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Are the migrants in Serbia conflicted (and why)?

Source: Nova S, APC

Video: Nova S


Belgrade, June 26, 2023– In the last week, there have been several incidents involving migrants. Asylum Protection Center especially emphasizes the vulnerability of the refugee population, which, in this situation is actually a victim. APC also highlights that smuggling is highly expanded.

In these clashes, there are groups that mostly gather our criminals and individuals from the ranks of migrants. In fact, these are most often conflicts between smuggling groups.

Forced pushbacks to Serbia of refugees that are trying to reach EU countries are extremely frequent. Every pushback, like Hungary’s fence policy, pushes refugees directly into the hands of smugglers. When you push people back to Serbia, a few meters from the fence, you did not send them back to Syria or Afghanistan, they have nowhere to go, they need to try again.

In Serbia, they cannot get decent accommodation or an efficient asylum procedure. It is perfectly clear to them that there is no chance of staying in Serbia. There is a huge demand for smugglers, because they enable people to cross the EU border. Sometimes it takes several times, but eventually everyone succeeds.

The weapons in the clashes were certainly acquired on the domestic gray market, which is an indicator of organized groups, not individuals. Here, migrants are in the lowest positions of those criminal groups, who are fighting for the territory from which they will smuggle people.

What can be seen on the field is the inefficiency of local systems, difficult access to accommodation, especially in the north of the country. Also, there is a narrative for the refugees to be presented as a potential threat, that is, a generalization. In fact, the refugees are the ones who are the most vulnerable and sensitive.

Also, Frontex is located on the Serbian-Bulgarian and Serbian-Hungarian border. However, according to the APC, it does not appear that their presence has solved the issue of the entry of people from Bulgaria, from where they regularly enter, in the number between 150 and 250 per day. Readmission from Serbia to Bulgaria is not effective either.

On the other hand, Frontex in the north is also not a decisive factor in stopping pushbacks, which happen every day.

The meetings were also held with representatives of the Frontex advisory Forum two weeks ago. Frontex officers are present on the ground only accompanied by our police, and sometimes they also seek out translators from Doctors Without Borders.

They are not present when the refugees are transferred from the north to the south of Serbia, to Preševo. Those forced relocations have become a monthly practice.

All those people who are pushedback have problems accessing relevant information and the asylum process. And if they get accommodation in the camps, then as a rule they are legally without status and legally invisible.

Without our expert legal assistance and the help of barely a few other organizations, there is no question that these people can seek and exercise the right to asylum.

From the beginning of the year to June, the statistics are: 550 intentions for asylum, 35 hearings, 6 protections, and of that only one refuge.

The most represented refugees are still from Afghanistan, Syria, Cuba, Burundi, Iran, Iraq and North Africa.

According to APC estimates, by June 1, over 30 000 people have entered our country.

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