lost their right to residence in EU countries returned to Serbia.
In period from 2003 to 2009, the Ministry of Interior of RS received 28,000 of requests from western
countries to return the Serbian citizens who were not eligible for staying in EU Member States. 9 This
figure refers to those Serbian citizens who had asked for the protection abroad before the abolition of
the visa regime for travelling to EU Member States in December 2009. It is justifiably assumed that they
had spent at least several years in the host country enjoying one kind of temporary protection, or
waiting for the decisions on their asylum applications that were in a way suspending. 10
However, in order to have the right number of our citizens who will be returned to Serbia under
Readmission Agreements, the abovementioned figures should be complemented with those who
lodged asylum applications in EU Member States upon the visa liberalisation, which will now mostly be
decided upon within an abbreviated asylum procedure. 11
Since the abolition of the visa regime, Serbia has received 11,935 requests, out of which 10,758 have
been based on the Unique Readmission Agreement, and 1,177 on bilateral agreements.12
According to the report by the Serbian Government’s Commission for monitoring the visa-free regime
with the European Union, referred to by the Administration for Human and Minority rights, in 2011,
about 5,150 persons were returned to our country from EU Member States. 13
9 Group 484, Challenges of Forced Migration in Serbia, June 2011, page 70.
10 In those countries whose legal system does not recognise the temporary protection institute, it frequently happened that
the asylum applications lodged by citizens of some countries were not decided upon at the time of their submittal, but
instead, the applicants were granted a temporary protection and the applications were decided upon when the situation in
their country of origin changed, resulting in decisions that there was no basis for providing an international protection.
(Source: ECRE, The Way Forward – Europe’s role in the global refugee protection system. The return of Asylum Seekers
whose Applications have been Rejected in Europe, June 2005)
11 Last year there was the total of 301,000 asylum applicants in EU. According to the European Statistical Office, the share
of Serbian citizens in the total number of asylum applicants in EU decreased from 7% in 2010 to 5% in 2011. However,
13,900 asylum applicants from Serbia in 2011 still place Serbia among the leading countries on the list, right after
Afghanistan (28,000), Russia (18,200), Pakistan (15,700) and Iraq (15,200). Nevertheless, the number of asylum applicants
from Serbia last year reduced by 3,800, which is the reduction of about 20% as compared to 2010. Every second asylum
applicant from Serbia lodged an asylum application in Germany, the total of 6,990 applications, which is 13% of all asylum
applications in this country, which makes Serbia second-ranked country according to the number of asylum applicants in this
country, right after Afghanistan with 7,955 asylum applicants coming from this country. In Sweden, Serbia was on the third
position with 2,654 asylum applications, right after Afghanistan and Somalia. The largest share of asylum applications lodged
by Serbian citizens was in Luxemburg with 950 Serbian asylum applicants, which makes 44% of all asylum applicants in this
country.
12 Generally speaking, since the Unique Readmission Agreement with EU came into force, in 2008, there have been 15,681
requests for the return of the Serbian citizens, out of which 1,689 have been based on bilateral agreements, and 13,990 on
the Unique Agreement. The data were provided by Ms Zorica Djokic Milosavljevic, an Assistant Head for administrative
affairs in the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia (MI RS), in the interview held on 26 June 2012.
13 Ibid.
38
Returnees from Western European Countries
From January to December 2011, through the Readmission Office, 1,606 Serbian citizens were returned by
regular or charter flights. There were 631 adult men and 350 women. There were 625 minors, out of which
329 were men. Out of the total number, 1,249 persons claimed to be of Roma ethnicity, 207 claimed to be
Serbs, 48 Muslims, 41 Albanians, 23 Ashkali, 16 Bosniacs, 2 Yugoslavs, and 2 Hungarians. Eighteen of them
did not state their nationality.
In 2011, 110 persons claimed to be from the territory of the Autonomous Province (AP) of Kosovo and
Metohija. 14
As regards the educational structure, it was very unfavourable that a large number of returnees had no
education at all and there were relatively a lot of women: out of 229 returnees without any education at all,
131 were women. There were 225 returnees without elementary school education (83 women), 242 (74
women) with elementary education, then 223 (32 women) with secondary school education, 7 with college
degrees (1 woman), and 11 (4 women) with university degree. There are no data on the educational status of
19 persons. 15
The Readmission Office data refer to persons who were forcibly returned with the police intervention,
through Belgrade airport. The majority of such returnees were from Germany (685), Sweden (549),
Switzerland (165), Denmark (54) and France (42), and Norway and the Netherlands (10 from each). As
compared to 2010 when 1,164 persons were returned through Nikola Tesla Airport, 442 more persons were
returned in 2011. 16
According to the Administration for Human and Minority Rights, the main reason for the increased
number of returnees is, on the one hand, the abbreviated asylum procedure in the abovementioned EU
Member States, and on the other hand, it is the fact that out of the total number of the returnees, over
80% are now persons who left for EU Member States after December 2009, i.e. after the abolition of
visas for Serbian citizens. 17 Some of the persons were returned by land. “The number of returnees in this
year was significantly higher owing to the so called abbreviated readmission or unusual readmission
which includes organised transfer by land of a larger number of persons, without previous mutual
informing of state authorities of EU Member States and Serbia.” 18
The returnees listed Belgrade, Vranje, Leskovac, Nis and Vrsac towns as the most frequent places of
return in 2011. The report reads that the majority of persons who lodged an asylum application in the
second half of 2011 will be returned in the first half of 2012. This conclusion results from the fact that
the length of residence in EU countries after lodging an asylum application is reducing (in 2010 the
length of residence was 6 to 12 months, then in the following year it reduced to 3 to 4 months, and
now it is usually 1 to 2 months). 19
14 Commissariat for Refugees of RS, Report for January-December 2011, of 2012.
15 Ibid.
16 According to the Commissariat for Refugees that is in charge of the Readmission Office at Nikola Tesla Airport.
17 Underlined by the author.
18 Administration for Human and Minority Rights, Returnees under Readmission Agreements - Annual Report for 2011, of
2012.
