Serbia

Last update: 25.12.2016
OVERVIEW
There is still a significant number of arrivals to Serbia from Bulgaria and Macedonia. In the last months the Serbian government has increased pressure on travelling migrants, mostly to move them to register and apply for asylum in Serbia. In general it is difficult to give valid information as state practices change very quickly.

According to UNHCR data there are around 6400 refugees in Serbia. Around 80 % of them are accommodated in official camps, while the others are sleeping on the streets and in abandoned buildings in Serbia’s capital Belgrade.

Official government camps exist in 13 different locations all over Serbia. Most important to mention are these (scroll down for more info about some of them):

  • Bujanovac and Preševo are located close to the Macedonian border
  • Dimitrovgrad is close to the Bulgarian border
  • Šid, Adaševci, Principovac, Sombor are located at the Croatian border
  • Subotica is close to the Hungarian border
  • Banja Koviljača is at the Bosnian border

The majority of the refugees in Serbia have been there for many weeks or several months already. Increasing police surveillance and deterrence has made it risky to pass the borders to Hungary or Croatia irregularly. Furthermore smuggling prices have increased drastically. Nonetheless there is still refugees who manage to travel on.

More information: w2eu.info/serbia.en
Information about the Serbian-Hungarian border: Migszol
STAYING IN BELGRADE
Registration, Camps & Sleeping
In the last weeks police and the competent authority (‘Commissariat’) pushed migrants to register, leave the parks and go to official camps. However, currently most camps are full. It is still unclear what will happen if you don’t register or if you go to an official camp which was had not been assigned to you before.

Registration is usually done at the Savska police station (Savska 35, Belgrade) and inside the official reception camps. Nonetheless sometimes the police is not willing to deliver registrations and you will have to wait for hours and days. If you really need to register soon, you can ask at the aidworkers of the below listed aid organizations to accompany you to the police. After being registered the government will assign you an open official camp somewhere in Serbia. After registration you receive a three day permit to stay in Serbia and you will be told to go to the assigned camps.

There is one camp close to Belgrade (20km) called Krnjača. There is a free bus from the ‘Afghan Park’ at 3 pm and 7 pm. This camp is usually fully occupied.

With a valid registration paper people can also stay in a normal hostel which cost between 5 and 10 Euros. The majority of the homeless refugees sleep in abandoned building behind the bus stations which is now partly tolerated although there is always a risk of eviction.

Parks next to the Railway Station
Many refugees meet in two parks next to each other. Both are close to the main railway station and the bus station. Until some weeks ago, the Commisariat (police) were patrolling the park on a regular basis. If people did not have a registration paper on them, it was likely to be sent to one of the camps. For some weeks now, this practice seems to have stopped. However, it might start again.
Location of the parks: 44.8114, 20.4543
One park is called ‘Afghan park’. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provide medical assistance in the ‘Afghan park’. Their white van is mostly present in the afternoon.

There is a group of independent volunteers, who usually serve tea in the ‘Afghan Park’ around 10am and 6 pm.

The Serbian government pushed organizations to stop food distribution in the parks. Nonetheless usually there is a food distribution by volunteers behind the bus stations at the abandoned buildings around noon.

Miksalište
Close to ‘Afghan Park’, on Gavrila Principa street. Space for women, children and families. They provide WiFi, electricity, tea, hygienic products and sometimes food and clothes. Open from 9 am to 4 pm
Location: 44.813010, 20.455126
InfoPark
InfoPark was present in the parks but had been kicked out lately. They are preparing a new office in Gavrila Principa street, close to the ‘Afghan Park’.
Transport
Public transport in Belgrade is free for refugees (people need the paper from the police for proof). To travel towards Hungary, many people choose to go to Subotica (close to the border of Hungary) by bus (less police checks than in trains). The Bus tickets cost between 1100 and 1440 Dinar (10-12 Euro). The price depends on the bus company. Children pay half price (550-735 Dinar). For babies it is free.
Addresses and Numbers: w2eu.info/serbia.en
SUBOTICA
Many refugees take the bus from Belgrade to Subotica for travelling towards Hungary. At Subotica there is a ‘One stop centre’, where people can sleep in buildings and tents. The One Stop Centre has toilets and showers and provides basic needs. The centre is around 2 km away from the bus station. At the start of the dirt road leading to the ‘One stop center’ volunteers distribute fresh food every day at 1 pm. Currently it is said to be full, however, spaces may open up if people leave.
Location: 46.084484, 19.699745
SERBIAN-HUNGARIAN BORDER
There are two official ‘transit zones’ to Hungary. Per day only around 5 people can enter Hungary at each transit zone. Families and sick people usually are prioritised and have to wait less time than single men. In order to pass through the transit zone, people need to register on a list. It is unclear how the lists are run. At the moment, you can put your name on this list in most official camps. Right now, prioritised groups (families, women) have to wait several months, single men even longer. During the last weeks these waiting lists were closed and re-opened several times. Migrants are told that they will be brought to the transit zones if it’s their turn to pass. However it has not always been the case. From Subotica you can reach the transit zones by bus or taxi to Kelebija or Horgoš. Then you have to walk to the transit zones.

