Special reception needs of vulnerable groups


Country Report: Special reception needs of vulnerable groups Last updated: 15/05/23


Nikola Kovačević

Due attention shall be given to applicants’ sex and age, status of a person requiring special procedural and/or reception guarantees, as well as family unity upon placement in a reception facility.[1]

The Asylum Act foresees that care be taken during the asylum procedure of asylum seekers with specific needs, including minors, persons lacking or having limited legal capacity, children separated from their parents or guardians, persons with disabilities, the elderly, pregnant women, single parents with underage children and persons who had been subjected to torture, rape or other forms of grave psychological, physical or sexual violence.[2] However, this does not refer to reception conditions, although persons with special needs might receive slightly better accommodation compared to other residents of asylum centres. Very often even these ‘improved’ reception conditions are inadequate for such persons.

The Asylum Act envisages that material conditions of reception of unaccompanied children are provided in Asylum Centres or other facilities designated for the accommodation of asylum seekers until the final decision on the asylum application is taken.[3] However, it is clear that the vast majority of reception facilities do not meet adequate standards. In 2020 and 2021, AC Sjenica and AC Bogovađa were designated for UASC while in 2022 RC Šid was established for the same purpose. None of the said centres, taking into consideration their remote location and lack of available social services, can be considered to be in line with child-specific standards.

Alternative accommodation for children can be provided in social welfare institutions such as the Institute for Education of Children and Youth in Belgrade and the Institute for Education of Youth in Niš, and Children Home “Jovan Jovanović Zmaj” at the Institute for Protection of Infants, Children and Youth in Belgrade, while specialised foster care is also an option.[4] Since the end of 2015, unaccompanied children have been accommodated in institutions in Belgrade and Niš. These facilities are also used to accommodate nationals of Serbia – primarily underage offenders, and are therefore neither specifically-tailored to the needs of migrants, nor particularly suitable for their housing. Regardless, unaccompanied minor asylum seekers in these facilities are kept separately from other groups, and overall reception conditions are considerably better than otherwise available at asylum centres, although a chronic lack of interpreters for various languages spoken by migrants continues to present a considerable challenge to ensuring their proper development and integration. However, all the children placed in Belgrade social institutions regularly attend school and most of them speak Serbian language. At the end of December 2022, 26 children were accommodated in social welfare institutions in Belgrade and Niš which have total capacity of 74 places.

Persons with special medical needs may generally be placed in hospitals or other facilities. However, the identification of other groups of extremely vulnerable individuals, including unaccompanied minors, victims of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, sexual and gender-based violence or human trafficking is quite rudimentary and, even when such cases have been identified, the authorities do not adopt a special approach to the needs of these persons.

What is important to highlight is the fact that there is no vulnerability screening of newly arrived asylum seekers in the asylum or reception centres. The vulnerabilities are usually determined in the most obvious cases or when CSOs working in reception facilities flag certain cases to the authorities. Still, as outlined in the chapter on the screening of the vulnerability, the fact that relevant authorities are aware of certain vulnerability will not change much in the reception conditions of an asylum seeker. Thus, those asylum seekers who due to their vulnerability are not transferred to hospital or the safe house for survivors of trafficking in human beings or SGVB, will remain in reception facilities in accommodation identical to accommodation provided to non-vulnerable residents. Thus, LGBTQI+ people in AC Krnjača and in other facilities are accommodated together with homophobic residents who often resort to verbal abuse and sometimes even physical; survivors of SGBV are accommodate with men in barracks (including the rape victims), or seriously injured people are accommodated in barracks which re not designed for their special needs. This state of affairs is an additional reason why vulnerable people also decide to abscond asylum procedure and leave Serbia.




[1] Article 50(3) Asylum Act.

[2] Article 17 Asylum Act.

[3] Article 53 Asylum Act.

[4] See more in BCHR, The Right to Asylum in the Republic of Serbia 2018, 61-66. 

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