The situation in Serbia



By the end of November 2018, UNHCR counted approximately 3,700 refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants residing in Serbia, mainly from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, India, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia [1].

However, since many people are not officially registered, the real numbers are probably much higher. A peak of 7,900 people in March 2017 was followed by a decrease in arrival numbers, especially in the last summer since more and more people try to continue their route through Bosnia and Herzegovina. But in the last months numbers increased again.

The majority of them lives in one of the 15 governmental camps. For people who are living outside these centers, this means being in danger of forceful transfers into the official, often closed, centers. People often fear that staying in one of the government camps will put them at risk of being deported or deprive them of the right to free movement. In the case of closed camps, such as Preševo, these fears are not unjustified as people are not allowed to leave the camp and push-backs to Macedonia are taking place on a regular basis [2]. Furthermore, inhabitants describe the conditions in the camps as “overcrowded, loud, little food, little space, diseases and no privacy.” It is mandatory to register and fill in an asylum document in order to be allowed inside the official camps. This is something many refugees will avoid at all costs, since they are afraid it will diminish their prospects of continuing their journey towards their main destination: Middle and Northern Europe. Hoping for better working and living conditions there, only few want to stay in Serbia. The chances of obtaining asylum in Serbia are in any case dim: Only 14 persons have been granted asylum in a positive first-instance decisions by the Asylum Office in 2017, of which 3 received refugee status and 11 subsidiary protection [3].

After the eviction and demolition of the “Barracks” near the Belgrade train station in May 2017, which until then had been the most important hotspot outside official camps, people on the move have concentrated mainly in three areas in Northern Serbia, namely abandoned buildings and fields in and around Šid, Subotica and Sombor. These are the areas in which most of the reports in the database were collected since 2016.

Belgrade, winter 2016 / copyright: Julius Blum