Health care

Serbia

Country Report: Health care Last updated: 23/03/21

Author

Nikola Kovačević

The Asylum Act foresees that asylum seeker shall have equal rights to health care, in accordance with the regulations governing health care for aliens.[1] In exercising the right to health care, adequate health care shall be provided as a priority to severely ill asylum seekers, applicants who have been victims of torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence, or applicants with mental disorders.[2]

Upon their arrival to the reception facility, asylum seekers are obliged to undergo a mandatory medical examination which is conducted in line with the Rulebook on medical examinations of asylum seekers on admission in asylum centres or other facilities designated for accommodation of asylum seekers. The Rulebook on medical examinations envisages that examination shall be conducted by medical doctors at the health care centres.[3] The examination includes anamnesis (infectious and non-infectious diseases, inoculation status), an objective check-up and other diagnostic examinations.[4]

Asylum seekers originating from countries with cholera, malaria or other diseases that may pose a threat to public health shall be placed in quarantine or under medical supervision up to the period of maximum incubation for the suspected disease.[5]

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. However, it is important to reiterate that the vast majority of persons accommodated in Asylum or Reception Centres do not enjoy the status of asylum seeker (they did not lodge asylum application) and are thus not entitled to health care, as envisaged in Article 54 of the Asylum Act. However, all persons issued with registration certificates are in practice treated as asylum seekers and are allowed to receive medical treatment. Still, even those people who lodged asylum application can have difficulties in accessing health care services by themselves because they are not issued with health care cards, nor are they introduced into health care records in local medical centres.

When it comes to mental-health care problems, in 2018, PIN and WHO developed the Guidance for protection and improvement of the mental health of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in Serbia[6], which was adopted by the Ministry of Health and Commissariat for Refugees and Migration. This Guidance stipulates that mental health protection services should be delivered on four levels – initial screening, prevention activities, psychological interventions, and psychiatric care. It is recommended that these services are available through the public healthcare system, while civil society organizations would fill in the gaps in line with identified needs.[7]

The COVID-19 lockdown has led to a high rate of overcrowding which contradicted recommendations of WHO and CPT (see Freedom of movement).

[1]           Article 54 Asylum Act.

[2]           Article 54(3) Asylum Act.

[3]           Article 2 Rulebook on medical examinations.

[4]           Article 3 Rulebook on medical examinations.

[5]           Article 4 Rulebook on medical examinations.

[6]           Svetozarević, S., Vukčević, Marković, M., Pejušković, B., & Simonović, P. (2019). Guidance for protection and improvement of mental health of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in republic of Serbia. Serbia, Belgrade: World Health Organization, available at: https://bit.ly/3r7wBEZ.

[7]           Ibid.

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