HIGHLIGHTS AND STATISTICS
In another tragic accident, on 21 November right on the border between Croatia and Serbia, a five years old girl from Afghanistan was hit by a passing train and killed on the spot. The little girl had entered Croatia irregularly with her mother and six siblings and the accident happened as they were reportedly expelled back from Croatia into Serbia. Serbian authorities, UNHCR and partners have been supporting the family during these difficult times.
Contextualising these dangers to the lives of the most vulnerable refugees and migrants, UNHCR Geneva issued an update of “Desperate Journeys”, covering the third quarter of 2017, which expressed extreme concern “about the dangers many people in need of international protection face while attempting to seek safety in Europe”. Nearly 3,000 people are estimated to have died or gone missing at sea since the beginning of the year. Another 57 died along land routes in Europe or at Europe’s borders during Jan-Oct 2017.
“Desperate Journeys“ again called on states to respect international refugee law and provide for legal pathways for refugee protection, while criticising ‘reports of push-backs from several countries, stating these practices should be investigated and eliminated’. UNHCR Serbia and partners, however, again collected a high number of testimonies of collective expulsions during the week: 103 from Romania, 99 from Croatia, and 76 from Hungary, with many reporting refusal of due access to asylum procedures and some mal-treatment by the authorities of these states.
Authorities continued ensuring that over 81% of school age refugee/migrant children attended primary and an increasing number secondary formal education in Serbia. UNHCR started temporary assistance to 12 older children from Bogovadja Asylum Centre (AC) to attend a school for Adult Functional Education 11 km away from the AC.
In October alone, UNHCR had supported the authorities of Serbia with over 23,700 individual protection services, including over 11,000 interpretation and 8,500 legal counseling/info services, 1,200 referrals of new asylumseekers to registration, 200 referrals to medical services, 170 referrals of unaccompanied and separated children to Child Welfare Services, and many other protection interventions, daily in over 23 locations throughout Serbia. A new Serbia Inter-Agency Operational Update- October 2017, reports on all services by all UN and NG Organisations in all sectors of the refugee/migration response.
UNHCR and partners assisted 126 new arrivals (as compared to 157 the previous week). 53% reported arriving from Bulgaria, 32% from fYR Macedonia, and 13% by air. Most were from Afghanistan (34%) or Iran (24%), followed by Pakistan (19%) and Iraq (15%). Children accounted for 39%, including 23 unaccompanied or separated children (all boys from Afghanistan, all but one entering from Bulgaria).
On 26 November, 4,312 new refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants were counted in Serbia (below chart refers). 3,940 are housed in 18 governmental centres. These comprise 35% children, 15% adult women and 50% adult men.
Over 70% had fled Afghanistan (54%), Iraq (15%) and Syria (2%).
UNHCR is grateful to the Government of Sweden for having accepted for resettlement two vulnerable unaccompanied refugee children, who left Belgrade for Stockholm on 22 November.
On 24 November, UNHCR donated specialised equipment worth over USD 146,000 to the Ministry of Interior. The equipment - scanners, manual biometric terminals, computers, and cell phones – will help the Asylum Office to provide for enhanced access to/and effective and efficient asylum procedures for refugees in Serbia.