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Conference “COVID19 Challenges in response to refugees in Western Balkans”

Belgrade 18.03.2022. – APC held presentation and public discussion regarding results of the first ever research conducted on response of Serbian health system to the COVID-19 challenges in protection of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, in Nova Iskra hub in Belgrade on 18.03.2022. Run in coordination with parallel country researches conducted in N. Macedonia and Bosnia under the common researching project supported by Balkan Trust for Democracy, our research on health protection of migrants in the times of COVID-19 was a part of a bigger regional comparative research approach undertaken together with our peer organizations Legis from N. Macedonia and Međunarodni forum solidarnosti EMMAUS from Bosnia.

APC collected and analyzed relevant data and the statistics, undertook interviews with relevant stakeholders and with representative number of migrants who experienced health challenges regarding COVID-19 virus, to conclude that successful implementation of COVID-19 measures was questionable in practice and even impossible in some of accommodation centers. Unexpectedly, number of migrants officially recognized to be infected with COVID-19 was surprisingly low in spite of limited living space, overcrowded camps, initial lack of protective gears, partially because migrants and camps management staff didn’t recognize initial symptoms as signs of COVID-19 and medical assistance and COVID-19 testing were not sought.

Nevertheless, access to the general health care for migrants was not significantly hindered by the COVID-19 challenges, while EU was funding overall health care services provided to this population creating project-based health care system for migrants, as rather unsustainable for protection of migrants (irregular migrants, asylum seekers and refugees) on a long run.

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