The Law on Asylum and Temporary Protection of the Republic of Serbia came into force on 3 June 2018 and brought a series of new decisions in relation to the previous law regulating this matter, that is, the Law on Asylum. It is important to note that asylum proceedings initiated before June 3 will be completed according to the provisions of the Law on Asylum, except in cases where the provisions of the Law on Asylum and Temporary Protection are more favorable for the asylum seeker.
Some of the most important changes made by the Law on Asylum and Temporary Protection relate to the asylum procedure itself, and in that sense there has been a merger of certain procedural actions. For example, there is no longer an act of registering asylum seekers, but registration takes place together with registration when the intention to seek asylum is expressed and when registration actions are performed (taking photographs and taking fingerprints). After the registration of persons who have expressed intention to seek asylum in Serbia, the police officer issues a certificate of registration to the alien who expressed his intention to apply for asylum, which as a document replaced the certificate of expressed intention to seek asylum and has the same purpose. With this certificate, the registered person is directed to report to the designated asylum center, or an alternative reception center, within 72 hours. A novelty in relation to the previous law is that, at the expiration of 15 days from the day of registration, and in case the Asylum Office fails to file an application for asylum, the registered person is left with a deadline of eight days to file an application for asylum on their own initiative and deliver it to the Asylum Office. Asylum seeker status within the meaning of the Asylum and Temporary Protection Act is obtained only after one applies for asylum.
In practice, certain problems already arise, especially because people who would like to apply for asylum in Serbia without adequate legal assistance cannot meet the set deadline, nor it is reasonable to expect them to know these deadlines. In addition, the application for asylum form is written in Serbian and Cyrillic script, with previous experience showing that people who would like to apply for asylum most often do not know any other language than their mother tongue which is in most cases not Serbian.
Another important novelty adopted by the Law on Asylum and Temporary Protection concerns the concept of a safe third country, the application of which in the practice of the Asylum Office and the Asylum Commission has been the most frequent reason for rejecting asylum applications. Namely, in their practice, the above-mentioned authorities only found that the country through which asylum seekers traveled on their way to Serbia is safe because of the Government’s determination in 2009, without establishing other criteria to be fulfilled for a country to be considered a safe third country. In contrast, the Asylum and Temporary Protection Act does not provide for the Government to establish a list of safe third countries, but in each individual case it is assessed whether the State through which the asylum seeker passed on their way to Serbia is safe from persecution or the risk of suffering serious injuries in the sense of threats of death or imprisonment, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, serious life threats caused by violence of general proportions in situations of international or internal armed conflict.
Photo: phrawr (CC BY 2.0)