On the occasion of 20 June, World Refugee Day, the Belgrade Centre of Human Rights alerts to the vulnerability of the refugee population, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and recalls that Serbian state institutions are under the obligation to extend protection to all refugees under domestic and international law.
UNHCR data show that 79.5 million people in the world have been forced to flee their homes as a result of persecution or conflicts. Children account for 40% of them. Unfortunately, the years-long conflicts and large-scale violations of human rights indicate that major improvements are unlikely in the near future. A total of 12,937 people expressed the intention to seek asylum in Serbia in 2019 but only 35 were granted asylum. Furthermore, the problems of refugees and internally displaced persons from ex-Yugoslavia have not been resolved yet.
To recall, the movement of migrants and asylum seekers during the state of emergency introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic was strictly limited to the centres they were living in. We therefore call on the relevant institutions to provide migrants with unobstructed access to Serbia’s territory in accordance with UNHCR and OHCHR recommendations during the pandemic, whilst respecting all the health measures. The Serbian asylum system still cannot be qualified as efficient given the length of the asylum procedure and non-implementation of the asylum procedure at Belgrade airport Nikola Tesla and the low number of people granted asylum. The refugees’ integration has been gravely undermined by their inability to obtain travel documents and Serbian citizenship.
The BCHR has been endeavouring to improve the status of all refugees in Serbia through its activities involving the provision of legal aid to asylum seekers, strategic litigation before domestic and international bodies, support in integration and advocacy. The BCHR launched an online campaign #let’sstandbyeachother to mark World Refugee Day and raise public awareness of the refugees’ problems and promote solidarity and tolerance to contribute to the equality and life in dignity of all vulnerable groups, including refugees, in Serbia’s society.
World Refugee Day was established under a UN General Assembly Resolution in 2001.