Regular procedure

Serbia

Country Report: Regular procedure Last updated: 23/03/21

Author

Nikola Kovačević

General (scope, time limits)

 

The asylum procedure in Serbia is governed by the Asylum Act as lex specialis to the General Administrative Procedure Act (GAPA).

The Asylum Act provides that a decision on asylum applications in the regular procedure must be taken within a maximum period of 3 months from the date of the lodging of the asylum application or the admissible subsequent application.[1]

It is possible to extend the time limit by 3 months in case the application includes complex factual or legal issues or in case of a large number of foreigners lodging asylum applications at the same time.[2] Exceptionally, beyond these reasons, the time limit for deciding on an asylum application may be extended by a further 3 months if necessary, to ensure a proper and complete assessment thereof.[3] The applicant shall be informed on the extension.[4] According to the experience of BCHR lawyers, this notification was provided by the Asylum Office only on 2 occasions in 2020.

The Asylum Act also envisages a situation where a decision on asylum application cannot be made within 9 months due to temporary insecurity in the country of origin of the applicant which needs to be verified every 3 months.[5] Nevertheless, the decision must be taken no later than 12 months from the date of the application.[6] Thus, the Asylum Office has a discretionary power to decide on the extension of the time limit for the decision.

The possibility to extend the deadline for delivering the first instance procedure is rarely used, and there is no official data that indicates that this possibility was used in 2020, regardless of the fact that the state of emergency was in force in the period 15 March 6 May 2020. Still, not a single decision was rendered within three months. The length of the first instance asylum procedure is still longer than three months, but this fact is not covered by an individualised and reasoned decisions extending this time limit. In other words, the first instance procedure still lasts unreasonably long, (from 8 to 12 months, and even for more than a year in certain cases)[7] which discourages asylum seekers from considering Serbia to be a country of destination. APC and BCHR have submitted more than 10 appeals complaining about lack of response by the administration to the Asylum Commission and excessive length of first instance procedure.[8]

The first instance procedure before the Asylum Office may be completed by: (a) a decision to uphold the application and recognise refugee status or subsidiary protection;[9] (b) a decision to reject the asylum application;[10] (c) a decision to discontinue the procedure;[11] or a decision to dismiss the application as inadmissible.[12]

The Asylum Act contains detailed provisions regarding the grounds for persecution,[13] sur place refugees,[14] acts of persecution,[15] actors of persecution,[16] actors of protection in the country of origin,[17] the internal flight alternative,[18] and grounds for exclusion.[19] This clearly indicates that the legislature was guided by the Common European Asylum System framework, namely the recast Qualification Directive.

Even though the new Asylum Act does not explicitly set out the burden of proof required for being granted asylum, Article 32 provides that the applicant is obliged to cooperate with the Asylum Office and deliver all available documentation and present true and accurate information regarding the reasons for lodging an asylum application. If an applicant fails to do so, asylum officer has the possibility to render a decision in an accelerated procedure.[20] It is further prescribed that, in examining the substance of the asylum application, the Asylum Office shall collect and consider all the relevant facts and circumstances, particularly taking into consideration:

“1. the relevant facts and evidence presented by the Applicant, including the information about whether he or she has been or could be exposed to persecution or a risk of suffering serious harm;

  1. current reports about the situation in the Applicant’s country of origin or habitual residence, and, if necessary, the countries of transit, including the laws and regulations of these countries, and the manner in which they are applied – as contained in various sources provided by international organisations including UNHCR and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), and other human rights organisations;
  2. the position and personal circumstances of the Applicant, including his or her sex and age, in order to assess on those bases whether the procedures and acts to which he or she has been or could be exposed would amount to persecution or serious harm;
  3. whether the Applicant’s activities since leaving the country of origin were engaged in for the sole purpose of creating the necessary conditions to be granted the right to asylum, so as to assess whether those activities would expose the Applicant to persecution or a risk of serious harm if returned to that country…”[21]

Also, the benefit of the doubt principle (in dubio pro reo) has not been explicitly defined as such, but it is prescribed that the applicant’s statements shall be considered credible in the part where a certain fact or circumstance is not supported by evidence if:

“1. the applicant has made a genuine effort to substantiate his or her statements with evidence;

  1. all relevant elements at his or her disposal have been submitted, and a satisfactory explanation have been given regarding any lack of other relevant facts;
  2. the applicant’s statements are found to be consistent and acceptable, and that they are not in contradiction with the specific and general information relevant to the decision on the asylum application;
  3. the applicant has expressed intention to seek asylum at the earliest possible time, unless he or she can demonstrate good reason for not having done so;
  4. the general credibility of the Applicant’s statement has been established.”

Since 2017, the Asylum Office rendered the following decisions:[22]

First instance decisions by the Asylum Office: 2017-2020
Type of decision 2017 2018 2019 2020
Grant of asylum 6 17 26 19
Rejection on the merits 11 23 54 51
Dismissal as inadmissible 47 38 10 2
Discontinuation 112 128 133 89
Total 176 206 223 161

 

Protection was granted to citizens of the following countries in 2020:

 

Countries of origin of persons granted refugee status / subsidiary protection: 2020
Country Granted refugee status Granted subsidiary protection
Afghanistan 6 2
Iran 5 1
Syria 4 1
Burundi 2 2
Somalia 0 2
Stateless 2 0
Mali 0 1
Iraq 0 1
Total 17 12

 

Source: Asylum Office and UNCHR office in Serbia.

 

Asylum Office practice in 2020

In 2020, the Asylum Office delivered 161 decisions regarding 223 asylum seekers. Out of that number, 70 decisions regarding 101 asylum seekers were decided in merits, while in two 2 cases regarding two persons, a decision on dismissal was rendered. Asylum procedure was discontinued in 89 cases regarding 119 applicants and due to their absconding.

The first conclusion that can be drawn from these figures is that the number of total decisions has dropped by 28% in comparison to 2019 and was the lowest in the past 4 years. One of the main reasons for such state of affairs were circumstances caused by COVID-19, especially during the state of emergency which was in force from 15 March to 6 May 2020. Still, the trend from previous years has continued and the vast majority of applicants decided to abscond from asylum procedure before the decision in the first instance was rendered. This represents a total of 55% of all decisions rendered in 2020.