19 Ibid.
39
Returnees from Western European Countries
The number of requests is always higher than the registered number of returnees. Readmission
Agreements primarily refer to those persons who should be forcibly deported and do not include those
persons who returned 'voluntarily’, i.e. those who obeyed the orders of western countries’ state
authorities to leave the country in order to avoid the return with the use of police forces. It is not in the
interest of the western countries to make the return harder than it already is and they usually provide a
reasonable time period in which the persons could return ‘voluntarily’. By rule, those who have been
forcibly deported are banned from re-entering the country for the next 5 years.
Regardless of the fact that there are questionnaires, municipalities do not have the exact data on the
number of the returned persons because the returnees frequently do not wish to be registered in any
databases, fearing the possible consequences (mostly fearing to be in police records which might imply
a ban from re-exiting Serbia). 20
The return of those Serbian citizens who, on various grounds, were granted and then lost their right to
temporary residence in some of the EU Member States, was one of the key prerequisites for the visa
liberalisation for travelling of Serbian citizens to EU countries, and the readmission is still an inevitable
precondition for the Serbian accession to EU. Forms of return have significantly changed during the
years, so that in the beginning of the process there were a prevailing number of deportations and now
there is a prevailing number of ‘voluntary’ returns, 21 and relatively lower number of deportations. 22
However, there is still the challenge of making such returns sustainable, since the unsolved social issues
and hopeless economic situation frequently make the returnees migrate again to the same countries
from which they were once returned (or to other EU Member States).
ASYLUM SEEKERS FROM SERBIA AFTER THE
ABOLITION OF THE VISA REGIME WITH THE EU–
POLICY AND MEASURES AIMED AT PREVENTION
OF IRREGULAR MIGRATION
The Council of the European Union adopted a Decision on 30 November 2009 on the visa – free travel
regime for the citizens of Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia for EU Member States (and the Decision
came into force on 19 December 2009). Many of the Serbian citizens used the visa liberalisation to
lodge an asylum application, thus trying to solve their, above all, economic issues. Poverty and social
exclusion are the only or extremely prevailing reasons for this phenomenon 23, which is also proved by
the research conducted by the Group 484 and Nexus. 24
20 Source: Nexus, Vranje.
21 It actually means that the person accepts the stipulated and stated obligation to return. Therefore, the person is
informed on losing the right to stay in the country in question and that he/she is obliged to return to the country of origin.
Official documents in English use the term mandatory voluntary return.
22 Ibid.
23 About 2% or 320 Serbian citizens were granted asylum in 2011 in EU Member States. It is not familiar whether the
positive decisions depended on the social group the applicant belongs to and what infringement of human rights was the
40
Returnees from Western European Countries
“Going to the north to spend the winter"
None of the Roma who applied for asylum, and who we spoke to, has permanent employment, and as regards
the education, they have complete or partial elementary school education. It is the fact that the Roma most
frequently choose to leave the country in the end September, when all seasonal agricultural or construction work
is completed. In a way, this refutes the claim that these people abuse the asylum system because they do not
wish to work. They have a problem providing sufficient funds for the heating during the winter, so they rather
use the limited funds they have to buy bus tickets so that they could, together with their families, spend the
several cold months in western countries. This is a short-term strategy of surviving, or a targeted temporary
migration. The real, direct reason for migrating is not to be granted asylum or provision of permanent residence
in western countries, but to eke out bare existence, or to have several weeks or months of decent life for
themselves and their families. This explains the fact that the number of asylum seekers from Serbia in western
countries increases in winter months. This kind of life is attractive even in a collective accommodation:
accommodation conditions are usually much better, and social assistance and health care are provided. If
potential income from collecting secondary raw materials is added to these conditions, then the words of one of
the returnees are not surprising, since he claims that only those who could not even borrow the money for the
trip did not go to the west.25
This kind of migration trend is interpreted by the EU countries as an abuse of the asylum system (since
they believe that the asylum applications are mostly unfounded), and as such it threatens to endanger
the visa-free regime. In this context, in May 2011, the European Commission proposed an additional
clause to the Council Regulation establishing visa policy towards third countries. According to the
proposal from the safeguard clause, under certain, clearly defined criteria which, among other things,
include a significant increase of the number of the country citizens abusing the visa-free regime, the
visa waiver could be temporary suspended for this country for several months. 26 In order to preserve
the visa-free regime with the EU Member States, Serbia has taken up several measures. In the beginning
of 2011, the Commission in charge of monitoring the visa-free regime and proposing measures for
decreasing the number of Serbian citizens lodging asylum applications in EU Member States was
established. The members of this Commission are representatives of the Ministry of Interior, Office of
the Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, and Ministry for Human and Minority Rights,
Public Administration and Local Self-Government. Furthermore, measures aimed at informing citizens
on the visa-free regime (temporary tourist and private visits), and about what an abuse of this regime
prevailing reason for granting the asylum. The High Court of Ireland, while deciding on the appeal of a minor Ashkali,
concluded that disabling access to education in Serbia results in discrimination and persecution, having in mind that
education is important for exercising other human rights (Ireland – High Court, 10 November 2011, E.D. v Refugee Appeals
Tribunal 2009/955 JR).