  1. Horgoš: 46.1759, 19.9758 (lot of people from Afghanistan, and other countries)
  2. Kelebija: 46.1672, 19.559 (lot of people from Syria and Iraq, and other countries)

The conditions in the camps are very bad. Only very basic food and medical service is provided. NGOs are forbidden to give out camping materials. People are advised to bring tents and food.

Once in Hungary, people have to apply for asylum, otherwise Hungary will try to send people back to Serbia. Normally people applying for asylum are brought to an open camp after a few days.

More information about the Serbian-Hungary border: Migszol .

FENCE AT THE BORDER
People that somehow cross the fence (not via the ‘transit zones’) are very often caught by the police. This action can be punished with prison for up to six months, but most people are directly pushed back to Serbia. However, prison sentence gets much longer:

  • if the border was crossed ‘armed’ (even carrying a pocket knife can be considered an arm)
  • if the fence was not only crossed but also damaged
  • if it happened during a riot
Hungary has deployed a lot of police to the border to keep people from entering. People have reported violent behaviour by Hungarian police and civil patrols when they crossed the border on their own. A lot of people report that their passport and mobile phones are taken by the police when they are detained. Many people store their personal data online. The area between Subotica and Horgoš is the most controlled region. There is a soldier/police officer sitting in a trench every 50 m. If the fence is approached an alarm will start, which consists of a noise signal and flashing lights to make people afraid.

If you experience violence from police or military forces, you can report it to the Helsinki Committee lawyer collective via a Facebook message: Hungarian Helsinki Committee / Magyar Helsinki Bizottság

FORCED RETURNS FROM HUNGARY/CROATIA TO SERBIA AND FROM SERBIA TO MACEDONIA
There is an extensive number of reports of forced returns from Croatia or Hungary to Serbia and in other cases from Serbia to Macedonia (scroll down for more info). These push-backs are not based on any legal ground as international law guarantees the right to ask for protection in any country to everyone.

It might make sense to register the push-backs, forced returns and and other human rights violations you experienced with known organisations in order to have some evidence for your asylum case. We can also help you with this. Reporting the push-back will not help you to cross the border. But it is possible to seek justice for the human rights violation you experienced. Taking legal steps against push-backs take a very long time. However, we believe it is important, as it can help the people who travel this way later on and it could also lead to a financial compensation to the injustice done to you. You can also go before court if you have reached another EU-country, but there are deadlines. Please seek legal advice soon enough.

You can contact us to seek help in finding the right organisation to report your push-back: live@w2eu.info

THE SERBIAN-CROATIAN BORDER
There is no fence at the Serbian-Croatian border. Nonetheless, people who tried to enter Croatia irregularly report to be immediately forcefully returned to Serbia. The returns to Serbia also occur when the police catches refugees in Croatian villages close to the border.
FORCED RETURNS AND PUSH-BACKS FROM SERBIA TO MACEDONIA
There are more and more reports of people being brought to the closed camp in Presevo, Serbia, and are subsequently brought to the border with Macedonia where they are pushed-back. These forced returns to Macedonia are not based on any legal ground and are not coordinated with the Macedonian authorities. The Macedonian authorities are therefore not waiting for people coming from Serbia. Most of the people are returned on the Miratovac-Lojane border, which is not an official border crossing. You might find some non-governmental support in the area.

There are mainly reports of people from Pakistan, North Africa and Afghanistan to be pushed back so far. There are only few people from Syria and few families and vulnerable people reported to be pushed-back. However, this can not be taken for granted, as the push-backs appear to happen arbitrarily. Increasingly, there are also people pushed back who have already applied for asylum in Serbia and have documents that proof that. The Serbian authorities are reported to destroy all proof that people have been in Serbia. It is therefore important to take pictures of the Serbian documents, as well as pictures of you in Serbia, and store them in a safe place, such as e-mail or Facebook. If you experienced violence during the push-back and receive treatment from a doctor or hospital, ask the doctors/hospitals for a paper that documents at least that you were examined or even better an attest on what you suffered from.

The following organisations can further record the push backs you experienced and build public pressure on the governments that have conducted these illegal push-backs or other human rights violations:

UNHCR-Skopje, Republic of Macedonia

Legis

Further contacts in Macedonia

CONTACTS
see: w2eu.info/serbia.en
NEIGHBOURING COUNTRIES
Hungary
Croatia