When it comes to decisions rendered on the merits, it can be concluded that rejection rate in 2020 was 73%, while the recognition rate was 27%. This represents 5,5% recognition drop in comparison to 2019.[23] Refugee status was granted through 10 decisions (14,3%) encompassing 17 persons, while subsidiary protection was granted through 9 decisions (12,9%) encompassing 12 persons. The refugee status was granted to citizens of Afghanistan (6), Iran (5), Syria (4), Burundi (2) and 2 stateless persons. Subsidiary protection was granted to citizens of Afghanistan (2), Burundi (2), Somalia (2), Syria (1), Iraq (1), Iran (1) and Mali (1).

Most of the decisions were rendered in relation to citizens of Iran – 17 regarding 33 applicants. Out of that, 4 decisions were positive, 1 application was dismissed, and 12 applications were rejected. Thus, the recognition rate for Iranians in 2020 was 25%.

Significant number of decisions was rendered in relation to Burundians – 13 regarding 18 applicants. Two applications were resolved positively, while 11 was rejected. One application was dismissed on the basis of the first country of asylum concept.[24] Accordingly, recognition rate for citizens of Burundi in 2020 was 16%.

The third largest group of applicants whose cases were decided on merits are asylum seekers from Afghanistan, and the recognition rate for Afghanis in 2020 was 57%, which is higher than the past years, e.g. 50% in 2019), 4 asylum applications were adopted, while 3 were rejected. This also means that the 50% plus recognition rate exists only in relation to applicants from Syria and Afghanistan.

Asylum Office rendered one negative decision for the applicants from the following countries:  Bangladesh, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Ghana, India, China, Palestine, Nigeria, Libya and Turkey. Additionally, the first instance body rendered two negative decisions for the applicants from North Macedonia, Tunis and Iraq, three negative decisions with respect to Russian applicants and four negative decisions regarding Pakistani applicants.

The quality of the decision-making process in 2020 remained on the similar level as in 2019.[25] The Asylum Office rendered 19 decisions in relation to 29 applicants granting them asylum. In those cases where Asylum Office granted refugee status or subsidiary protection the following can be observed:

  • The Asylum Office was, in the reasoning of its decisions, clearly taking into consideration the fact that legal representatives were submitting written submissions indicating individual and general risks of persecution or other serious harm in countries of origin or third countries. These submissions contained data on individual circumstances and facts, but also findings compiled in credible reports published by UNHCR, EASO, UN Treaty bodies, UN Special Procedures, Amnesty International and others (CoI);
  • The reasoning of decisions contains the citations of credible reports taken into consideration by the Asylum Office proprio motu and occasional reliance on the general principles of the ECtHR;
  • In several cases the Asylum Office adequately took into consideration the psychological assessment provided by CSO PIN when examining the credibility of applicant’s statement;
  • In several cases, the Asylum Office adequately took into consideration the best interest of a child assessment provided by the Social Welfare Centre (SWC) and rendered well-reasoned decisions containing child specific considerations and invoking Article 17 which provides for special procedural guarantees for vulnerable applicants such as UASC;
  • the safe third country concept was not applied in any of the said decisions and the reasoning of each decision contains a paragraph on why the country in which the applicant resided before coming to Serbia cannot be considered as a safe third country.

The Asylum Office rendered three decisions granting asylum to five Syrians.[26] These decisions confirmed impeccable practice of this body when it comes to Syrian asylum applicants whose cases are decided on the merits. In other words, the Asylum Office has never rejected Syrian applicants and its practice reflects, for instance, UNHCR moratorium on returns to Syria,[27] or the current standing of ECtHR when it comes to the risks of treatment contrary to Article 2 and 3 of ECHR in case of removal to Syria.[28] Nevertheless, the number of Syrian applicants in Serbia remains low.

On 15 January 2020, the Asylum Office granted refugee status to a gay man from Iran qualifying him under the concept of the specific social group. From the reasoning of the decision, it can be seen that the Asylum Office assessed both individual and general circumstances in Iran, including relevant CoI, psychological report of the applicant provided by PIN and other relevant evidence such as documentaries on the rights of LGBTQI people in Iran.[29] This decision represents an example of good practice when it comes to LGBTQI claims,[30] but does not mean that practice regarding this category of applicants is impeccable.

On 13 February 2020, the Asylum Office granted subsidiary protection to a homeless boy from Afghanistan who fled Nirjab district in Afghanistan due to family issues which resulted in sever forms of domestic violence, but also situation of arbitrary violence and general insecurity.[31] However, the first instance body mainly relied on the situation of general violence in Afghanistan and more narrowly in Nirjab district, which was supported by a decent CoI analysis and which eventually resulted in the decision on subsidiary protection. Asylum Office took in consideration the best interest of a child assessment (BID) provided by the boy’s legal guardian from IDEAS. The similar attitude was detected in the decision of another Afghan boy who was granted subsidiary protection in October 2020.[32]

Another welcome decision was rendered in relation to a Palestinian stateless boy from Syria who was granted refugee status due to persecution on the basis of his nationality (Palestinian) and membership in the particular social group (forced mobilization).[33] Even though the applicant turned 18 during the procedure, the Asylum Office once again relied on the ‘buffer age’ principle, taken in combination with PIN’s report on his psychological well-being.[34] A similar decision was rendered in October 2020 when a Palestinian stateless boy was granted refugee status on identical grounds – forced mobilisation for the war in Syria by Hezbollah.[35]

The Asylum Office granted refugee status to two women, torture victims from Burundi, who fled political persecution which arose from the period of political instability connected to 2015 protests against President Pierre Nkurniziza.[36] Similar decision was rendered in relation to another Burundian couple, but they were granted subsidiary protection because Asylum Office took a stance that there was no ‘personal persecution’, but the risk of ill-treatment can be attributed to the general situation of insecurity which ensued after the above-stated period of political instabilities.[37]

On 16 June 2020 Asylum Office granted refugee status to Iranian woman who converted from Islam to Orthodox Christianity upon arrival to Serbia.[38] It is interesting to note that Asylum Office assessed the appearance of the applicant who was, during the interview, wearing neckless with the cross, rosery and the pendants with the Virgin Marry. The first instance authority also assessed credible CoI on the status of converters and Christians in Iran.

One of the most interesting decisions was rendered on 15 October 2020 when Hazari man from Afghanistan was granted refugee status due to persecution on the basis of his nationality and membership in a particular social group – child forcibly recruited by Taliban forces who was also a victim of bacha bazi.[39] In this decision, the Asylum Office explicitly invoked Article 17 which prescribes special procedural guarantees for vulnerable applicants and highlighted that these guarantees were secured by the appointment of a temporary legal guardian. The first instance authority examined in detail CoI submission provided by boy’s representative and applied the ‘buffer age’ standard which is now cemented in Asylum Office’s practice in cases where applicants turn 18 years during the course of asylum procedure.

