Donor: International Rescue Committee and DFID UK Aid
Duration: July 2016 – June 2017
The overall objective of this project was the protection of unaccompanied or separated migrant and refugee children in Serbia, primarily through the provision of legal assistance and information about the asylum system and child rights in Serbia, as well as through the collection of information that are essential for finding safer, legal paths to reconnect with their families’ members or finding other forms of durable solutions.
Special attention is attributed to those children who have not entered the asylum procedure, and they were therefore practically denied a whole range of rights. The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights regularly visited places of informal gatherings where unaccompanied and separated children resided, as well as to all the asylum and reception centers, and during visits, in addition to providing legal assistance, analyzed the reception conditions and gave suggestions for improvement, carried out a preliminary identification of particularly vulnerable children and referral to relevant services. During the project implementation, the team of the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights provided free legal assistance to hundreds of children, among whom over 300 were unaccompanied by their legal guardians.The aim of the project was also to strengthen the capacity of relevant government bodies, independent institutions and civil society organizations active in the field of providing protection to unaccompanied children. Five working meetings were organized across Serbia (in Belgrade, Subotica, Sabac and twice in Nis), during which international and national standards in the field of child rights were discussed, the situation of unaccompanied and separated children in Serbia were presented, and through discussions in working groups, the participants defined recommendations for further improvement of the practice of protection of unaccompanied and separated refugee and migrant children. The working meetings were attended by over 100 representatives of relevant state institutions and civil society organizations, independent institutions for the protection of human rights, and international governmental and non-governmental organizations. Specific areas that were discussed and in regard to which recommendations were presented are: first contact with unaccompanied children and standards of treatment, inter-agency cooperation, alternative care, and victims: identification and treatment. Although only these four areas were initially defined, during the meetings, the need to identify and fifth, a separate area related to the integration of children and the right to education emerged. At the meeting which was organized in Belgrade on 22 May 2017, relevant stakeholders reviewed all the recommendations reached by the participants of previous meetings, and formulated the final recommendations for improving practices in the area of protection of unaccompanied and separated children, which have become an integral part of the document “Unaccompanied and separated children in Serbia”. Assistance and support to the project team for the implementation of these activities was provided by Nevena Vuckovic Sahovic, PhD, a member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003-2009).
The project enabled capacity building for the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, especially with regard to the skills of organization, planning and implementation of training, analysis of relevant national and international legislation and standards, analysis of the situation of the unaccompanied and separated refugee children and migrants in Serbia, formulation and compiling a general and specific recommendations, the study of good practice in Serbia and other countries, and international advocacy. The project team had the opportunity to participate in international procedures for monitoring and protection of human rights, through the submission of contributions to the alternative report (Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Human Rights Committee, UN Human Rights Council). In addition, team members have had numerous discussions in Brussels with representatives of the European Commission and relevant organizations dealing with the protection of children, during which they emphasized the key challenges in the protection of unaccompanied and separated children, that Serbia is facing, but also discussed ways to, as a joint action, lead to positive change when it comes to providing protection for this particularly vulnerable group of children.