24 Group 484 and Nexus, Irregular might be regular - migration from southern Serbia, 2012. Having this in mind, the
European Commission proposal for the Directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the
purposes of seasonal employment could be one of the solutions that would facilitate the development of legal labour
migration and reduce the number of economic migrants within the asylum system. Namely, seasonal employment could
absorb the irregular migrations of poor and unqualified labour force.
25 Ibid.
26 European Commission, COM(2011) 290 final proposing a Regulation to amend Council Regulation (EC) No 539/2001
listing the third countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders and those
whose nationals are exempt from that requirement, 24 May 2011.
41
Returnees from Western European Countries
includes, have been undertaken. Information campaigns of the Ministry of Interior are mostly
conducted at border crossings by means of flyers and posters. As regards the dissemination of the
information via the media, they are not obliged to, upon order and without compensation, publish
anything that will take up their space or time. Owing to the activities of the Serbian Governmental
Office for Cooperation with the Media, the messages aimed at prevention of the asylum system abuse
are, nevertheless, communicated to wider public via the media. 27
Moreover, at the very border crossings, in line with the regulation expanding the border police powers,
measures preventing someone from leaving the country have been introduced. 28 The persons are
asked at the border to name the reason for travelling, to show the return ticket, invitation letter from
the country to which the person is travelling, hotel reservation in the country of destination, health and
travel insurance, certain amount of money, and other proofs that the Serbian citizen will not abuse the
residence in western countries. Thus, the Serbian police have taken over the competences from the EU
Member States to guard their borders.
According to the Head of the Border Police Directorate, Nenad Banovic, pursuant to this Regulation,
over 3.500 our citizens have been returned from the borders thus far. 29 On the occasion of visiting the
border crossing 'Horgos', representatives of several non-governmental organisations had an
opportunity to see the procedure for preventing someone from exiting the country. 30 A person who is
banned from leaving the country gets two stamps in the passport by the border police as a proof of
crossing the border (one annulling the other), without any written decision on the leaving the country
ban. There are no data whether there have been any appeals against the decisions on leaving the
country ban, that should be, at first instance, addressed to the Border Police Directorate. Furthermore,
there is no official information, nor explanations on the criteria in line with which the police
‘characterise’ the passengers from whom they require the additional documents and evidence showing
the purpose of their trips.
With the aim of preventing our citizens from lodging asylum applications, according to the Head of the
Border Police Directorate, Nenad Banovic, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) has initiated a procedure of
proclaiming invalid the passports of all the persons who have been issued Serbian biometric passports
and who have claimed to the competent authorities abroad not to possess the travel documents. 31
Additionally, "amendments to the Criminal Code propose the introduction of a new crime – abuse of
the visa-free regime - and after it is adopted by the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, all the
persons who abuse the visa liberalisation will bear criminal responsibility, and they are threatened with
somewhat more severe prison sentences." 32
27 Source: Interview with Zoran Panjkovic, an Adviser for migration in the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights, Public
Administration and Local Self-Government of RS, 24 January 2012.
28 Regulation closer determining the manner of exercising border police officers’ powers and performing duties of persons
crossing the state border, Official Gazette RS 05 No. 110-4226/2011-001.
29 EU’s visa-free regime for Serbia is not endangered, Tanjug (news agency), 27 June 2012.
30 Source: Interview with Mladen Mrdalj, Commanding Officer of the Border Police Station ‘Horgos’, 22 June 2012.
31 The number of “false asylum seekers” has drastically decreased, 'Politika’ newspaper, 22 December 2011.
32 EU’s visa-free regime for Serbia is not endangered, Tanjug (news agency), 27 June 2012.
42
Returnees from Western European Countries
Several western countries have stopped providing assistance to the Serbian citizens whose asylum
applications have been refused, having in mind the fact that this assistance has been recognised as the
attractive element which makes people seek for asylum. Some of the countries have put Serbia on the
list of safe countries of origin, which implies that the asylum applications lodged by the Serbian citizens
will be processed faster. 33
The Swedish Migration Board has announced that the Swedish authorities will, as of 1 May 2012, be
able to grant a re-entry ban to Sweden or any other Schengen country to anyone who has had his/her
residence permit application refused. As it is stated in the announcement, Sweden will harmonise its
regulations with EU rules on the re-entry ban to Schengen area, i.e. the Return Directive. 34 The Directive
that was adopted in 2008 underlines the fact that the ''effects of national return measures should be
given a European dimension by establishing an entry ban prohibiting entry into, and stay in, the
territory of all Member States.” The Return Directive, however, does not stipulate a re-entry ban to
Schengen area countries for all the persons whose applications for residence (including asylum) were
refused, but explicitly for those persons who have not obeyed the order to leave the country. In this
case, the person should receive the re-entry ban that should last for up to five years. The Directive,
nevertheless, does not envisage the ban only in these cases. 35 Thus, in the Swedish Migration Board
announcement, it is stated that a person might receive a re-entry ban in case when "the Swedish
Migration Board has the reason to believe that” the person will not obey the order and will not leave
the Schengen Area.
Recommendation
1. The Government of the Republic of Serbia should initiate a dialogue with relevant European states on
the possibilities of reaching bilateral agreements with them, which would create opportunities for
temporary and seasonal employment of under-qualified labour force from Serbia. The agreements
would envisage and stipulate cooperation between employment services and associations of employers
in the relevant European countries and Serbia, in mutual interest and in accordance with real labour
market demand. The cooperation should include the development of common programmes for
temporary and seasonal migration, with particular emphasis on seasonal employment demanding
unqualified and under-qualified labour force.
2. The implementation of the Regulation closer determining the manner of exercising border police officers’
powers and performing duties of persons crossing the state border, and of all other administrative and
repressive measures aimed at making people not lodge asylum applications in western countries, should
be completely compatible with highest human rights standards and it is necessary to remove every
possibility of causing discrimination of certain social groups or ethnicities by implementing such
measures.