Regardless of the above stated improvements, there are still serious concerns in practice which indicate that the Serbian asylum procedure should not be considered as fair and efficient. The concerns are the following:

  • the contradicting practice in similar or identical cases;
  • reluctance to grant refugee status (but rather granting subsidiary protection status), even though from the reasoning of the decision it is clear that the first instance authority has acknowledged and accepted the facts which indicate the existence of one of the 5 grounds for persecution;
  • extensive length of the first instance asylum procedure which has a discouraging effect on applicant’s will to remain in Serbia;
  • the quality of the decision-making process varies between different asylum officers;
  • not all the facts and evidence submitted by the applicant and the legal representative are taken into consideration, and the substantiation of the decision lacks an explanation as why these arguments are not deemed as credible, especially in decisions on rejection.

One of the most contentious decisions rendered in 2020 refers to a boy from Afghanistan whose asylum application was rejected due to inconsistencies between three different assessments/statements given by PIN’s psychologist, Social Welfare Centre worker in BID and the boy applicant himself during the asylum interview.[40] First of all, the Asylum Office correctly determined that unaccompanied child from Afghanistan provided different information which were compiled in BID report, psychological report and which were stated during the asylum hearing and introduced in the minutes of the hearing signed by the applicant and his legal representative. Secondly, it is the legal representative who most likely did not prepare his client for an interview and who provided psychological report to the Asylum Office, obviously without reading it first. It remains unclear how the legal representative had failed to determine very obvious inconsistencies between minutes from the asylum hearing and psychological report drafted after the hearing. For its part, the Asylum Office failed to at least try to clarify the said inconsistencies and to schedule additional hearings of the boy, but also to question psychologist and social welfare worker. Also, it failed to examine this application from the child specific perspective, as it did in the case of a boy from Nirjab district who was granted subsidiary protection.[41]

Another decision which refers to an Afghan UASC was rendered in February 2020 and in which the risk of persecution was assessed in relation to the situation in Pakistan, not Afghanistan. Namely, the boy lived with his family in Pakistan as a refugee, and even though the boy explicitly expressed that the Talibans in Pakistan attempted on several occasions to recruit him and threatened him not to continue his education. From the reasoning of the decision, it cannot be seen in which way acting asylum officer assessed psychological report, decision on BID and CoI which goes in favour of his claims. The first instance authority took a one-sided stance citing the CoI sources which only go in favour or rejection and dismissed applicants’ lawyers CoI submissions on Pakistan. The ‘buffer age’ standard was not applied as well. This, and the previous decision, indicate a clear problem of contradicting practice when it comes to Afghan applicants and UASC.[42]

Even though Asylum Office rendered an excellent decision in relation to a gay man from Iran discussed above,[43] there were three further decisions based on LGBTQI claims which were negative. One decision referred to a gay man from Bosnia whose asylum application was also rejected in the Netherlands.[44] In two other, separate decisions,[45] which are related to a gay couple from Tunisia, the first instance authority rejected their applications as unfounded, stating that the state of human rights of LGBTQI in Tunisia has been significantly improving throughout the years, outlining the fact that even one of the presidential candidates openly declared as gay. However, the Asylum Office disregarded the fact that the Tunisian legal framework still stipulates ‘forced anal examination’ of people ‘suspected to be gay’ and criminalises homosexuality in its Criminal Code, prescribing the prison sentence of up to 5 years. The fact that both applicants were detained by the Tunisian police on several occasions on suspicion that they are gay was not disputed by the Asylum Office but was assessed as ‘not serious enough’ since both applicants avoided anal examination and were afforded lawyers. This interpretation gives serious reasons for concern since the threshold for persecution was set too high, and the Asylum Office failed to acknowledge that a very fact that someone who is suspected to be a gay can be taken to police custody, in combination with the risk of anal examination and criminal charges, undoubtably amounts to persecution.

These two decisions represent a worrying departure from a very decent practice with regards to LGBTIQI applicants established back in 2013, when a Turkish gay couple was granted refugee status due to systemic discrimination and violence to which they were submitted in different places of residency.[46] The Turkish legal framework is far more favourable than the Tunisian, but the interpretation of the Asylum Office from 7 years ago appears to be much more progressive than in these two decisions. In combination with another contentious decision of a transgender applicant from Iran rendered in 2019,[47] the practice of the first instance authority regarding LGBTQI claims seriously deteriorated. It is also important to outline the lack of coordination between legal representatives in this case since Asylum Office was not aware until several weeks after the hearing that applicants are the couple. Thus, the recognition rate of LGBTQI applicants in 2020 was only 25%.

In January 2020, the Asylum Office rejected an application on the merits concerning a mother and daughter from Iran, who were obvious victims of gender-based violence and whose serious psychological state, confirmed in PIN’s report, accompanied by other evidence compiled in CoI submissions created a strong and credible asylum claim.[48] Before this decision, Asylum Office applied on two occasions the safe third country concept in relation to Turkey. After both decisions were overturned by the Asylum Commission, Asylum Office decided to reject application in merits. Mother and daughter eventually decided to leave Serbia. This case lasted for more than two years, several hearings took place, and several lawyers changed. Without any doubt, this case was permeated with acts which caused secondary traumatisation. Even though the mother had visible injuries and scares from the alleged violence, forensic medical examination was never conducted by either Asylum Office or one of several legal representatives.

Another highly problematic decision was rendered in August 2020 regarding a Palestinian man, who was wounded by Israeli army and then detained for several years.[49]  According to an acting asylum officer, he did not provide enough evidence to support his claims. The relativisation of the treatment of Palestinians by Israeli armed forces which can be extracted from this decision is extremely concerning, but also the failure to undertake certain evidentiary activities, such as forensic medical examinations of wounds allegedly inflicted by Israeli army (bullet wounds).

Several other negative decisions were rendered in 2020, including the decision rejecting an application of two Iranian applicants who converted from Islam to Christianity.[50] This decision confirms again an inconsistent approach taken by the Asylum Office in cases of converters from Iran.[51] Another decision which, according to the applicant’s legal representatives, embodies an example of bad practice, was a rejection of asylum application of atheist activist from Iran who was publicly criticizing the system in Iran.[52] Two families of Arab minority from Iran was rejected in February,[53] and July 2020.[54] Overall, this category of applicants in Iran are not considered as credible in the practice of the Asylum Office.

