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On the World Refugee Day, APC Interviewed by the Serbia Radio Television Daily

Source: RTS Photo: RTS Video: RTS

Belgrade, June 20, 2024 – Radoš Đurović from the Asylum Protection Center (APC) says for the Serbia Radio Television Daily News (RTS Dnevnik), that in the last 10 years, number of internally displaced people doubled from 60 to 120 million. Đurović also points out that there are also three times, as many refugees today with the recognized refugee status. According to him, conflicts and crises are popping up worldwide, hence it is to expect, that the trend of growing number of refugees continues in future, despite the tightening of European policies and decrease in the openness of the developed countries to accept refugees.

On the important occasion of the World Refugee Day, Radoš Đurović was a guest at the RTS daily and he underlined, that it is very difficult nowadays for refugees to exercise their rights. As explained, developed countries fear that accepting large number of refugees might burden their countries capacities and systems, because of which they are exploring the ways of how to stop migration via physical barriers and arrangements with third countries. Developed countries are working to implement these practices, although this approach is of no help.

As Đurović mentioned, migrants’ seeking refuge always find their way, let alone all barriers. Đurović underlined that international community should not focus on barriers, but instead it should preserve on the path of humanity, responsible behavior and respect for international regulations. As stated, if there is anything positive nowadays, it is the fact that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled against the Hungary for country’s behavior against migrants. ECJ issued the verdict against Hungary, ordering of later to pay a fine for violating the EU directives on the asylum procedure and returning people from its borders. According to the Đurović, ECJ verdict is a positive sign and it raises the hope, that earlier will influence Hungary and other member states to behave more responsibly towards the migrants.

Nowadays, EU member states are implementing restrictive policies of deterring migrants from their borders and signing the agreements with third countries to keep migrants on their third countries territory outside of the EU. Aforementioned action questions the principles of humanity and international law.

Difficulties to access asylum procedure contributes to the migrants falling into hands of smugglers and being subject to various types of mistreatment

While answering the question of how difficult it is for refugees, migrants, asylum seekers to exercise their rights, considering that the EU is tightening its policy in the area of ​​migration, Đurović says that it is very difficult for migrants to access asylum processes of ruling on migrants’ status and validity of theirs’ asylum request. As he explained, many countries simply refuse to implement asylum procedures or postpone later indefinitely, which leads to the migrants ending up in legal limbo. Đurović mentioned that due to above mentioned actions, migrants find themselves without documents and resolved legal status, hence they become invisible to the legal systems, but vulnerable to possible violence and smugglers exploitation or mistreatment.

On the other hand, “When the asylum procedure gets initiated, it is necessary for migrants to wait for the authorities’ decision on ruling on theirs’ applications. As for, how well are founded migrants’ applications, statistics speaks clearly of that.” Last year, 43% of all asylum applications in the first instance were decided positively. This means that almost half of those migrants who came to Europe, indeed had a good reason for coming to Europe, as they really need protection,” said Đurović.

The ruling against Hungary’s migrants policy presents the hope for better treatment of migrants

While answering the question of whether ECJ’s verdict against Hungary changes anything or whether ECJ verdict sends a clear message now, that something will change in future when it comes to migrants treatment – Radoš Đurović replies that he thinks that the verdict is indeed a positive step forward. As mentioned, this ruling has clearly shown, that justice might be slow, but it provides for true verdict in the end.

Đurović reminded that already in 2020, the ECJ assessed that Hungarian state’s behavior as unacceptable, i.e. preventing migrants from entering its territory, pushing people back to Serbia. Back then, ECJ found that such a behavior constitutes a violation of the EU directives and regulations, and therefore even then called on the Hungarian authorities to stop its illegal practices. However, this time, ECJ has also issued a verdict of calling for Hungary to pay a fine of EUR 200 million as well as EUR 1 million for each day of non-execution of the ECJ’s decision. As the interlocutor assesses, “this is now an executive measure, that the European Commission requested, because Hungary refused to change its actions before and I’m afraid that they will have to implement ECJ decision now.”

Radoš Đurović concluded that, “This verdict must be harsh, because Hungary undermines the EU’s response to the refugee crisis and the concept of the EU solidarity. Verdict ringed the bell in the other members’ states also and now both world and Europe’s public is informed.”

Serbia – not as the EU defense gate, but as a partner that shares the burden in solidarity and receives adequate support

While answering the question of how more restrictive EU policies might affect more specifically Serbia, Đurović explains that the EU Pact on Asylum and Migration envisages the adoption of procedures, that accelerates acceptance of small number of migrants or earlier entails implementation of certain selection process on migrants, while leaving the rest of the migrants to be stationed in Serbia and other countries outside of the EU.

As Đurović explains, Serbia is located at the crucial geographical intersection, that covers all migratory routes from Turkey to the EU. In that sense, Serbia can be called soft underbelly of Europe, hence expecting of earlier to take on the role of defending the EU against the all migrations, is completely unfounded. Unfortunately, some EU member states have such aspirations of seeing Serbia as a defense gate and we see this on the ground through theirs’ efforts to somehow stop migrations. Yet, migrants always somehow find their way to the EU and we witness that migrations still exist and take place through our territory towards the EU and despite all the restrictions.

Đurović concludes that, “in this light of current situation, the EU Commissioner Johansson is coming next week to Serbia, and on that occasion it is expected for a new agreement to be signed between Serbia and Frontex allowing for the operational presence and the work of Frontex in the field. There is a tendency for greater restrictions, attempts to stop migration through physical barriers, but also with the help of third countries, which could accept a certain number of people through a different types of arrangements. Now when we talk about our position, we are very weak and vulnerable, and in this sense we have to insist on the responsibility of the EU. As Đurović further explains, refugees pass through the EU (Bulgaria, Greece) and enter Serbia – hence there is an argument of the EU’s responsibility here. Serbia should not be seen just as a place, where people should relocate or from where they should be deported somewhere else”. Instead and as Đurović states, Serbia should be a country, that shares the burden in solidarity and receives the EU support, only in this way can this problem be solved in our country.

Migrations did not stop, but the route only changed

Commenting on the question of whether Serbia’s migratory routes have changed lately, Đurović underlines that indeed routes have changed, thanks to the extensive police interventions. As explained, because of extensive Serbia’s police interventions, it happened that migrants found a new path to the EU, that it goes through southern and eastern Serbia towards the west of the country, and from western Serbia to Bosnia. As Đurović underlined since the beginning of this year and according to APC’s estimation, 18,000 people managed to pass through Serbia in the first six months, so migration has not stopped, but it is smaller in numbers, due to interventions from the direction of Turkey.

“We are witnessing that in the north of Serbia, there are still attempts to cross the EU border, but now these attempts or people being able to pass are measured by tens of people, not thousands as before. Migrants, with the help of smugglers, has gone illegal, now bypassing country’s asylum centers and reception centers. They follow some smuggling routes, moving quickly in the direction of Bosnia. For this reason, refugees are not so visible to citizens in the north of Serbia, as they were before,” Đurović points out.

With the assistance of smugglers, it takes 4 days for migrants to reach Serbia from Turkey

Đurović explains that with the assistance of smugglers, migrants need about 4 days to reach Serbia from Turkey, which speaks of the failure of the Europe’s restrictive policies and barriers. Migrants who come to Serbia are mainly people from Syria, who have stayed in Turkey for a long period of time, Kurds from Turkey and populations coming from Iraq, Afghanistan, as well as migrants who come, as they say, from Palestine.

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