In its latest Serbia Progress Report, the European Commission said that Serbia had “some level of preparation” to implement the EU acquis on justice, freedom and security (Chapter 24, which includes asylum and migration issues) and that it continued to significantly contribute, as a transit country, to the management of the mixed migration flows towards the EU by playing an active and constructive role. The EC confirmed that migrant smuggling networks remain very active along the Western Balkan route and stated that the fight against this type of crime needed to be strengthened.
The EC Report states that most migrants in Serbia are placed in temporary accommodation facilities and do not have any legal status, but adds that Serbia continued to make substantial efforts to meet the essential needs of migrants passing through or remaining on its territory while facing increased mixed migratory movements and a large number of arrivals. The EC said that the national legal framework was largely aligned with the EU acquis but that Serbia needed to further adapt its legislation notably as regards effective access to the asylum procedure, appeal bodies, legal aid and the safe third country procedure. It also noted that access to and provision of information regarding the asylum procedure needed to be improved at all stages, especially at Belgrade international airport Nikola Tesla, where transit procedures, as envisaged by the law on asylum, were not yet being implemented and adequate premises for accommodation at the airport were lacking – issues the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights has been alerting to for years.
The European Commission made no mention in its report of the wire fence Serbia erected along its border with North Macedonia or of the “technical agreement” it signed with Austria on the implementation of the Readmission Agreement. Nor did it go into the problems in the enforcement of the bilateral readmission agreements, which are minimally implemented, if at all. It did note that lack of enforceable bilateral readmission agreements with third countries was a serious obstacle for Serbia to manage returns effectively, notably with the main countries of origin including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.
As per integration, the European Commission said that integration-related by-laws had been adopted and that the basic legal framework for integration existed but that major obstacles to integration remained. It noted that implementing legislation in different sectors needed to be harmonised with the Asylum and Temporary Protection Act to provide those granted international protection with effective access to socio-economic rights. The European Commission also noted the years-long failure of the Serbian authorities to issue travel documents to successful asylum seekers.