Prioritised examination and fast-track processing

No caseloads are prioritised as a matter of law or practice.

 

Personal interview

The interview in the regular procedure is regulated by Article 37 of the Asylum Act. The interview should take place at the earliest time possible. The applicant is interviewed about all the facts and circumstances relevant to deciding on his or her application and particularly to establish his or her identity, the grounds for his or her asylum application, his or her travel routes after leaving the country of origin or habitual residence, and whether the asylum seeker had previously sought asylum in any other country.[55]

An authorised officer of the Asylum Office may interview the applicant on more than one occasion in order to establish the facts.[56] In the case where a large number of asylum applications has been lodged to the extent that the authorised officers of the Asylum Office are not able to interview all the applicants in good time, the Asylum Act provides that the Government may, at the request of the competent authority, decide on temporary involvement in the interviewing process of officers from other departments of the competent authority or officers from other authorities.[57] However, although prescribed that they must undergo the necessary training before engaging in the process, it remains unclear whether this training can provide the officers from other departments of the competent authority or officers of other authorities with the sufficient level of knowledge as required for interviewing the applicants given the specific characteristics of the asylum procedure. This possibility has never been applied in practice.

The Asylum Act also specifies three situations when interviewing of applicants may be omitted, where:[58]

  1. A decision may be adopted upholding the application and granting the right to asylum on the basis of the available evidence;
  2. The applicant is unable to give a statement due to circumstances of non-temporary nature beyond his control. In this case it is possible for the applicant or a member of his or her family to adduce evidence and give statements relevant to deciding on his asylum application;[59]
  3. The admissibility of a Subsequent Application is being

An applicant is entitled to request that an interview is to be conducted by the person of specific gender. The same rule applies to interpreters.[60] In practice, asylum seekers often wait from several weeks to several months following the lodging of their application for an interview to be scheduled. Due to COVID-19 circumstances, this period has been extended for several months.

The Asylum Office conducted only 84 interviews in 2020, compared to 178 in 2019. The reason for this drop is mainly due to COVID-19 which suspended this stage of asylum procedure from second half of March until June 2020. The legal framework that stopped registration and lodging of asylum application produced identical consequences.[61] Basically, except in February and October 2020, Asylum Office conducted less then 10 hearings per month.[62]

 

Month Number of hearings in 2019 Number of hearings in 2020
January 16 5
February 32 20
March 16 9
April 26 0
May 12 0
June 3 3
July 9 1
August 6 1
September 19 8
October 17 23
November 8 7
December 14 7
Total 178 84

 

Interpretation

 

An applicant who does not understand the official language of the asylum procedure shall be provided free interpretation services into his or her native language, or a language that he or she can understand, including the use of sign language and the availability of Braille materials.[63]

The costs of interpretation are covered by UNHCR and the interpreters are hired from their list. The interpreters are available for the following languages: English (31), Arabic (29), Farsi (17), French (13), Turkish (11), Russian (9), Spanish (8), Bengali (4), Kurdish (4), Urdu (4), German (3), Macedonian (3), Georgian (2), Bulgarian (2), Kirundi (2), Romanian (2) and Swahili (2). One interpreter is also available for each of the following languages: Albanian, Armenian, Azeri, Chinese, Dutch, Hazaragi, Hindu, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Pashto, Polish, Somali, Turkmen and Uzbek.

When it comes to the practice, there were several instances in which BCHR lawyers decided to halt the interview since it was clear that interpreters were incompetent and that they could not establish effective communication with the applicants. Afterwards, the BCHR requested their removal from the list. There were several other instances in which lawyers failed to react and which had damaging consequences for the applicant. Such was the case of an Afghan boy who, according to his testimony given to his legal guardian, did not understand an interpreter for Farsi. His asylum application was rejected in the first instance,[64] and the decision was upheld by the Asylum Commission.[65] It remains to be seen if flaws in interpretation will be taken in consideration by the Administrative Court.

Recording and report

At the end of the interview, the records are signed by the asylum seeker, their legal representative, the interpreters and the official leading the interview.[66] The asylum seekers’ legal representatives are entitled to ask additional questions to ensure comprehensive establishment of the facts of the case.

 

Appeal

Appeal before the Asylum Commission

Appeals against Asylum Office decisions are reviewed by the Asylum Commission, a body comprising nine members appointed to four-year terms in office by the Government.[67] The Asylum Commission member must be a citizen of the Republic of Serbia, have a university degree in law, a minimum of five years of work experience, and must have an understanding of human rights law.[68] The last requirement gives a lot of reasons for concern, since none of the members fulfil this criterion. The only person who met this criterion was a professor of International Human Rights Law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Belgrade who resigned in 2019, and was later replaced by the professor of Constitutional Law from the Criminal-Police Academy. The membership of the second instance body remained unchanged.[69]

An appeal to the Asylum Commission suspends the enforcement of the first instance decision and it must be submitted within 15 days from the delivery of the decision.[70]

The Asylum Act does not specify the duration of the second instance procedure. Under the Administrative Disputes Act, a claim against “administrative silence” may be filed with the Administrative Court in the event the Asylum Commission fails to render a decision on the appeal within 60 days of the day of its receipt, upon the expiry of 8 days from the day a reminder was sent to the second-instance authority.[71] In other words, the time limit for the second instance decision and its delivery to the applicant is two months after the appeal was lodged. In practice, however, it takes at least three to four months for the Asylum Commission to render and deliver the second instance decision. During the state of emergency, Asylum Commission delivered more decisions than in 2019. The main reason for this is because Asylum Commission has never held a hearing in order to directly determine the facts.[72] However, it is welcome that, in the vast majority of cases, this body has been rendering decisions within two to three months.

When the Asylum Commission receives the appeal, it may render a different decision on the matter and substitute the impugned ruling with a new one, should it find the appeal well-founded and that it is unnecessary to conduct the procedure again.[73] Should the Asylum Office find that the procedure it had implemented was incomplete, it may perform the requisite supplementary actions and render a new decision, which is also subject to appeal by the asylum applicant.[74] In the event it does not reject the appeal,[75] the Asylum Commission may itself decide on the administrative matter.[76] It may also set aside the impugned ruling and order the first instance authority to re-examine the matter, when it finds that the shortcomings of the first instance procedure will be eliminated more rapidly and economically by the Asylum Office.[77] The last possibility is the usual scenario, and since the establishment of the Serbian asylum system, the second instance body has rendered only three decisions granting asylum to applicants from Somalia,[78] Libya,[79] and Iran.[80]

Asylum Commission Practice in 2020

In 2020, the Asylum Commission took 62 decisions regarding 84 persons, which is an increase in comparison 2019 when 45 decisions were rendered. Of these, first instance decisions dismissing or rejecting asylum applications were upheld in 52 cases, while in only 10 cases the appeals were upheld, and the cases were referred back to the Asylum Office for further consideration. In 2020, the Asylum Commission did not render any positive decision, i.e. it did not grant international protection.