33 The Government of Belgium has put Serbia on the list of safe countries of origin, Beta (news agency), 16 May 2012.
34 Swedish Migration Board, Return Directive, April 2012.
35 Directive 2008/115/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on common standards and
procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals.
43
Returnees from Western European Countries
RETURNEES FROM WESTERN EUROPEAN
COUNTRIES BEFORE THE ABOLITION OF THE VISA
REGIME
After our citizens return to Serbia voluntarily or forcibly, there is the issue of the return’s sustainability
and of the returnees’ reintegration in the society they used to live in before. Undoubtedly, before the
return’s sustainability is analysed, the success factors of sustainable return should be defined. The
factors would, inter alia, be the following: realisation of rights and access to services, job-finding skills,
employment opportunities, and possibilities of adequate housing in the places of return.
In order to systematically solve this complex problem, the Government of the Republic of Serbia
adopted in 2009 the Strategy for Reintegration of Returnees under Readmission Agreements, 36
proposing measures aimed at ''empowering the returnees to lead an independent life, equal to other
citizens.” The Strategy recognised the issues of the provision of personal documents, employment,
housing, social welfare, health, and education as key issues. With the purpose of implementation of the
Strategy, a relevant Action Plan for 2011 and 2012 for the Implementation of the Strategy was adopted
on 29 September 2011, preceded by the Action Plan for 2009 and 2010.
The Strategy established the institutional framework for sustainable returnees’ reintegration. The
Council for Integration of Returnees under Readmission Agreements, established in 2008, is in charge of
proposing measures for the admission of, care for and reintegration of returnees. 37 Commissariat for
Refugees of the Republic of Serbia deals with primary admission of and urgent care for returnees and
with providing the returnees with information, so that the Centres for Urgent Admission in Zajecar, Bela
Palanka and Sabac are under its competences. (In Sabac, there are currently 3 returnees, in Zajecar 7,
and in Bela Palanka 16.) 38 In compliance with the rules, the returnees have the right to stay in an
admission centre for 14 days. However, if the persons have nowhere to go to, they are allowed to stay
longer – some families have lived in the admission centre for 3 years. The Commissariat for Refugees
performs the primary admission and provides the returnees with information together with the
Readmission Office at Nikola Tesla Airport. Upon the admission and registration, the returnees are
provided with a bulletin with information on the access to fundamental rights such as the right to ID,
social assistance and the enrolment of children to schools, and it also contains contacts of local
government authorities the returnees could address.
The Commissariat provides support to local self-governments and it is in charge of
bodies for reintegration of returnees at local level, and of the development of local
solving returnees’ problems. However, in practice thus far, no local action plans for
returnees have been adopted, but rather, local action plans dealing with the position
establishing the
action plans for
reintegration of
of refugees and
36 'Official Gazette of RS', No. 15/09
37 'Official Gazette of RS', No. 99/08
38 Source: Interview with Ivan Gerginov, Assistant Commissioner for Refugees of RS, 18. June 2012.
44
Returnees from Western European Countries
internally displaced persons have recently started being revised by including in them the measures and
activities for the enhancement of the position of returnees under Readmission Agreements as well.
For the time being, there are no permanent budgetary funds allocated for the continuous provision of
assistance to returnees under the readmission process. It has been planned to extend all the existing
local action plans for refugees and displaced persons by including the returnees under Readmission
Agreements in them as well. This would provide legal basis for the allocation of local budgetary funds
for the support to reintegration of returnees. With the purpose of establishing such practice, certain
IPA funds have been provided, so that in July, the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of
Serbia published a Call for Proposals “Support to the implementation of strategies for IDPs, refugees
and returnees – Component 2 – LAP".
The Commissariat has estimated that the extended local action plans will be adopted by the end of
2012. Development of capacities for collection and possession of data in migration monitoring process
is one of the goals of the “Capacity building of institutions involved in migration management and
reintegration of returnees in the Republic of Serbia” programme, implemented by the International
Migration Organisation (IOM) in cooperation with the Commissariat for Refugees of RS, in the period
2010-2012. As it has already been mentioned, a particular problem is the lack of returnees’ motivation
to be registered at local level. According to some information, the returnees rather address local Roma
coordinators. Some of the returnees, namely, fear that being registered in a Commissariat Office could
prevent them from going abroad again, if they ever wish so. Therefore, according to this Office
information, between 50 and 60 returnees under Readmission Agreements have addressed them and
registered in the Office in Novi Sad. Out of 43 returnee families identified by the Readmission Office in
Belgrade as the families with the intention of leaving for Novi Sad, the Commissariat Office registered
only 7 of them. 39
Importance of reintegration of returnees under Readmission Agreements has been recognised in some
other strategic documents as well, such as the Strategy for the Improvement of the Position of the
Roma, Migration Management Strategy, and National Employment Strategy for 2011-2020. Moreover,
the Government of the Republic of Serbia adopted on 29 December 2011, the Bill on Migration
Management envisaging transformation of the Commissariat for Refugees into the Commissariat for
Refugees and Migration, which means that it will gain some additional competences. Some of the
Commissariat’s competences envisaged by the Bill are also to propose and undertake measures for
reintegration of returnees admitted under Readmission Agreements. Furthermore, the Bill stipulates
the establishment of Migration Councils at the level of autonomous provinces and local selfgovernments. The composition of these bodies would be regulated by their Establishment Decision,
but the Bill provides clear guidelines and stipulates that “The Council shall, by rule, be composed of
representatives of the executive body of the local self-government unit, Social Labour Centre, Police
Administration, Employment Service, Representatives of institutions dealing with health care and
39 Source: Interview with Slobodan Vukasevic, Commissioner for Refugees (Department for refugees, exiled and displaced
persons, City administration for children and social protection), Tatjana Latov, responsible for psychological and social
protection of displaced persons and returnees from abroad (Depatment for refugees, exiled and displaced persons, City
Administration for children and social protection) and with Radmila Zecirovic, coordinator for Roma issues, 8 June 2012.
