Tuesday, 2 February 2016
37th Sitting of the Committee on Labour, Social Issues, Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction
At the sitting held on 2 February, the members of the Committee on Labour, Social Issues, Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction discussed the current situation regarding asylum-seekers’ welfare.
Head of Border Police Milenko Bozovic provided an in depth overview of the police activities in the previous period, saying that today’s 2,000 illegal migrants are a significant decrease compared to the 11,000 recorded toward the end of 2015. He said that the border police in Presevo had set up a headquarters to monitor illegal migrants and prevent illegal border crossings. In the previous period the authorities had begun to gather biometric data and register asylum-seekers, and Serbia was the first country on the Balkan route to adopt this mechanism, stressed Bozovic. Security has been boosted along the state borders and the national asylum system was improved, migrant reception centre in Presevo and additional 15 urgent reception centres were set up, the Ministry is issuing 72-hour transit permits, and IPA 2013 project has been launched in support of the asylum system which envisages the drafting of a new asylum law harmonised with relevant international and EU directives. The protection of unaccompanied minors, women and vulnerable categories who could easily become targets for smugglers was an issue of particular interest. Most migrants come from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq and in January 2016 the police registered about 60,000 migrants, 500 of which declared the intention to seek asylum, but only 11 submitting a request for asylum in Serbia, added Bozovic.
On the behalf of the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration, Assistant Commissioner Ivan Gerginov gave a sort overview of its current activities, while Jelena Unijat spoke of the torture prevention mechanism from the aspect of the Ombudsman’s duties and briefed the Committee on the situation in the centres in Adasevci, Sid and Krnjaca, as well as the work of the police administrations and the shelter for minors in Belgrade. She said that the housing facilities in Presevo and Sid have been improved, and the refugees are now better informed about their rights and the services available to them in the centres. She opined that the new challenge for our country in the coming period would be the so-called economic migrants who are not allowed to enter the EU, but do not want to seek asylum in Serbia.
UNHCR Serbia representative Hans Friedrich Schodder and UNICEF representative Michel Saint-Lot spoke about their respective organisations’ activities. Hans Friedrich Schodder said that the daily influx of migrants in January 2016 dropped to below 2,000, and the conditions in the reception centres in Serbia have been improved. He announced that UNHCR would continue to support Serbia’s efforts to improve the conditions in the reception centres, especially the sanitary conditions.
Michel Saint-Lot commended Serbia’s equal treatment of all the migrants on its territory and announced that UNICEF would continue to support Serbia’s efforts to overcome its difficulties caused by the migrant crisis. He asked that the organisation’s recommendation to simplify the registration forms be taken to heart, so that they could give a clear picture of the numbers of unaccompanied children among then migrants. Unaccompanied children who are not allowed to continue their way to the EU should also be registered so that, even though they are not asylum-seekers, they would be provided with housing, and the sanitary conditions need to be improved so as to prevent the spread of disease, added Saint-Lot.
The UNHCR and UNICEF representatives said they hoped the problem of crossing of the Serbia-Macedonia border would be resolved, and that the migrants will no longer cross this section on foot. They also commended Serbia’s efforts to pass a new, modern asylum law harmonised with relevant international and EU directives.
The representatives of the non-governmental and civil sector briefed the Committee members about the observations they made in the field, from the aspect of their activities, viz. they spoke of the numbers of meals, packages and other humanitarian aid distributed in the reception centres, migrant gender structure, work on reuniting families who have lost contact during the migration, legal protection of migrants, abuse, etc.
In the ensuing debate, the participants opined that there has been progress in the already good cooperation between the state authorities, non-governmental and civil sector and international organisations on the timely and adequate response to the migrant crisis. The Committee members were informed about the intensification of cooperation between the Serbian and Macedonian police on the border crossing which will most likely result in the signing of the kind of protocol that Serbia already has with Croatia, which will solve the way migrants cross the border. They emphasised the problem of smuggling economic migrants not allowed entry in the EU and the police activities regarding the issue, and were also briefed on the measures Greece is instating to reduce the influx of economic migrants in the coming period.
The sitting was attended by Committee members and deputy members Nebojsa Petrovic, Aleksandar Peranovic, Milena Corilic, Mujo Mukovic, Bratimir Vasiljevic, Shaip Kamberi, Annamaria Vicsek, Mirjana Dragas, Miodrag Linta and Milanka Jevtovic Vukojicic.
The sitting was chaired by Committee Chairperson Dr Vesna Rakonjac.