One of the major concerns regarding the Asylum Commission’s practice relates to the failure to individually and separately assess all allegations included in the applicant’s appeal.[81] In several analysed decisions, the Commission summarily rejected applicant’s arguments, but also failed to examine the applicants’ cases in line with the Asylum Office’s positions which were taken in previous cases of identical or similar nature.[82] This means that the Commission has limited corrective influence on the practice of the Asylum Office.

Since the Asylum Commission refused to share with the authors decisions rendered in  2020, which was not the case in previous years, only a few decisions will be shortly analysed below, in light of cases which were outlined in the previous updates of this AIDA report.

The Asylum Commission rejected the appeal of the transgender applicant from Iran, whose asylum application was rejected in November 2019,[83] and confirmed the stance of the first instance authority that the fact that Iranian state authorities formally acknowledged her gender transition implies that she would be safe in Iran.[84] However, the Asylum Commission, in the same manner as the Asylum Office, disregarded the threats and attacks she received from her family, but also from members of Iranian society and her former employer. The applicant was granted mandate status by the UNHCR, and will be resettled to another country. This decision adds up to negative practice of Serbian asylum authorities when it comes to LGBTQI claims.

Asylum Commission rejected appeals of the two Afghan boys whose case has already been described above. In the first case, where UASC’s statements and circumstances where provided in a contradictory manner during the hearing, in BID and in the psychological report, the Asylum Commission had an ample opportunity to conduct the hearing and clarify the said inconsistencies.[85]  However, the Asylum Commission decided on the basis of the case files and rejected the appeal.[86] This is an example of the lack of capacity of the Asylum Commission to have a corrective influence on the Asylum Office as in this case it would require carrying out a hearing and questioning the temporary legal guardian, the psychologist and the concerned boy, but also take into consideration the reflection on the previous practice of the Asylum Office in which UASC from Afghanistan were granted at least subsidiary protection. A similar stance could have been taken in another Asylum Commission’s decision regarding an UASC from Afghanistan.[87]

Another contentious decision concerns an Iranian man whose asylum application was dismissed on the basis of the first country of asylum concept.[88] Namely, the applicant was granted UNHCR mandate refugee status, which raises a question if this fact can be a reasons to declare Turkey as a first country of asylum and if Turkey would be willing to admit the applicant back on its territory.[89] Other problems refer to general prospect of refugees in Turkey to enjoy rights enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention, which was not outlined by applicant’s legal representatives nor taken into consideration by the asylum authorities proprio motu. Another decision in which the Asylum Commission relied on the first country of asylum concept refers to a gay applicant from Burundi, who was granted asylum in Uganda (see First country of asylum).[90

Asylum Office rejected two appeals of Arab families from Iran who claimed that they have been the victims of systemic discrimination and were at the risk of ill-treatment due to their opposition to Government’s policies regarding the Arab lands rich in oil.[91] These two decisions imply that Arab applicants from Iran are not considered as credible in the practice of all three asylum instances.[92]

Finally, the Asylum Commission confirmed the flawed findings of the first instance authority regarding the safety of Palestinians living on the occupied west coast and failed to conduct the hearing of the applicant and order forensic medical examination in order to confirm his claim of having been wounded and tortured.[93] In the last two case, the Commission missed an opportunity to remedy  the flaws of both legal representatives and Asylum Office.

Onward appeal (“complaint”) before the Administrative Court

The Administrative Court does not have a department or panel specialised in reviewing asylum cases and it rules on the lawfulness of a final administrative act in three-member judicial panels. Moreover, only a few judges are tasked to decide upon asylum complaints. At several conferences and roundtables that took place in the second half of 2018, judges from the Administrative Court stated the problem of understaffing, lack of knowledge of international refugee law and international human right law (mainly the relevant jurisprudence of the ECtHR) and sought help from relevant national and international organisations (NGOs and UNHCR) to facilitate more trainings and workshops regarding asylum and migration law.[94] The first training was facilitated by the UNHCR in 2019, but the training planned for 2020 were postponed due to COVID-19 situation.

The lawfulness of an administrative act may be challenged by a claim in an administrative dispute:

  • In the event it was adopted by an authority lacking jurisdiction;
  • At the authority’s discretion, in the event the authority had exceeded its legal powers or the decision had not been adopted in accordance with the goal it had been granted specific powers;
  • In the event the law or another general act had not been enforced properly;
  • In the event the procedural rules have been violated during the procedure;
  • In the event the facts were established in a manner that was incomplete or inaccurate, or an incorrect conclusion was drawn from the facts.

According to the Asylum Act, the initiation of an administrative dispute has an automatic suspensive effect.[95]

In practice, the Administrative Court has not itself held any hearings on asylum claims to date. Its decisions so far have merely confirmed the lawfulness of the asylum authorities’ practice of automatically applying the safe third country concept despite the fact that it had not first been established that the third countries were actually safe for the asylum seekers in casu. Also, to this date, the Administrative Court has never decided on a complaint on the merits. It can be concluded with certainty that corrective the role of the Administrative Court in relation to the first and second instance authorities is almost entirely lacking. The year 2020 was the year in which the Court has failed to deliver a judgment which could have positively affected the practice of lower instances.

