Short overview of the reception system

Serbia

Country Report: Short overview of the reception system Last updated: 02/05/22

Author

Nikola Kovačević

The Commissariat for Refugees and Migration is in charge of governing asylum and reception centres in Serbia.[1] There are 7 Asylum Centres (AC) and 12 Reception Centres (RC) which have been used for accommodation of refugees, asylum seekers and other categories of migrants in 2021. According to official data, the total capacity of 19 asylum and reception centres in 2021 remained 5,655 beds. The reception capacity is measured in terms of available beds and not in accordance with certain standards, for instance, EASO Guidelines,[2] or other standards developed by other bodies such as CPT,[3] or the CESCR.[4] Most of the facilities are collective accommodation centre or even a large-scale type since only RC Dimitrovgrad and RC Bosilegrad have the reception capacity below 100. Thus, realistic capacities which meet all relevant standards, and which can be used for a longer stay is between 2,500 to 3,000.

Additionally, during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020,[5] two additional emergency shelters in Miratovac and Morović were established but they were not operational in 2021.[6] These centres were made out of tents, with no electricity and sanitary facilities. They were operational for three months and mostly during the state of emergency, which lasted in the period March-May 2020. Two categories of people were accommodated there, namely (i) newly arrived foreigners and (ii) foreigners who were transferred there for disciplinary reasons because they objected to a lockdown in other reception facilities, in particular in AC Bogovađa and RC Obrenovac.

The asylum procedure is conducted only in asylum centres, and mainly in AC Krnjača and AC Banja Koviljača, while less frequently in AC Bogovađa. The asylum procedure was not conducted in AC Tutin AC Sjenica, AC Obrenovac and AC Vranje nor in Reception Centres in 2021. Those foreigners who are issued with registration certificates and referred to Reception Centres, have to be, usually with the assistance of legal representatives, transferred to one of 3 asylum centres to which asylum officers go for the purpose of facilitating asylum procedure (Krnjača, Bogovađa and Banja Koviljača). Several dozen foreigners lodged written asylum application from the Reception Centres, after which they were transferred to AC Krnjača.

In 2020, CRM designated AC Bogovađa and AC Sjenica for accommodation of UASC, None of the said facilities meet the child-specific standards, even though these centres are usually not overcrowded, and hygiene is decent. However, AC Sjenica ceased to be used as a camp for UASC, while AC Bogovađa was partially designated for adult asylum seekers in the second half of 2021. In 2021, AC Banja Koviljača was closed for the purpose of refurbishment. RC Obrenovac and RC Vranje were officially turned into Asylum Centres since they underwent refurbishment in 2020-2021.[7] As of 20 April 2022, AC Vranje accommodated 40 refugees from Ukraine.

According to the Asylum Act, a foreigner obtains the status of asylum seekers only after he or she lodges asylum application.[8] Prior to that, persons issued with registration certificates are not considered to be asylum seekers and thus are not entitled to rights and obligations envisaged in the Asylum Act, which encompass the right to accommodation.[9] Accordingly, even though the vast majority of foreigners were accommodated in asylum and reception centres in the course of 2021, they were not explicitly entitled to it under the Asylum Act, Foreigners Act or any other law governing the field of asylum and migration. Hence, the vast majority of persons in need of international protection who have been transiting through the territory of the Republic of Serbia since 2008 were in a legal limbo, deprived of any status, but provided with the existential minimum while in Serbia. In other words, their stay in Asylum and Reception Centres was rather tolerated than regulated by legal framework. Still, it is important to note that the first draft of Amendments to the Asylum Act tends to remedy this situation and recognizes a new category of persons in need of international protection – persons issued with the registration certificate who did not lodge asylum application.

In practice, asylum seekers are referred to one of the asylum or reception centres stated in the registration certificate (see Registration of the asylum application). Accordingly, only 2,306 foreigners were officially referred to one of 19 functional accommodation facilities in 2021, while the remaining 58,32 foreigners whose presence in asylum or reception centres was recorded by the UNHCR and CRM s were allowed to reside in reception facilities without any legal status. It should be also born in mind that some of the people who were issued with registration certificates in previous years have also resided in reception facilities.[10]

AC Krnjača and AC Bogovađa mostly accommodate persons with registration certificates and that is one the main conditions set by the management. Still, there are instances in which foreigners are allowed to enter these centres without the certificate, but they are usually registered within 48 hours. On the other hand, RCs in Adaševci, Sombor, Principovci, Šid, Subotica and other facilities located closer to borders with Romania, Croatia or Hungary imply more fluctuations and much more flexible policies on entering and exiting the camps, since dozens or even hundreds of refugees and migrants are attempting to irregularly cross to the EU on a daily basis. Accommodation in these facilities does not require registration certificates.

Asylum seekers who are granted asylum are entailed to stay in asylum centres up to one year after their decision on asylum became final.[11]

 

 

 

[1] Article 23 Asylum Act; Chapters II and III Migration Management Act.

[2] EASO, EASO guidance on reception conditions: operational standards and indicators, September 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/3j1XabQ.

[3] See for example CPT, Report to the Greek Government on the visit to Greece carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 10 to 19 April 2018, 19 February 2019, CPT/Inf (2019) 4, available at: https://bit.ly/3gbcH7y, para. 103-105.

[4] CESCR, General Comment No. 4: The Right to Adequate Housing (Art. 11 (1) of the Covenant), 13 December 1991, E/1992/23, available at: http://bit.ly/2KyNBRC.

[5] A11, Deprivation of Liberty of Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants in the Republic of Serbia through Measures of Restriction and Measures of Derogation from Human and Minority Rights Made under Auspices of the State of Emergency, May 2020, available at: https://bit.ly/39BiG4m, hereinafter: A11 Analysis on Detention of Foreigners during the State of Emergency. 

[6] Ibid., 4 and 5.

[7] Decision of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, no. 02–5650/2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3nqLK4Z.

[8] Article 2 (1) (4) Asylum Act.

[9] Article 48 Asylum Act.

[10] Many of them have resided in asylum or reception centres for more than a year or two.

[11] Article 61 Asylum Act.

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