BCHR Calls on the Serbian Authorities to Immediately Respond to Claims about the Existence of an Alleged Serbia-Austria Agreement Migrants and Asylum Seekers

April 17, 2020

The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) calls on the Serbian Government to publish accurate information in response to claims about the existence of an inter-state agreement between Serbia and Austria on Serbia’s admission of irregular migrants and unsuccessful asylum seekers at Austria’s request.

Following a number of media speculations, the Deutsche Welle Serbian language programme published a report on 15 April 2020 stating that the Austrian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) had confirmed the existence of a “working agreement” between Austria and Serbia on Austria’s return of unsuccessful asylum seekers to Serbia, that such an agreement was signed on 24 April 2019, and that both parties agreed not to publicly divulge their mutual rights and obligations. Given that Deutsche Welle obtained such confirmation indirectly, through insight in the Austrian MIA’s response to a question posed by the Liberals in the Austrian Parliament, BCHR considers it crucial that the Serbian authorities urgently and precisely clarify whether such an agreement exists.

The BCHR recalls that increasingly radical anti-migrant views are regrettably being propagated by some Serbian groups, and that some media and social networks are flooded with unconfirmed reports and dubious information about the alleged Austrian-Serbian agreement. Imprecise, unclear and partial information that is now available gives rise to risks of various forms of abuse and is not in the interest of the legal certainty of either Serbia’s citizens or the people transiting through Serbia and seeking international protection.

The BCHR calls on the relevant state authorities, primarily the Serbian Ministries of Internal and Foreign Affairs, to respond to the allegations about the agreement between Austria and Serbia. If these claims are true, the authorities should make the document available to the public. The BCHR notes that it is critical that Serbia’s state representatives conduct a clear and transparent migration policy.