Usually, it takes approximately three to four months for the Administrative Court to deliver its judgment, but there were instances in which the judgment was pending for a year or more.[96]

Administrative Court Practice in 2020

In 2020, the Administrative Court delivered 19 decisions regarding 25 persons. Out of that, 13 complaints were rejected and not a single complaint was upheld and referred back to the Commission or overturned and applicant was granted asylum. The Court also rendered 2 decisions rejecting the request for the reopening of asylum procedure[97] and 2 decisions discontinuing asylum procedure upon the request of the applicant[98] or due to applicants’ absconding.[99] It also dismissed one request for interim measures as manifestly unfounded[100] and one objection regarding the issuance of asylum ID card.[101]

Administrative Court rejected 6 complaints lodged by 9 Iranian applicants. In one of the decisions, the applicants claimed that as atheists,[102] they would face arbitrary detention and ill-treatment in case of their return to Iran. This decision implies that Iranian atheists’ claims are not considered as credible in all three instances.[103] In the second case the applicant claimed problems related to his corruptive activities with Sepah, but the Court took a stance that he failed to provide sufficient and individual evidence.[104] Another judgment was rendered in relation to Iranian Arabs, who claimed to be systematically discriminated against. However, the Administrative Court confirmed the negative decision of Asylum Commission.[105] This decision confirm a clear stance of the Asylum Office, Asylum Commission and the Court with regard to all Arab asylum applicants who claimed persecution on the basis of systemic discrimination they face in their country of origin.[106] The Administrative Court automatically applied the safe third country concept in relation to Bulgaria,[107] and in that way continued this flawed practice which lack individual guarantees obtained from Bulgaria and regarding the applicant’s access to territory and asylum procedure.[108] The Court also rejected the complaint of Iranian family who converted from Islam to Christianity, stating that applicants had failed to provide sufficient evidence that their conversion could trigger acts of persecution.[109] This judgment indicates the inconsistency in the practice of all three instances and with regards to people who converted from Islam to Christianity.[110] And finally, a very interesting judgment was rendered in relation to Iranian citizen who was granted mandate refugee status by UNHCR office in Turkey.[111] This fact was taken as grounds for dismissal of applicant’s asylum application on the basis of the first country of asylum concept. However, it remains unclear if the decision of UNHCR can be attributed to Turkish authorities and if Turkish authorities are obliged to take the applicants back on these grounds. What is undisputable is the fact that all three instances, including the Administrative Court, have failed to obtain individual guarantees that Turkey would receive the applicant on its territory. For that reason, the application of this concept can be considered as misguided.

In May 2020, the Administrative Court rejected the complaint of an Iraqi applicant of Kurdish origin whose asylum application was dismissed on the basis of the internal flight alternative. The main reasons given by all three instances were that applicant’s family lives as IDPs in Kurdish part of Iraq where they are safe and where he felt safe, but was unsatisfied with the lack of prospect for his future.[112]

Another interesting decision was related to the so far only case where asylum authorities applied the exclusion clause on the Iraqi prison lieutenant who was working in the prison in Kurdish part of Iraq and at the time when a lot of ill-treatment allegations were made. All three instances came to the conclusion that his hierarchical position made it impossible for him not to be aware of ill-treatment practices, even though there was no evidence that he was involved in any illegal activity.[113] This rare decision in Serbian asylum system is also important for several other reasons. Namely, the Administrative Court accepted the findings of Asylum Office and Asylum Commission who assessed that Bulgaria cannot be considered safe, which represents a contradicting, but positive approach in the practice of this body which so far had always been confirming automatic application of the STC concept. And finally, since all three instances assessed that neither Bulgaria nor Iraq could be considered safe for the applicant, but it remains unclear what status would have been granted to the applicant if he had decided to remain in Serbia.[114]

Also, the Administrative Court automatically applied the safe third country concept in relation to 1 citizen of Cuba who entered Serbia from Montenegro, again failing to obtain individual guarantees,[115] rejected 3 applications in merits, submitted by 3 Pakistani nationals[116] and rejected the complaint of Indian family from Kashmir.[117]

Legal assistance

On 1 October 2019, the Free Legal Aid Act (FLA) came into force. The right to free legal aid is explicitly guaranteed to asylum seekers,[118] refugees and persons granted subsidiary protection.[119] However, the Free Legal Aid Fee Schedule Regulation (FLA Regulation)[120] envisages free legal aid only for administrative dispute procedures conducted before the Administrative Court. This means that asylum seekers could apply for the State funded free legal aid only if they reach the third instance authority. Still, asylum seekers can cover the cost of free legal aid in all three instances. So far, not a single asylum seeker has used State funded free legal aid,[121] but in the course of 2020, several attorneys at law provided legal representation to asylum seekers who had their own financial means.

The right to free legal aid is also guaranteed by the Asylum Act, as well as the right to receive information concerning asylum.[122] The Asylum Act further provides that an asylum seeker shall have access to free legal aid and representation by UNHCR and NGOs whose objectives and activities are aimed at providing free legal aid to refugees. In practice, the vast majority of persons who submit an asylum application in Serbia use the services of NGO lawyers before both national and international bodies. Their work and assistance is not state, but project funded. CSOs represent asylum seekers in all three instances.

It is important to highlight that not all persons who wish to apply for asylum have the possibility to have effective legal representation. The first reason is that in 2020 only five civil society organisations (CSO) were providing legal aid in Serbia: APC, Balkan Centre for Migration and Humanitarian Activities (‘BCMHA’), BCHR, IDEAS and Humanitarian Centre for Tolerance and Integration (HCIT). The total number of active lawyers in these CSOs is between 14 and 16, out of which many are also tasked with other project activities.[123] Other, non-CSOs lawyers, occasionally provide legal aid but are also tasked with other responsibilities. All of these CSOs are based in Belgrade, except for HCIT which is based in Novi Sad. Thus, their presence in asylum and reception centres located on south or east is rare,[124] and refugees and asylum seekers are not only forced to wait for weeks or months to access asylum procedure and lodge asylum application, but also to wait for initial legal advice by a competent lawyer.

Given that in 2020 an approximate number of persons who are likely in need of international protection was at least 50% of total migrant population who entered Serbia and received registration certificates (around 2,830), it is clear that current capacities are insufficient. The low number of legal representatives is also the reason why some CSOs sometimes deny legal assistance to applicants whose asylum claim has less prospect of success. Thus, 2020 was the year in which several dozen asylum seekers either failed to lodge their asylum application or lodged their asylum applications in writing by themselves, and without legal support.

The second reason is the fact that most of legal representatives from respective CSOs have between 1 to 3 years of experience,[125] which is usually the period after which many of them decide to leave the field of asylum and migration. For instance, at the beginning of 2020, the only child-protection officer left BCHR even though her work had led to record 5 positive decisions rendered in relation to 5 UASC. The fluctuation of legal representatives has also been present in APC.