45
Returnees from Western European Countries
education can also participate in the work of the Council, as well as representatives of relevant
associations and other persons working on issues that are important for migration management in the
territory of the autonomous province or local self-government. 40
Recommendation:
3. It is necessary to carry out an independent evaluation of the results achieved thus far in the
implementation of the Strategy for Reintegration of Returnees admitted under Readmission Agreements
and the relevant Action Plans. Furthermore, it is necessary to conduct a new and unbiased need
assessment of returnees admitted within the readmission process, based on participatory approach.
4. We support the already initiated process of revising the local action plans for the improvement of the
position of refugees and displaced persons by including the returnees under Readmission Agreements in
them as one of the target groups of the action plans. In this process, local self-governments and
Migration Councils should be assisted by providing them with concrete and operational measures, both
in the process of development and implementation of the Action Plans, and state and local budgetary
funds should be allocated for those reintegration areas where there is still a strong and doubtless need
for state support.
5. We recommend that the Commissariat for Refugees still make efforts to provide donor funds supporting
the implementation of the related local Action Plans and enhance the processes of local reintegration of
returnees admitted under Readmission Agreements.
6. It is necessary to find ways to register returnees at local level inclusively and in accordance with the
needs assessment questionnaire. This could be achievable through inter-ministerial cooperation that
would also include Coordinators for Roma Issues, but also Police Administrations, Social Labour Centres,
branch or local offices of National Employment Service and local commissioners of the Commissariat for
Refugees.
REINTEGRATION AND ACCESS TO RIGHTS
The returnees, who have spent many years abroad, in western countries, face numerous problems upon
their return to Serbia, aggravating their reintegration process. It is frequently emphasised that first three
months upon the return are the key ones, so that if an appropriate support is provided in this period,
the secondary migration possibilities will be reduced. 41
The most frequent problems that returnees face in the reintegration process are the following:
40 Bill on Migration Management, available at
http://www.parlament.gov.rs/upload/archive/files/cir/pdf/predlozi_zakona/12-12.zip [28. jul 2012. godine]
41 From the interview with Zoran Panjkovic, an Adviser in the Administration for Human and Minority Rights, at a
consultation meeting with the Group 484 in Belgrade on 12 December 2011.
46
Returnees from Western European Countries
Access to personal documents
Returnees often have no fundamental documents, which causes problems for them with various other
issues. Key prerequisites for initiating the reintegration process are the registration of the residence and
possession of the ID card. The problems that have been faced for years, and refer to access to personal
documents, are the registration of the residence, provision of documents for children born outside
Serbia and documents for persons who had registered their residence in Kosovo and Metohija and then
they were returned to Central Serbia.
A positive novelty was the adoption of the Law on Domicile and Residence of Citizens. Article 11 of this
Law also defines alternative manners for determining the domicile, so that a competent authority may
pass a written decision determining the domicile at the address of his/her permanent residential home,
at the address of the domicile of his/her spouse or an unmarried partner, domicile of his/her parents, or
at the address of the institution where he/she is put in permanently or social labour centre within whose
jurisdiction he/she is residing at. 42 In line with these provisions, if it is not possible to determine a
citizen’s domicile for the purpose of issuing an ID card, a competent authority may pass a decision
determining this citizen’s residence.
However, none of this is being implemented in practice yet, although the deadlines for the adoption of
the by-laws stipulated by this Law have expired. For the purposes of registering a domicile at a social
labour centre's address (or of an institution in which the person is put permanently), Article 11,
paragraph 5 of the Law stipulates that the Minister of Interior, with the consent of the Minister in
charge of social policy, will establish an appropriate registration form. Furthermore, since the practice of
such determination of a residence, or domicile, is envisaged by a law for the first time, police
administrations need to be provided with instructions for the implementation of the relevant provisions.
Besides, it is very much likely that the existing system for automatic procession of data on ID cards
needs to be adjusted, or that it is not possible to enter into the existing system the data on ID cards
issued on the basis of the residence determined by a decision (valid for two years). 43
Access to health care
Until they are provided with a health booklet, the returnees get health care on the basis of the
Emergency Travel Document or a certificate of the Emergency Travel Document. Regardless of the
instructions provided by the Ministry of Health, depending on the health care institution, some
problems still may occur when it comes to the provision of health care.
According to the Manual on the procedure to be followed within the integration of returnees, persons
of Roma ethnicity can be granted a health booklet even though they have not registered their domicile,
on the basis of a statement where they claim to be of Roma ethnicity and statement on the actual place
42 http://www.mup.gov.rs/cms/resursi.nsf/Zakon-preb-bor-gradj.pdf
43 From the presentation of Jelena Medarović, the Legal Adviser in the NGO Praxis, at the Thematic Meeting on Access to
Rights in Displacement, 10-12 July, Ečka, within the project Fostering NGO Human Rights Network in the Western Balkans
Region, implemented by Group 484 with the support of OSCE.
47
Returnees from Western European Countries
of residence. 44 The experience of the Ecumenical Humanitarian Organisation, however, shows that
health care institutions reluctantly implement these procedures.
