Country Report: Overview of the main changes since the previous report update Last updated: 30/11/20
The report was last published in March 2019.
- Access to the territory and push-backs: Access to territory remains a serious concern and the practice of pushbacks persisted in 2019. At least 16,000 persons likely to be in need of international protection were pushed back by Serbian border police authorities to Bulgaria and North Macedonia. The practice of the Border Police Station Belgrade (BPSB) at the airport implies that decisions on refusal of entry are also issued to persons who might be in need of international protection thus failing to provide procedural guarantees against refoulement. Also, it is still not clear if foreigners subject to various forms of expulsion decisions have access to the asylum procedure, especially when they return from one of the neighbouring countries (e.g. Hungary or Croatia) and decide to stay and apply for asylum in Serbia. Finally, the period that asylum seekers have to wait to lodge asylum application has a discouraging effect on them.
- First instance procedure: 2019 was a year in which significant progress was detected in the practice of the Asylum Office, which delivered 26 decisions granting asylum to 35 persons. The previous practice of automatically applying the ‘safe third country concept’ only concerned 10% of all of the decisions. This means that for the first time in the history of the Serbian asylum system, the vast majority of asylum applications were decided on the merits. The quality of the reasoning and the decision-making process was also improved. Nevertheless, the Asylum Office must continue to further harmonise its procedures. Inconsistencies in practice were detected in relation to asylum applications lodged by Afghan nationals, Iranians who converted from Islam to Christianity and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC). The procedure at first instance remains very lengthy and can last up to 6 and even 8 months.
- Second instance procedure: There was no improvement in the procedure at second instance as the Asylum Commission and Administrative Courts still fail to have a corrective influence over the work of the lower instance authorities. Thus, if a negative first instance decision is issued by the determining authority, it is very likely that the asylum claim will further be rejected at second instance. The second instance authorities continued to apply negative practices, e.g. with regard to the interpretation of the safe third country concept. One exception concerns a decision from the Asylum Commission in which it decided to grant subsidiary protection in one case.
- Conditions in reception centres: Overall, the reception conditions in Asylum Centres can be considered as satisfactory, with the exception of the largest Asylum Centre located in Krnjača. However, living conditions in the Temporary Reception Centres continue to raise serious concerns as they are not adequate for hosting asylum seekers for long periods. The lack of security in many reception facilities is a serious concern, and the presence of organised crime groups involved in smuggling and potentially human trafficking is evident. This is particularly worrying for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) who are at serious risk in almost all reception facilities. Important critics and concerns were expressed in particular regarding the conditions in Adaševci, Šid, Obrenovac and several other Reception Centres which should be improved without delay.
Detention of asylum seekers
- Detention at the border: Detention for the purpose of the asylum procedure is still rarely used. However, the practice of unlawful and arbitrary deprivation of liberty at the transit zone of “Nikola Tesla” airport prevails. The Constitutional Court of Serbia does not consider that the placement in the transit zone premises for a period of 28 days – without a detention order nor the possibility to lodge an appeal – as a practice that undermines Article 27 of the Constitution (which corresponds to Article 5 of European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Content of international protection
- Limits to integration: From 2008 to 2019, only 156 persons were granted asylum in Serbia. At least 40% of them have left Serbia due to the poor prospects of integration. The obstacles in integration begin during the asylum procedure, as many applicants are placed in remote Asylum Centres (Sjenica, Tutin and Bogovađa) where access to labour market is extremely difficult or in some cases impossible. The inability to obtain a work permit in the first 9 months from the lodging of the asylum application discourages persons in need of international protection to consider Serbia as a country of destination. Also, the right to health care, employment and access to education largely depends on the assistance of CSOs, while the support from the State needs to be improved. Social allowances are insufficient for most of the refugees who do not have any other sources of income.