The Asylum Act foresees that “an asylum seeker and a person who has been granted asylum in the Republic of Serbia shall have equal rights to health care, in accordance with the regulations governing health care for aliens.”1 To that extent, the Ministry of Health published a Rulebook on Health Examinations of Asylum Seekers on Admission in the Asylum Centres in 2008,2 which governs the manner in which asylum seekers undergo an initial check-up at an asylum centre, establishes the local community health centre’s jurisdiction and obliges asylum centre staff to observe resident asylum seekers’ health so as to notify immediately medical staff of any relevant changes.
In practice, asylum seekers and persons granted asylum have relatively unimpeded access to the national health care system in an equal manner to Serbian nationals. The costs of health care for asylum seekers and persons granted asylum are always covered by the Ministry of Health; costs of medications are covered by UNHCR through their implementing partner, the Danish Refugee Council.
Problems may arise for persons who express the intention to seek asylum while hospitalised, which happened several times over the course of 2015. While ‘irregular migrants’ are only entitled to the Ministry of Health covering emergency medical costs, for persons who are hospitalised at the time of asking or asylum the situation is difficult seeing as how national institutions only regard those persons issued a certificate of having expressed the intention to seek asylum as being, in fact, asylum seekers. As this would normally entail the person in casu presenting themselves at the local police station in order to formally express the intention to seek asylum, the police have shown little flexibility in visiting hospitals in order to record persons who cannot, as a result of their medical condition, come on their own.3 No such cases were recorded in 2016.
- 1. Article 40 Asylum Act.
- 2. Rulebook on Health Examinations of Asylum Seekers on Admission in the Asylum Centres, Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, no. 93/2008.
- 3. It should be added that, in spite of the fact that Article 22 of the Asylum Act foresees the possibility of expressing the intention to seek asylum in writing, officials of the Ministry of the Interior have always interpreted this provision as requiring a Ministry official to be present regardless, thereby making redundant an article that would have been very appropriate for hospitalised persons who wish to seek asylum in Serbia.