The cause of the problem is the insufficiently harmonised related legal provisions. Namely, a Regulation
of the Government of Serbia, 45 which has been implemented since 1 October 2010, is not in compliance
with the Law on Health Insurance of 2005, 46 whose Article 22, paragraph 1, point 11, recognises persons
of Roma ethnicity as the insured who, owing to their traditional lifestyle, do not have a domicile or a
residence registered in the Republic of Serbia. However, point 8, Chapter 2.1. (Special grounds for
insurance in the sense of the Law on Health Insurance) of the abovementioned Regulation, stipulates
that a person of Roma ethnicity shall submit, as a proof, besides the personal statement claiming to be
of Roma ethnicity, a certificate of the registration of residence. Therefore, unlike the Law, this
Regulation explicitly requests from persons of Roma ethnicity, who have real difficulties in getting
regular proof of their residence, to submit a certificate of the registration of residence.
It is also important to mention that the 'Rulebook on the manner of and procedure for exercising the
rights stemming from compulsory health insurance', 47 which came into force in the first half of 2010, in
compliance with the Law on Health Insurance, stipulates that persons of Roma ethnicity, or the insured
as referred to in Article 22, paragraph 1, point 11, shall submit, together with the application for the
compulsory health insurance, a personal statement in which they claim to be of Roma ethnicity and a
certificate of registration of residence or a personal statement on the place of temporary residence.
However, a significant number of branch offices of the National Fund for Health Insurance do not
implement directly the provisions of this Rulebook, but rather implement the provisions of the
contentious Regulation of the Government of the Republic of Serbia. 48
Access to social welfare
An efficient manner of solving some of the urgent issues regarding returnees is to provide them with a
cash lump-sum benefit. The cash lump-sum benefit is intended for individuals and families who are
currently in a difficult financial situation they cannot overcome it independently. However, having in
mind that the financial assistance is provided by local communities and that they have small funds for
this kind of support, it frequently happens that persons in need of social welfare and returnees as well,
cannot benefit from this assistance aimed at meeting their actual needs. Another important material
44 Council for Integration of Returnees, Manual for the procedures to be followed within integration of returnees
(amended), Belgrade 2011.
45 Regulation on contents, form, and manner of submission of a unique application for compulsory social insurance, unique
methodology principles, and unique codes for entering data into the Unique Database of the Central Register of Compulsory
Social Insurance, 'Official Gazette of RS', No. 54/2010.
46 'Official Gazette of RS', No. 107/2005 and 109/2005
47 'Official Gazette of RS', No. 10/2010, 18/2010 – corrigendum and 46/2010.
48 From the presentation of Jelena Medarović, the Legal Adviser in the NGO Praxis, at the Thematic Meeting on Access to
Rights in Displacement, 10-12 July, Ečka, within the project Fostering NGO Human Rights Network in the Western Balkans
Region, implemented by Group 484 with the support of OSCE.
48
Returnees from Western European Countries
form of social welfare is financial social assistance. 49 This assistance is envisaged by the Law on Social
Welfare and it could be granted to an individual or a family without income or with incomes lower than
the amount of the financial social assistance. The problem with this kind of support is that the returnees
can benefit from it only when they get their ID card. There are also some other forms of social welfare
that returnees could benefit from, and which they are entitled to just like other Serbian citizens: health
and care allowance, accommodation in another family, accommodation in a social welfare institution,
parent and child allowance.
Out of 268 returnee families that have addressed the Red Cross of Serbia for assistance, 199 of them
have either benefited from the financial social assistance or filed documents in order to be eligible to
receive the assistance. A major problem is that many returnees do not even have a primary school
education and are frequently of very poor health, and consequently, they can find hardly any work on
the labour market. Therefore, the only possibility they have is to exercise their right to the financial
social assistance.
Access to education
Authorities in charge of education and schools have a very flexible approach to the problems of
children returnees. Diploma nostrification has been defined and previously obtained education is
recognised, and in case the children do not have some of the necessary documents, they are entitled to
a provisional enrolment. Nevertheless, there might be some problems with the translation of the
documents that need to be certified by a court. For instance, the Ecumenical Humanitarian Organisation
met a family who had been returned from Switzerland and who needed the translation of documents
from German into Serbian for three children, and the price of the translation amounted to 15,600 RSD,
which far surpasses the possibilities of socially vulnerable families. In this concrete case, the complete
cost of the translation of school documents from German into Serbian done and certified by a court
translator was covered by the Ecumenical Humanitarian Organisation.
Frequent problem recorded is the ignorance or poor knowledge of the Serbian language of the children
returnees. On the other hand, schools do not show significant readiness or simply are not able to
organise additional Serbian Language courses aimed at solving the problem.
Upon their return to Serbia, in order to continue their education, the children within the readmission
process take tests of their school knowledge and Serbian Language knowledge, for the purpose of
assessment. Owing to the fact that they frequently lack Serbian Language knowledge, they need to
attend lessons of lower grades, so that their age is different from the age of other children in the same
class (e.g. they attend IV, and they are 14). Children over 15 are not eligible for regular elementary
education, so they attend schools for the education of adults, where during one school year they can
finish two grades.
49 Financial Social Assistance is just a new name for the form of material support that used to known as a Monthly Family
Allowance (MOP).
49
Returnees from Western European Countries
International and local non-governmental organisations in Vranje and Bujanovac have, through their
numerous activities of assisting the children in learning Serbian Language and other school subjects,
contributed to the inclusion of children returnees into the education system. Constant contacts with
their peers from the local community have also contributed to the social inclusion of these children.
Working habits already in place and good knowledge of a foreign language, acquired through theatre
plays, workshops, development of magazines, and music activities, are important resources of children
returnees.
