Belgrade, 28.02.2022. -The number of refugees who will enter Serbia depends exclusively on the behavior of our neighboring countries
Director of the Asylum Protection Center Rados Djurovic says that first refugees from Ukraine have already started arriving in Serbia, for now, mostly to stay with their relatives and friends already in the country.
“They are contacting us and we are sending them to the Border Police to register and then see what happens next,” Djurovic told Tanjug.
According to Hungary’s estimates, 600,000 people are expected to arrive in that country, and Djurovic added that the number of refugees who will come here depends exclusively on the behavior of our neighbors.
“If they get stuck with (high) numbers and if they reach the stage where they cannot accept those refugees, I assume that a significant number of people will come to us. Especially since Ukrainians think of Serbia as a friendly country,” Djurovic pointed out.
He appealed on the Government of Serbia to increase refugee accommodation capacities.
“We need to increase capacities. We currently have room for 6,000 refugees, which is inadmissible given the situation and we must reach at least 10,000 places, if we intend to avoid being surprised by the developments,” said Djurovic.
He pointed out that the refugee crisis has already begun and that there are hundreds of thousands of people who have arrived to the countries surrounding Ukraine, while there is a large movement of people inside Ukraine itself.
“Over 400,000 people have fled Ukraine to date, and it is estimated that another 150,000 are on the move in the country. We are facing a sort of refugee crisis, and we’ll see what its scale will be. There are some estimates that 5 to 7 million people could leave Ukraine if the war continues. Let me remind you, we’ve only had a few days of war (so far), and the kind of war where care has been taken, more or less, not to destroy civilian targets and not to target civilians. Imagine what will happen if the war escalates and if civilians are more affected and start to suffer more,” said Djurovic and added that this would inevitably lead to new problems.
He said that at this moment, Poland is the most affected, due to the proximity and the length of its border with Ukraine, followed by Moldova, Romania and Hungary.
“I will remind you that people wait over 40 hours on the border with Poland, and that lines of vehicles are over 15 kilometers long. 70,000 people entered Poland in one day, and for the sake of comparison, during the refugee crisis in 2015, no more than 10,000 people ever entered Serbia in one day, so these are huge numbers,” said Djurovic.
In addition to Poland, which has received over 200,000 people, more than 75,000 have entered Hungary, more than 50,000 Romania and more than 19,000 Slovakia.
“These are huge and very concerning numbers.” Djurovic stated.
Regarding the reception of refugees, he said that systems are being established and that this takes some time, but that Poland is managing to respond with the help of the army and NATO troops.
“But feeding hundreds of thousands of people is not easy and real trouble is yet to come for Poland. Reception facilities in Hungary are not ready to respond to receiving so many people. Near the border, schools and public buildings are open for refugees, but without a systemic plan of where they will go and what will happen to them,” said Djurovic.
He stressed that it is important for us to monitor Hungary, which is closest to us.
“If the Hungarians do not stick to what they adopted last week, which is to grant temporary protection to all refugees from Ukraine and not to push them back, as they are pushing other refugees, we could be facing a problem and that is the focus of our attention. We have no evidence that Ukrainians are being pushed back along our border, despite the fact that this happens every day to other refugees, non-Ukrainians,” said Djurovic.
Djurovic singled out as a characteristic of this refugee crisis the already very strong solidarity of EU countries to accept refugees, which has not been the case during the previous year.
“We were witnesses to the situation on the Belarus-Poland border, as well as the constant pushing of refugees back. When it comes to Ukrainians, European countries have obviously taken a different stance. It’s something that is encouraging, because if it does’t continue, it could escalate into a much bigger political and other kinds of problems,” said Djurovic.
He assumes that solidarity is expressed because such fierce acts of war are happening in front of all European countries, this is not about Africa or Asia, but about the very outskirts of Europe.
Comparing the current refugee crisis with that which happened in the former Yugoslavia, Djurovic said parallels can be drawn in that the neighboring countries are accepting members of their own ethnic communities, but also others fleeing the war.