Friday, 26 February 2016
39th Sitting of the Committee on Labour, Social Issues, Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction
At the sitting held on 26 February, the members of the Committee on Labour, Social Issues, Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction discussed the current situation regarding asylum-seekers/migrants’ welfare.
Dragana Savic, representative of the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs, briefed the Committee members on the new developments in the field since the previous sitting with the same topic. The EU countries’ policy regarding the migrants’ entry onto their territory has changed i.e. the daily number of entries has been limited which has resulted in considerable changes on the Balkan route, said Savic. Austria was the first to change its policy, followed by Slovenia, and then Croatia which is returning a number of people onto Serbian territory. A number of people returned from or refused entry into Croatia is currently in Krnjaca, and another new development is the fact that people from Afghanistan are no longer allowed entry into EU countries which has led to a pile up of migrants along the Balkan route, added Savic. She reaffirmed that Serbia would not change its stance and wished to be part of the solution to the migrant crisis, is taking part in all EU meetings and would continue to treat the migrants in a humane fashion, however it cannot be a collective centre for the migrants, stressed Savic. The authorities have employed all the measures at their disposal and continued their cooperation with the non-governmental sector to help primarily women and children, they are organising donors’ conferences and have also employed other measures so that now the Military is on standby, reminded Savic. She added that the number of migrant entries into Serbia has been reduced, and since the beginning of the year 96,000 migrants have entered the country.
Emilija Joksic, Head of the Ministry of Interior Asylum Office, informed the Committee members about the joint statement of the heads of police of Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia concerning the joint profiling of migrants at the Greece-Macedonia border. The statement means the issuance of a joint registration form, issued by Macedonian authorities, which will put an end to the issuance of migrant certificates in Serbia, the procedure to abolish which has already been launched. New conditions concerning travel and other personal documents for migrants moving toward their desired destination have been signed, however in a number of cases people are allowed passage for humanitarian reasons, stressed Joksic. She stated that the asylum procedure and system in Serbia has not changed, so that every foreign national still has the right to request it, and also announced the beginning of the public debate on the Draft Law on Asylum and Temporary Protection.
The representatives of the Military Security Agency and the Security Information Agency informed the Committee members about these agencies’ activities concerning the migrant crisis. Colonel Vladimir Marinkovic of the Military Security Agency said that the agency mainly focused on the threats to the military facilities and the Army along the migrant route, and assisted the police controlling the migrants’ passage. The Military Security Agency has issued new threat estimates concerning the changed situation and possible solutions such as border control, military assistance to the civilian authorities regarding migrant housing and future assessments. The Army and the Military Security Agency will continue with its engagement on the issue, based on the decisions of the President and the Prime Minister, concluded Marinkovic.
Bojan Dimic of the Security Information Agency said that its members have been actively included in the plan to protect the country from the very onset of the crisis and are selecting persons who might be connected to terrorist organisations in the war-torn territories.
Vladimir Cankarevic of the Ministry of Health presented the activities the Ministry is conducting in cooperation with the Public Health Institute and the NGOs and international organisations in the field. According to plan, it is monitoring the healthcare provided to the migrants, as well as the health of sick people, pregnant women, new mothers and children, accompanied by regular disinsection and deratisation, stated Cankarevic.
Deputy Ombudsman Milos Jankovic said that the state authorities had abided by the Ombudsman’s recommendations and there have been no instances of what could be characterised as maltreatment. The Ombudsman feared that Serbia’s liberal stance toward the migrants’ movements could be the cause of some problems, however that was not the case, concluded Jankovic. The Ombudsman will continue its cooperation with the state authorities and other bodies to protect the migrants from potential maltreatment.
Ivan Gerginov of the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration had data on the numbers of migrants which today amounts to 113 in regular capacities and 1,390 in temporary accommodation.
Representatives of UNHCR, UNICEF, Red Cross, Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, Humanitarian Centre for Integration and Tolerance, Child Rights Centre, Network of Organisations for Children of Serbia and the Fund for SOS Children’s Villages Serbia spoke about their activities and the situation in the field.
The participants of the sitting stated that the problems now stem from the constant changing of the criteria for entry into EU countries, which is the case with Croatia, and also asked what to do with people who are blocked from moving toward the EU. 60% of the migrants are women and children who are the most endangered category. The participants were presented data on the meals and other humanitarian aid distributed to the migrants, cases in which e migrants who do have the right to proceed further were returned from the Serbian border, migrants crossing via the Bulgarian route, children travelling unaccompanied by adults, etc.
The sitting was attended by Committee members and deputy members Milanka Jevtovic Vukojicic, Aleksandra Maletic, Mujo Mukovic, Milena Corilic and Muamer Bacevac.
The sitting was chaired by Committee Chairperson Dr Vesna Rakonjac.