Majority of the Roma in secondary schools originate from the population of returnees. The problem
occurs when these children need to interrupt their education for various reasons: their parents need to
work elsewhere in Serbia, or they need to go for a three-month visit to their relatives, or they need to
lodge an asylum application in one of the western countries. In such cases, they are evicted from
school owing to a long period of absence and they are forced to repeat the grade the following year.
Non-governmental sector, in cooperation with national employment services in Vranje and Bujanovac,
has enabled secondary-school children who find themselves in such situations to use these absences for
acquiring some kind of training: IT, bookkeeping training courses, crafts training, or foreign language
courses. However, uninvolved parents and wider environment, tradition – or getting married to a person
who already has the documents necessary for permanent residence abroad – frequently result in too
early marriages and termination of education.
Access to the labour market
Access to the labour market depends on the acquisition of ID card and employment booklet. The
National Employment Service recently started recognising returnees as a vulnerable group in the labour
market. Consequently, for instance, last year, this Service initiated the Youth Employment Fund for
employment of marginalised young people, whose target group included the returnees within the
readmission process, aged 15 to 30, with low level of education. 50 (Qualifications of returnees are most
frequently very low.) Furthermore, in the beginning of this year, there was a public call for local selfgovernment units to participate in co-financing of Active Employment Policy programmes or measures,
in 2012, whose priorities are also local action plans programmes and measures including returnees
under Readmission Agreements. 51
Probably the greatest obstacle to reintegration is actually too few employment opportunities in the
places of return. High unemployment rate is one of the major problems in the Republic of Serbia;
unemployment issue is of structural nature and it is the consequence of long-lasting unfavourable
economic situation and trends. Nevertheless, there are still opportunities for getting seasonal or oneday jobs, mostly informal, but predominantly in Vojvodina and Belgrade, as it is indicated by a large
seasonal labour migration from the South of Serbia (primarily from Bujanovac, Vranje and neighbouring
places) towards these northern parts of the country.
50 http://www.nsz.gov.rs/page/info/sr/fond_za_mlade.html
51 http://www.nsz.gov.rs/download/files/_id_415/01.%20Javni%20poziv%20jedinicama%20lokalne%20samouprave%20za%
20ukljucenje%20u%20sufinansiranje%20programa%20i%20mera%20APZ%20u%202012.pdf
50
Returnees from Western European Countries
Another real obstacle is the fact that a large number of the returnees are not aware of the importance
of education. Consequently, majority of those with the lowest levels of education do not show any
interest in finishing at least elementary school (although it is possible to do so for free in 180 school all
over Serbia) and still rely on hard wage labour, and when they are middle-aged they already become
redundant in this labour market (they cannot compete with younger workers), without any
qualifications and without any chances of finding another job.
Access to housing
Since a large number of the returnees are of Roma ethnicity, upon their return to Serbia, many of them
stay with their relatives or friends who live in Roma settlements. Most of the settlements are informal
and without utility infrastructure. The Ecumenical Humanitarian Organisation is successfully
implementing the Programme of Sustainable Renewal of Roma Settlements in Vojvodina aimed at
legalisation of informal settlements, development of new infrastructure and meeting sanitary minimum.
The returnees who have some financial resources frequently buy lots or houses that have not been
legalised yet, which imposes additional risks and potential problems.
Recommendations:
7. It is necessary to adopt forthwith the by-laws and establish procedures enabling the implementation of
the relevant provisions of Article 11, paragraph 2, and Article 17 of the Law on Domicile and Residence of
Citizens. First of all, the Minister of Interior, with the consent of the Minister in charge of Social Policy,
should establish an appropriate domicile or residence registration form, for registering at the address of
a social labour institution or an institution in which the person is put permanently. Moreover, the
Ministry of Interior should forthwith develop instructions precisely depicting the procedure for
determining a domicile or residence, in line with the provisions of Article 11, paragraph 2, and Article 17
of the Law on Domicile and Residence of Citizens, and provide all police administrations with the
instructions.
8. It is necessary to harmonise forthwith the 'Regulation on contents, form, and manner of submission of a
unique application for compulsory social insurance, unique methodology principles, and unique codes
for entering data into the Unique Database of the Central Register of Compulsory Social Insurance' with
the Law on Health Insurance. In order to achieve this, in section 2.1, point 8, behind the words
registration of residence, a comma and the following should be added: "or a personal statement on the
place of temporary residence". With this, all persons of Roma ethnicity who, for objective reasons,
cannot register their domicile would be able to apply for compulsory health insurance on the basis of the
statement on temporary residence.
9. It should be enabled in the system that, within the diploma nostrification process, the translation of
diplomas and certificates acquired abroad are provided free-of-charge for those returnee families who,
owing to the fact that they are socially vulnerable, cannot cover the translation costs independently.
10. The Ministry of Education should find ways to support schools that have needs for organising special
additional Serbian Language courses for school children who have been returned to Serbia within the
readmission process. It is also pivotal to assess carefully and responsibly the knowledge of these children
and that all the decisions regarding the continuation of their education are made in line with the child's
51
Returnees from Western European Countries
best interest.
11. We support all the efforts made by the National Employment Service aimed at comprehensive inclusion
of returnees within the readmission process into active employment policy measures and programmes.
We recommend that the National Employment Service adequately encourage its advisers for the
returnees within the readmission process to work more intensively, within individual employment plans.
We recommend that all organisations dealing with returnees continuously raise awareness of returnee
communities of the importance of knowledge and inclusion of children in pre-school and school
education system.
12. It is particularly important to enable access to adequate housing by providing support through projects
of legalisation, upgrading and renewal of informal settlements, but equally, by including returnees in
various social housing programmes and models.