As a result, the capacity and quality of legal assistance provided by CSOs remains limited.[126] While certain CSO lawyers are successful, the large majority of them do not obtain positive outcomes. Several decisions analysed in this Report show that applicants who had strong asylum claims were not adequately prepared for hearing and, for instance, provided more detailed statements to their psychologist than to their lawyer. The contradicting statements in asylum hearing which ensued was the reason why Asylum office rejected their claims.[127] Another example is the lack of coordination in preparation for asylum hearing of a Tunisian gay couple.[128] These flaws are mainly due to their lack of experience and knowledge of the asylum field which raises serious concerns. Several applicants decided to abscond during asylum procedure due to non-responsiveness of their legal representatives and the lack of certainty about the outcome of their process. One of the UASC applicants absconded a couple of months before he was granted asylum due to violence to which he was subjected. His legal representative was not aware of this fact, even though the violence was reported to him.[129] The other UASC had only had half an hour meeting with two different legal representatives within a year and decided to abscond to Bosnia.[130] Specific issues in relation to the provision of legal assistance include a lack of assessment of COI information and individual circumstances,[131] lack of thorough preparations of clients for their personal interview and failure to conduct evidentiary activities such as medical expert opinion.[132]

The lack of any legal response is evident in cases which concern push-backs and the risk of violation of the non-refoulement principle. The poor quality of legal assistance by CSOs is particularly patent in the cases where access to territory and asylum procedure is at stake. Even though several hundred pushbacks to North Macedonia were recorded, there was no attempt to legally challenge such practice. It appears that most of the CSOs providing legal aid are mainly focused on persons who wish to apply for asylum and who are accommodated in asylum or reception centres after they successfully avoided harmful border practices. For instance, CSOs providing legal aid in asylum procedure failed to react on time to prevent readmission of an Iranian family which was detained in Detention Centre for Foreigners in Padinska Skela even though they requested legal assistance. In the statement of the National Mechanism for Prevention of Torture (NPM) it can be seen that NPM was present during the forcible removal in that particular case,[133] while in all other statements (regarding other forcible removals) it highlighted that persons subjected to forcible removal did not have any complaints against the treatment and removal[134] and that police officer acted professionally.[135] This remark was not highlighted in this Statement regarding Iranian family expelled to Bulgaria. However, some witnesses indicate that the family was in a distress during the forcible removal since it was their second time being returned to Bulgaria under the Readmission agreement with the EU (father and two small children).[136]

To conclude, it is necessary to improve the quality of the work of legal representatives employed in different CSOs. Furthermore, it is also important to facilitate trainings on CoE and UN standards regarding International Refugee and International Human Rights Law. The recruitment procedures should be designed, but also the volunteer and internship systems should be established. And finally, the system of free legal aid must be reformed so that it allows attorneys at law to provide legal assistance from the first instance procedure. This would mean that FLA and FLA Regulation have to be amended, and that extensive trainings of attorneys at law should be facilitated so that each person who expresses the wish to apply for asylum is provided with the assistance.

[1]           Article 39(1) Asylum Act.

[2]           Article 39(2) Asylum Act.

[3]           Article 39(3) Asylum Act.

[4]           Article 39(4) Asylum Act.

[5]           Article 39(5) Asylum Act.

[6]           Article 39(6) Asylum Act.

[7]           BCHR, Right to Asylum in the Republic of Serbia – Periodic Report for July-September 2020, p. 24-25.

[8]           Ibid.

[9]           Article 34(1)(1)-(2) Asylum Act.

[10]          Article 38(1)(3)-(5) Asylum Act.

[11]          Article 47 Asylum Act.

[12]          Article 42 Asylum Act.

[13]          Article 26 Asylum Act.

[14]          Article 27 Asylum Act.

[15]          Article 28 Asylum Act.

[16]          Article 29 Asylum Act.

[17]          Article 30 Asylum Act.

[18]          Article 31 Asylum Act.

[19]          Articles 33 and 34 Asylum Act.

[20]          Article 40 Asylum Act.

[21]          Article 32 Asylum Act.

[22]          The statistical data in the table reflect the number of people granted international protection, not the number of positive decisions. One decision can cover more than one person. 

[23]          AIDA, Country Report Serbia, 2019 Update, p. 35.

[24]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-1515/19, 13 August 2019.

[25]          AIDA, Country Report Serbia, Update May 2020, p. 35.

[26]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26–57/20, 23 October 2020.

[27]          UNHCR, International Protection Considerations with regard to people fleeing the Syrian Arab Republic, Update V, 3 November 2017, available at: http://bit.ly/3or74Vq, p. 70.

[28]          ECtHR, L.M. and Others v. Russia, Application Nos. 40081/14 40088/14 40127/14, Judgment of 15 December 2015, EDAL available at:  http://bit.ly/3psdOE7 and S.K. v. Russia, Аpplication No. 52722/15, Judgment of 14 February 2017, EDAL, available at: http://bit.ly/3oqsouq.

[29]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-2467/17, 15 January 2020.

[30]          See also, Asylum Office, Decision Nos. 26-1216/18, 26-1218/18 and 26-1219/18, 12 February 2019 and, Decision No. 26-1605/18, 15 March 2019; AIDA, Country Report Serbia, Update May 2020, p. 36.

[31]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-1437/18, 13 February 2020.

[32]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-2474/19, 15 October 2020.

[33]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-218/19, 20 February 2020.

[34]          AIDA, Country Report: Serbia, Update May 2020, p. 29-30 and UNGA, Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children, 24 February 2010, A/RES/64/142, para. 28.

[35]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-2063/17, 11 August 2020.

[36]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-2328/19, 24 February 2020.

[37]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-1615/19, 16 June 2020.

[38]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-1435/18, 16 June 2020.

[39]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-2573, 15 October 2020.

[40]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-378/19, 11 February 2020.

[41]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-1437/18, 13 February 2020.

[42]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-374/18, 14 February 2020 and AIDA, Country Report Serbia, Update May 2020, p. 38.

[43]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-2467/17, 15 January 2020.

[44]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-2347/19, 8 June 2020.

[45]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-2038/19, 30 July 2020 and 26-2039/19, 17 August 2020.

[46]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-1280/13, 25 December 2013.

[47]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-1592/18, 20 November 2019.

[48]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-148/18, 27 December 2019.

[49]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-2177/19, 20 August 2020

[50]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-1436/18, 21 February 2020.

[51]          AIDA, Country Report: Serbia, Update May 2020, p. 38.

[52]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-1986/18, 14 May 2020 and BCHR, Right to Asylum in the Republic of Serbia – Periodic Report for July-September 2020, p. 29-32.

[53]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-1994/18, 25 February 2020.

[54]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-1831/18, 30 July 2020.

[55]          Article 37(1) Asylum Act.

[56]          Article 37(2) Asylum Act.

[57]          Article 37(12) Asylum Act.

