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UN Fact finding mission to the North of Serbia

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Belgrade, 14 September 2015 - The UN in Serbia is planning another joint fact finding mission to the Serbian-Hungarian border on Tuesday amidst rising worries about deteriorating conditions for thousands of refugees transiting Serbia every day. The Resident Coordinator of the UN, Irena Vojàčkovà-Sollorano and the head of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Serbia, Hans Friedrich Schodder are not only concerned about the closure of the Hungarian border but also of deteriorating weather conditions.

"If there is a bottleneck is created at the Serbian-Hungarian border, we will further step up the humanitarian response of the entire UN system in the country", Vojàčkovà-Sollorano said on Monday. She expressed her concern that refugees will stay longer on Serbian territory and become more vulnerable to exploitation by smugglers and other criminals to continue their journey to safety in Western and Northern Europe.

UNHCR estimates that at any given time over 12,000 refugees from Syria and other war-torn countries are on Serbian territory already now. If transit slows down, people are going to amass at the northern border, which will create more needs in terms of shelter, food, water hygiene and medical aid. Serbia currently has only 810 places to accommodate asylum-seekers. Many refugees still sleep rough which will become impossible very soon due to the climate.

"We continue to offer the Serbian Government assistance to be ready for the reception of larger numbers of refugees", said UNHCR's Hans Schodder.

Since the beginning of the year over 200,000 refugees, mainly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, left EU Member State Greece to transit the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Serbia in search of protection in another Member State of the European Union. The Serbian authorities were able to register approximately half of them as asylum-seekers.

The UN is assisting the Serbian Government and civil society to respond to the most urgent needs of refugees and migrants, including coordination, registration, food, water, temporary shelter, health care, hygiene and child care. UNHCR is coordinating the UN response which by now also involves the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as the World Food Programme (WFP).

"We want to continue supporting authorities and the local population in Serbia" said Vojàčkovà-Sollorano and praised the affected authorities, municipalities and citizens "who have shown exemplary hospitality and solidarity with the refugees in spite of the stress the transit of so many people puts on their own resources and rhythm of life."

For more information & media inquiries please contact:

Aleksandra Stamenkovic, UNCT Communications Expert, e: aleksandra.stamenkovic@one.un.org m: +381 63 302 831

Melita Sunjic, UNHCR Senior Public Information Officer, e: sunjic@unchr.org m:+381 63 343 134