With the aim of encouraging social integration of returnees within the readmission process, many nongovernmental organisations from Vranje, Bujanovci, and Presevo, in cooperation with representatives of
authorities, have organised various activities in 2011 as well (round tables, workshops, focus groups,
information campaigns). Working with returnees and representatives of authorities thus contributes to
the increase of awareness of both representatives of relevant authorities about the needs and problems
of their beneficiaries, and of returnees about the services that are available to them and administrative
procedures. These meetings enable returnees to make contacts with representatives of authorities and
non-governmental organisations and provide them with an opportunity to acquire useful information.
However, unlike the abovementioned municipalities, many municipalities do not have local nongovernmental organisations that could provide assistance in solving returnees' issues. 52
The fact that returnees are insufficiently informed on the process of exercising of their social rights and
on the procedures and an inadequate treatment by some civil servants contribute to a returnee's lack of
confidence sometimes and make them become uninvolved.
A twenty-year-old girl of Roma ethnicity no longer cherishes hope of getting a job because she has written one
job application, with the assistance of her parents, and submitted it to the National Employment Service, and she
does not have a job yet. When asked whether she contacted her adviser regularly, she replied in surprise: “I
didn't know I was supposed to contact the adviser. In Germany, it was all much easier for me and my family,
because whoever we addressed, everyone explained to us what we were supposed to do, and here they yell at
us and throw us out!" 53
It turned out that not a single service is absolutely ready to react timely and adequately in cases when
unaccompanied minors are readmitted within the readmission process.
According to the
52 Source: Interview with Zoran Panjkovic, an Adviser in the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights, Public Administration
and Local Self-Government of RS, 24 January 2012.
53 Source: Nexus.
52
Returnees from Western European Countries
Administration for Human and Minority Rights, the most sensitive issues in the return process are
exactly the separation of families and return of pregnant women and infants. 54
The most successful reintegration processes are certainly the ones within the programmes for returnees
implemented in Novi Pazar region by the Governments of Germany and Luxemburg between 2001 and
2010, together with several German non-governmental organisations and the Luxembourg Red Cross.
Nevertheless, it is obvious that the success of the programmes lies in the fact that a lot of funds were
invested in the work with a relatively limited number of beneficiaries in only one (albeit politically
sensitive and multiethnic) region, which consequently enabled the provision of a large scope of services
ranging from the assistance with the access to rights to the establishment of small enterprises.
54 Source: Interview with Zoran Panjkovic, an Adviser in the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights, Public Administration
and Local Self-Government of RS, 24 January 2012.
53
CONCLUSION
(Un)expectedly, Serbia has already faced the challenge of mixed migration flows on its territory. With
the Serbia's process of accession to the EU, and having in mind its geographic position, Serbia will
become increasingly attractive destination for migrants of various kinds and destinies, and among them
there will be many who will wish to seek asylum in Serbia itself. Consequently, migration management
challenges will become even bigger, and EU standards that Serbia will need to meet within the EU
accession process will be more demanding.
On the other hand, Serbia is expected to respond to the challenges of migration from its territory. A
significant number of Serbian citizens deem the visa-free travel a possibility for solving their social
issues by lodging an asylum application in one of the developed European countries. Many of the
returnees who spent a lot of years in western countries, enjoying some kind of temporary protection, in
Serbia now are facing the society offering numerous problems. Difficult life conditions in Serbia,
particularly for marginalised groups, are the major reason for which people decide on secondary
migration to western countries.
On 1 March 2012, Serbia was granted EU candidate status and now it is expecting a start date for
accession negotiations. When the accession negotiations start, one of the first Chapters to be open will
be Chapter 24 that will, among other things, demand from Serbia to develop a functional migration
management system, including the asylum system, with complete observance of international human
rights standards.
However, the general impression is that people in the Republic of Serbia are still not fully aware of the
challenges posed by complex migration flows. When a state faces such challenges, it is pivotal that it
takes a comprehensive approach and clearly defines policies and measures to be taken. On a long-term
basis, ad hoc solutions, in most of the cases, do not fulfil the purposes for which they were adopted.
EU accession negotiations should be deemed an opportunity for development. The EU accession
negotiations process is also an excellent opportunity for timely initiation and dedicated implementation
of real reforms, well-coordinated and efficient activities aimed at solving real problems in the field of
migration and asylum. We believe that there is a real political will to initiate and manage these
processes responsibly. The state will prove its will and dedication by, primarily, being open for
cooperation and critical participation of civil society organisations and other non-governmental actors.
The abovementioned reforms require new skills and knowledge of a large number of people, in various
sectors and institutions. All the actors involved in drafting policies and development strategies, and
those working "in the field" who are expected to implement the envisaged changes, need to take a
thorough approach and active participation in the reforms. Moreover, it is essential that all the
institutions and organisations dealing with migrants interconnect more directly and co-ordinately.
54
The reform process has been developing at a slower pace than the existing potentials of the country
enable. Of course, it is the fact that an adequate response to this situation demands significant financial
resources and the social context in which migrants issues should be solved, standards fulfilled, and
reforms implemented is affected by numerous unfavourable circumstances. Nevertheless, with careful
planning and spending of budgetary funds, with appropriate support by EU, and with expertise and
knowledge that already exist and that need to be significantly improved, it is possible to develop an
efficient migration management system in compliance with international and European standards, and
in accordance with people and migration needs.
55
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IZAZOVI prisilnih migracija u Srbiji :
stanje ljudskih prava tražilaca azila i
povratnika po osnovu Sporazuma o readmisiji /
[autori Anđelković Marija ... [et al.] ;
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Lepori]. - Beograd : Grupa 484, 2012 (Beograd
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Nasl. str. prištampanog engl. prevoda:
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CHALLENGES OF FORCED MIGRATION IN SERBIA