[58]          Article 37(10) Asylum Act.

[59]          Article 37(11) Asylum Act.

[60]          Article 16 (2) Asylum Act.

[61]          Hod po zici.

[62]          Ibid.

[63]          Article 13 Asylum Act.

[64]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 932/19, 30 September 2019.

[65]          Asylum Commission, Decision No. AŽ 38/19, 3 December 2019.

[66]          Article 63 GAPA.

[67]          Article 21(1)-(2) Asylum Act.

[68]          Article 21(3) Asylum Act.

[69]          AIDA, Country Report Serbia, Update May 2020, p. 40.

[70]          Article 95 Asylum Act.

[71]          Article 19 Administrative Disputes Act.

[72]          Hod po žici, p. 53.

[73]          Article 165 GAPA.

[74]          Article 165(2)-(3) GAPA.

[75]          Article 170 GAPA.

[76]          Article 171(5) GAPA.

[77]          Article 173(3) GAPA.

[78]          Asylum Commission, Decision AŽ 25/09, 23 April 2010.

[79]          Asylum Commission, Decision AŽ 06/16, 12 April 2016.

[80]          Asylum Commission, Decision AŽ , 2 September 2019.

[81]          This statement mainly refers to the BCHR’s clients since the author had an opportunity to examine the entire case files.

[82]          Article 5 (3) GAPA.

[83]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-1592/18, 20 November 2019.

[84]          Asylum Commission, Decision No. AŽ 44/19, 30 January 2020. 

[85]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-1437/18, 13 February 2020.

[86]          Asylum Commission, Decision AŽ 13/20, 21 July 2020.

[87]          Asylum Commission, Decision AŽ 14/20, 9 July 2020.

[88]          Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-788/19, 28 February 2020.

[89]          Asylum Commission, Decision No.  AŽ 17/20, 15 April 2020. 

[90]          Asylum Commission, Decision No. AŽ 36/20, 4 December 2020.

[91]          Asylum Commission, Decisions Nos. AŽ 16/20, 15 April 2020 and AŽ 34/20, 15 September 2020.

[92]          See also the Chapter on the practice of the Administrative Court.

[93]          Asylum Commission, Decision AŽ 35/20, 2 November 2020.

[94]          Roundtables were organised through the project “Novelties in the Asylum and Migration System in the Republic of Serbia and Challenges in their Application”, implemented by the AIRE Centre, IOM and the British Embassy in Serbia.

[95]          Article 96 Asylum Act.

[96]          Administrative Court, Judgment U 10233/19, 13 May 2020.

[97]          Administrative Court, Judgment U 10233/19, 13 May 2020.

[98]          Administrative Court, Judgment U 13912/19, 9 October 2020.

[99]          Administrative Court, Judgment U 3937/18, 5 May 2020.

[100]         Administrative Court, Decision U7899/20, 22 May 2020.

[101]         Administrative Court, Judgment Uv 95/20, 19 May 2020 and 9017/19, 13 November 2020.

[102]         Administrative Court, Judgment U 20398/19, 5 March 2020.

[103]         Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-1986/18, 14 May 2020 and BCHR, Right to Asylum in the Republic of Serbia – Periodic Report for July-September 2020, p. 29-32.

[104]         Administrative Court, Judgment U 16525/17, 4 May 2020.

[105]         Administrative Court, Judgment U 11206/20, 17 September 2020.

[106]         Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-1831/18, 30 July 2020.

[107]         Administrative Court, Judgment U 11984/17, 28 September 2020.

[108]         AIDA, Country Report Serbia, 2019 Update, May 2020, p. 44.

[109]         Administrative Court, Judgment U 8001/20, 8 October 2020.

[110]         AIDA, Country Report Serbia, 2019 Update, May 2020, p. 38.

[111]         Administrative Court, Judgment U 13967/20, 13 November 2020.

[112]         Administrative Court, Judgment U 917/18, 4 May 2020.

[113]         Administrative Court, Judgment U 17973/17, 21 May 2020.

[114]         The applicant left Serbia during the course of third instance procedure.

[115]         Administrative Court, Judgment U 19223/18, 9 October 2020.

[116]         Administrative Court, Judgment U U18198/19, 29 July 2020, U 20092/19, 1 October 2020 and U 14660/19, 8 October 2020.

[117]         Administrative Court, Judgment U 19868/19, 23 October 2020.

[118]        Article 4 (2-6) FLA.

[119]        Article 4 (2-7) FLA.

[120]        Free Legal Aid Fee Schedule Regulation (Uredba o tarifi za pružanje besplatne pravne pomoći), Official Gazette of the RS No. 74/2019.

[121]         This conclusion is drawn from the fact that legal representatives in all Administrative Court judgments were CSOs.

[122]         Article 56(3)-(4) Asylum Act.

[123]        BCHR has 5 lawyers who are solely providing legal aid to asylum seekers, HCIT 2, IDEAS 2, BCMHA 2 and APC does not have more than 4.

[124]         Once to two times per month.

[125]         Some of them less than a year and without previous training and experience in the field of asylum and migration.

[126]        The author of this Report was a legal coordinator at BCHR, but also acts as a strategic litigation officer at BCHR. He has been providing legal aid to asylum seekers since 2012.

[127]         Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-378/19, 11 February 2020.

[128]         Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-2038/19, 30 July 2020 and 26-2039/19, 17 August 2020.

[129]         Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-2573/19, 15 October 2020. This boy fled to Bosnia where he got in touch with his former legal representative who changed jobs.

[130]         The boy decided to return back to Serbia and, with the help of IDEAS lawyers, submitted subsequent application.

[131]        This conclusion was drawn from the Analysis of dozens of case files from the period 2017-2019 originating from both BCHR and APC’s legal practice. A more detailed analysis of the quality of work of legal representatives will be conducted during the course of 2020.

[132]         Asylum Office, Decision No. 26-2177/19, 20 August 2020.

[133]         The Ombudsman, Тим Заштитника грађана у обављању послова НПМ обавио надзор над принудним удаљењем иранске породице у Бугарску, 3 September 2020, available at: http://bit.ly/3csPK0i.

[134]         The Ombudsman, Обављен надзор над удаљењем страних држављана, 8 December 2020, available at: http://bit.ly/3csgsGk.

[135]         The Ombudsman, Обављен надзор над поступком принудног удаљења страног држављанина,  18 September 2020, available at: http://bit.ly/2L3uJ0D

[136]         This case will be the subject of further analysis and assessment which has not been completed until this Report was concluded.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection