Serbia + 14 more

UNHCR Serbia Special Fortnightly Update, 4-17 May 2020

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  • Enjoying non-discriminatory access to healthcare and testing, still no COVID-19 infection of any refugee, asylum-seekers or migrant was detected.
  • UNHCR and its eleven partners provided asylum and health information, interpretation, psycho-social, educational and other services in over 2,500 instances. They finished a careful return to field activities, while maintaining innovative communication tools and networks, which proved very effective during curfew.
  • With the lifting of the State of Emergency, residents of the 19 governmental Asylum (AC) and Reception/Transit (RTC) centres regained freedom of movement, which the Minister of Health (MOH) again restricted with a decree of 8 May that he fully lifted again on 14 May.
  • UNHCR renewed offers of support to the Ministry of Interior (MOI) to resume registration and status determination procedures of asylum-seekers, which had been suspended in early March. In order to introduce protection-sensitive migration management, UNHCR and partners recommended a gradual restoration of freedom of movement, which, in line with international and national law, would prioritise refugees, asylum-seekers and children over unregistered irregular migrants, ACs over RTCs, etc.
  • On 14 May, UNHCR advised Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Serbia in six languages to continue following health precautions, remain vigilant in preventing their exposure to infection, avoid all excessive movement outside of centres as well as crowds, etc.
  • The number of new refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants counted in Serbia decreased by 1,278 to 8,052. These included 109 asylum-seekers and refugees in private accommodation, 46 unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) in specialised homes, as well as 7,654 asylum-seekers, migrants and UASC in five AC and 14 RTC. Centre residents comprise 3,421 citizens of Afghanistan, 1,140 of Syria, 983 of Pakistan, 569 of Bangladesh, 330 of Iraq, 339 of Iran, 193 of Morocco, 154 of Palestine, and 525 from 40 other countries. 6,207 are adult men, 381 adult women and 1,066 children, including 548 UASC. Over 70% originate from so-called refugee producing countries and would likely be granted international protection once subject to fair and efficient asylum procedures.
  • Morović tent camp was closed on 7 May, after 350 adult men were transferred to Principovac, Adaševci, Miratovac, Bujanovac or Kikinda RTC and 46 UASC to Sjenica AC.
  • On 6 May, a man drove into Obrenovac RTC with in his car, shouting hateful messages, before he was arrested by the army guarding the centre. His sentencing to 30 days in prison, provoked a small protest of far-right sympathisers outside Obrenovac RTC on 13 May. The Serbian Commissariat for Refugees and Migration (SCRM) and UNHCR partner Belgrade Centre for Human Rights strongly condemned this incident of hate-speech on 6 May while partner A11 Initiative called on authorities to respond strongly to this attack and the spreading of racial, ethnic or religious hatred by other individuals and groups.
  • UNHCR recorded 148 irregular new arrivals (including 5 UASC), 123 from North Macedonia and 25 from Albania.
  • UNHCR project lawyers filed criminal charges related to three new cases of alleged theft or violence by law enforcement or private security staff against asylum-seekers or UASC, while also notifying the Ombudsman or the Internal Control Department of the MOI.
  • UNHCR published the story of a refugee boy building his future and helping his Serbian peers during lockdown in Belgrade.
  • With schools remaining closed, UNHCR provided learning support and equipment to 19 refugee children in private accommodation. 76 refugees and asylum-seekers in private accommodation (36 households) received financial support from UNHCR, including 33 persons (18 households) that lost their source of income due to Covid situation.
  • UNHCR Serbia issued a localised press-release urging attention to the plight of stateless people in the COVID-19 pandemic. Partner Praxis reimbursed the costs of obtaining ID cards to persons at risk of statelessness, so that they may apply for state COVID-19 financial assistance of 100 euros/adult citizen. The number of families at risk of statelessness who received targeted UNHCR-funded COVID-19 aid reached 546, when partner A11 Initiative assisted eighty vulnerable Roma families in Šabac with food parcels and partner Indigo distributed food and hygiene parcels to support continued schooling of 136 Roma girls and boys in Kraljevo, 74 in Novi Pazar and 26 in Bela Palanka,
  • The value of our COVID-19 prevention procurements reached 156,514 USD, when UNHCR donated another 18,000 latex gloves, 1,000 kg detergent, 150 garbage bins, 9,000 bin liners, six TV sets, 3,000 anti-scabies creams, 450 sets of underwear, a two-month supply of hygiene items as well as terry cloth for 8,500 towels to the SCRM.
  • The SCRM finished selection of beneficiaries for 105 building material packages of the Regional Housing Programme (RHP), thus bringing the component “building material packages” of the RHP to a successful closure – a commendable success, also in view of the COVID-19 situation.
  • Hungarian authorities did not admit any asylum seekers into their territory or procedures at their two so-called “transit zones” of Roske and Tompa, after last admissions took place in February. Collective expulsions, however, continued, unabatedly with 131 cases recorded in the past two weeks (85 from Romania, 41 from Hungary and 5 from Croatia) - up from 85 collective expulsions reported during the preceding fortnight.
  • UNHCR Serbia published an updated Statistical Snapshot and joint Site Profiles for April 2020.