UNHCR Serbia Update, 2 - 5 February 2017
HIGHLIGHTS AND STATISTICS
The overall number of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants counted in Serbia stood around 7,700. Close to 6,500 (85%) of them were sheltered in 17 heated government facilities. The others were staying rough in Belgrade city centre or in the North near the Hungarian border.
Two horrible accidents again illustrated the risks of refugees and migrants trying to cross borders irregularly: on 02 February, up to 12 migrant men in Sid, while trying to enter an international cargo train to Croatia, accidentally triggered an electric wire which caused a massive explosion, seriously injuring at least four men from Algeria. The men were hospitalized with internal and external burns, where two remain in critical condition.
The second accident took place on 03 February, when a group of 15 to 20 Afghan men and boys, led by Pakistani smugglers were trying to cross into Hungary over the frozen Tisa River. Reportedly, the ice broke and they fell into the water. One man remains missing, feared to have drowned.
At the same time, a collective expulsion from Serbia into Bulgaria, which allegedly took place on 03 February raised serious concerns. 25 refugees from Afghanistan, mainly families with children, who wished to seek asylum in Serbia and upon request of the court in Pirot had been issued referrals by the Police to be accommodated in the government reception centre of Divljana, were reportedly expelled to Bulgaria instead.
UNHCR brought this incident to the attention of responsible Serbian authorities, requesting appropriate investigation and follow-up.
Efforts to resolve the situation of refugee/migrant men and boys squatting in Belgrade city centre continued.
UNHCR and partners supported authorities in a rapid refurbishment to expand the capacity of the new centre in Obrenovac. While no further official transfers to Obrenovac took place, lower numbers of men and boys sleeping rough were observed in Belgrade city centre. UNHCR and partners managed to transport 24 more newly registered asylum seekers from Belgrade to other government centres.
Hungarian authorities admitted 22 asylum seekers to territory and asylum procedures at the Hungarian “transit zones” near Kelebija and Horgos border crossings. Many refugees and migrants across Serbia grow increasingly restless about decreasing admission numbers and rising waiting periods, indicating that more may try to cross borders irregularly instead.
During the last four days over 60 asylum-seekers informed UNHCR and partners to have been denied access to asylum procedures in Hungary and Croatia but instead been collectively expelled back into Serbia, many alleging serious maltreatment by the authorities of these EU member states.
In January, 584 intentions to seek asylum in Serbia were registered: 48% by men, 12% by women and 40% for children. Applications were filed by citizens of Afghanistan (50%), Iraq (17%), Syria (13%), Pakistan (10%), or other countries (10%). No first-instance decisions were issued.