The situation with refugees in Serbia is extremely difficult: Radoš Djurović27 November 2013 | 14:13 | Focus News Agency
Focus: What is the situation with refugees in Serbia at present?
Radoš Djurović: The situation with asylum seekers in Serbia is extremely difficult as of now. Our capacity is for 250 people and it is far from enough to accommodate the huge number of people seeking asylum. Some 4,000 persons have requested asylum in the country, since the beginning of the year only. About 1,000 of them come from Syria. A large portion of the refugees is forced to stay outside, as the capacity of asylum centres is not enough to accommodate everyone. There are some 250-300 people camping in the vicinity of the centre in the village of Bogovaca. We sent a call for help to the government and they responded immediately, together with local authorities. At an extraordinary sitting two days ago, the government decided to expand the accommodation capacity and open up a new temporary centre in Obrenovac, [a town] near Belgrade. In the meantime, they will also be preparing yet another centre in Mladenovac [another city near the capital] with a capacity to accommodate 500 people. We hope to have people accommodated in Obrenovac in the next week. The larger centre in Mladenovac should be ready sometime next year.
Focus: How many refugees are currently staying outside?
Radoš Djurović: Estimates vary between 200 and 300 people.
Focus: What is the asylum procedure in Serbia?
Radoš Djurović: The procedure is extremely sluggish. It requires asylum seekers to first express their intention in front of a police office. That officer should later write a confirmation that this was indeed the case. The letter of intention is then sent to the centre. The asylum procedure starts only once the request has been filed. However, in order to file a request, the refugee needs not only enter the centre, but to be registered there. Registering is the biggest issue in Bogovaca as police officers visit it on too rare occasions despite been urged to do it more frequently. They have paid the centre no more than three visits in the last three months. This even further slows down what is already a sluggish procedure to start with. Decisions on requests take as long as six months to be taken. The period stretches to one year until the decision is actually implemented. That is why, a lot of people try to abuse the system and only ask for asylum so that they could continue their way West. All refugees receive a negative message that they will have to wait a long time for what might prove to be a negative outcome. Is should point out that Serbia’s policies are quite restrictive and the country refuses to grant asylum in a large number of cases. This mostly involves people who have pass through Greece, Bulgaria, or the Republic of Macedonia on the way from their country of origin.
Focus: What is the trend since the beginning of the year? Are refugees growing in number?
Radoš Djurović: The number of asylum seekers has been constantly growing for the last five years. In 2007, 2008, and 2009 we witnessed up to five-fold increases in their number compared to the previous year. Some 2723 persons requested asylum in Serbia last year. So far this year, we have received 4,000 refugees. Their number soars mostly because of the situation in Syria.
Focus: From where do refugees most frequently enter Serbia?
Radoš Djurović: Most frequently through the Republic of Macedonia. However, refugee routes changed in the last 3-4 months and now most of them come from Montenegro. The route starts from Greece, goes through Albania, then Montenegro, until they finally get into Serbia. This represents an additional migration highway, besides the one through the Republic of Macedonia. From time to time, we also register refugees coming from Bulgaria, but they are less organised. Most often, they organise their entry themselves and just continue straight forward [West]. Nevertheless, we have witnessed an increased influx of refugees coming from Bulgaria recently. A big portion of them has simply gone west, although they have initially requested asylum in Serbia.
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