Presentation of the recommendations on the position of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in Serbia

Within the project “Building Together – Community Monitoring and Advocacy“ recommendations on the position of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in Serbia were presented on Monday, December 11, 2017, at the Cultural Center “Parobrod”. The event was opened by Norbert Beckmann-Dierkes, director of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation for Serbia and Montenegro, who spoke about Germany’s experiences in the integration of migrants, as well as the role of Germany in the development of tolerance and democracy in Serbian society.

Milan Aleksic, editor of the analysis “Opportunities and obstacles for the inclusion of refugees and migrants into the main streams of society in Serbia” presented recommendations for the improvement of protection of migrants and refugees in Serbia. Overall conclusion of the analysis is that Serbia has good normative framework, as well as integration policies which have not been sufficiently utilized so far. Conclusion of the expert team that conducted the analysis is that regardless of whether persons from the refugee population who are currently in Serbia are transiting or staying, regardless of whether their status is irregular, if they are in the asylum procedure or not, it is necessary to provide conditions for integration, i.e. implement the existing normative frameworks. “Integration does not mean forever remaining in one place, integration does not mean people will be prevented from continuing their journey if they wish so, integration means providing an opportunity for each individual to feel accepted, equal, and to have the same rights as any citizen of the Republic of Serbia. In order to achieve that, it is necessary to promote implementation of the existing normative framework, and improve the protection and support system”. This was a conclusion of Aleksandra Galonja, Aurelija Djan, and Marija Cvejic, authors of the analysis. The document provides certain recommendations which are the product of professionals in this area, and can be found in the report below.

This event was attended by professionals from the Ministry of the Interior, Office of the Coordinator for combating human trafficking, Organization Save the Children, Center for Family Accommodation and Adoption, Ministry of Labor, Employment, Social and Veteran Affairs, Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, International Organization for Migration, UN WOMEN, Ombudsman, Red Cross, CSW “Sava” Sremska Mitrovica, city council of Subotica, International Rescue Committee, Health Center Vranje, Coordination Body for Gender Equality, UNFPA, UNICEF, Ministry of Education, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, and Association Atina.

Colleague Milena Timotijevic, from the International Rescue Committee, gave her comment on the document praising gender sensitivity and approach in writing. She supported the concept of work with particularly vulnerable groups in terms of their treatment, but also pledged to prevent the risks of gender-based violence.

Milenko Nikic, representative of the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Social and Veteran Affairs, and the manager of the Reception Centers in Presevo, Bujanovac, and Vranje, pointed out that there are examples of good practice in integrating the migrant population into local communities. In his opinion, engaging the local population in direct communication and life with migrants is of utmost importance - the examples of good practice, acquired through daily experiential exchanges, will thus be shared “from mouth to mouth”, and that is by far the best method, according to colleague Nikic. He also underlined the importance of integration for women and children victims of violence. The equalization of services for migrants with services for the local population is another important thing. Colleague Nikic emphasized that we are increasingly witnessing the violence of professionals against the migrant population, which is resulting from the fact that we do not know much about the engaged persons - whether they are competent, have appropriate experience, training. Regarding the accommodation, colleague Nikic pointed out that it should be completely changed - organized in accordance with the needs that have been significantly changed compared to 2015, when the migrants were mainly in transit, and staying in one place for about two hours. “Two hundred and fifty beds in a single dormitory is not a humane accommodation which can now last up to a year. Urgent, and flexible, solutions are needed for changes in facilities, given that we do not know what 2018 and 2019 will bring when it comes to the number of migrants,” Nikic said. As for the education of children migrants, it is important to insist on active participation of parents in the educational process - monitoring the child, going to parental meetings, etc. He praised the initiative to educate migrants on sexual and reproductive health in their mother tongue, saying that the Counseling in the Center in Presevo, as well as the mobile gynecological clinic, are working three times a week. In the area of education of migrants, he pointed out the needs of older minors (15-18 years), especially for accelerated courses in the fields of mechanics, driving, carpentry and other crafts, which could be completed through state institutions and institutes.

Vesna Argakijev from the Center for Family Accommodation and Adoption presented the program for an accommodation of children migrants without parental escort in foster families. She said that the program encountered an excellent response from foster parents and in local communities. This form of protection completely changes the perspective of care for children - we are no longer talking only about collective accommodation, she said. So far, with the support of Save the Children and SOS Children's Villages, five groups of foster parents have been trained. Vesna also pointed out that training needs to be extended to members of the NGO sector and Centers for Social Work, as well as other professionals. General public should also be informed about this program, as it will no doubt influence the reduction of social distance toward children, but also toward adult migrants.

Colleague Biljana Lajovic from the Institute for the Advancement of Education pointed out that the conclusions of the Ministry of Education regarding the inclusion of children migrants into regular education are on the track of the recommendations that were presented during the event. In May this year, the Ministry sent instructions to schools for the enrollment of children migrants who do not have documents. Committees were formed with a task to determine the educational and developmental level of children, in order for them to be included in the education process, which was followed by plans and teams that were formed to conduct monitoring and support. Children are educated by IOP (Inclusive Education Plan). There were many challenges, which resulted in crisis intervention. Colleague Lajovic pointed out that it is wrong the media are full of bad examples, because there are good ones as well that are less talked about. Jovana Konjevic from the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration pointed out that there is a good normative framework in Serbia, and that two bylaws on integration, which should be paid attention to, were adopted in 2015 and 2016. Konjevic emphasized that those are concerning persons who were granted asylum, while others are in the pre-integration stage. Marko Perovic from IOM pointed out that successful inclusion requires a supportive environment, which is why we must rely on the local community. Associations and training for the provision of various services have already been invested in, and these associations need to be allowed a more significant role, direct them toward accreditation and licensing of services.

All the attendees agreed that this is a topic that will mark the coming period, and that it will require a lot of investments during the coming year in the field of exercising these rights, as well as improving the position of asylum seekers, migrants, and refugees in Serbian society.

Photographs from the event can be found here:

Recommendations from the analysis “Opportunities and obstacles for the inclusion of refugees and migrants into the main streams of society in Serbia” can be found below.