Support to Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Serbia

 

Donor: UNHCR Office in Serbia

Duration: January 2017 – December 2017

Throughout 2016, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights has continued to provide free and professional legal aid to refugees and asylum-seekers on Serbian territory, with support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as it has been doing since 2012. In spite of the fact that the Law on Asylum foresees the right to free legal aid in the asylum procedure, the state itself has not secured such aid, leaving it to civil society to provide refugees with free legal aid and information, these being prerequisites for enjoying the rights they are entitled to in our country. The majority of refugees who were recorded in Serbia over the past few years did not stay in our country, moving instead towards those countries of the European Union they perceive as safe countries of asylum. The Belgrade Centre, apart from providing legal representation to persons seeking asylum in Serbia, provides legal aid to these persons as well, informing them of the possibility of submitting an asylum application in Serbia, so that their status under international law might be regulated before domestic bodies as well, thereby allowing them to fully access all of the rights they are entitled to under domestic and international legislation.

Considering the ever-increasing resolve of many states to shut their borders to refugees despite their obligations under international law not to do so, the Belgrade Centre has been advocating intensely for changes and improvements in the policy of Serbia when it comes to accessing the asylum procedure and the functioning of the asylum system. In addition it has been advocating to change the mechanism for the integration of persons who are granted asylum in Serbia, seeing as how this issue has been generally neglected since the Law on Asylum entered into force in 2008. Bearing this in mind, the Belgrade Centre continues to cooperate with the proper authorities in order to strengthen their capacity by means of seminars, training sessions, and expert publications.

The Belgrade Centre continues to provide assistance to all persons interested in seeking asylum in Serbia or who are otherwise at risk of having their rights under international and domestic law violated.

Help On the Route – Fostering Protection of Human Rights of Migrants Passing through Macedonia and Serbia

 

Donor: Foundation Ana and Vlade Divac with financial support by the European Union

Duration: June 2017 – December 2018

The goal of this project is to enhance promotion and protection of human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Serbia and Macedonia. The lead organization in project implementation is Foundation Ana and Vlade Divac. Aside from Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, partners on the project are Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the Republic of Macedonia, Novi Sad Humanitarian Centre and Arbeiter Samariter Bund.

One of main activities on the project is establishing a formal network and capacity building of twenty civil society organizations from Serbia and Macedonia, which are active in the area of protection of migrants and refugees. Establishing regional network of civil society organizations will contribute to improvement of their capabilities to react in situations of human rights violations, through special mechanism which will be developed withing project.

Protection Response in Eastern Serbia

 

Donor: International Rescue Committee

Duration: March 2017 – May 2018

The aim of the project was to provide consistent refugee protection monitoring in reception centres in Dimitrovgrad, Pirot, Divljana and Bosilegrad. The Belgrade Centre for Human Rights will work on achieving improvement in several areas – providing legal information to refugees on asylum procedure and their rights in Serbia, direct humanitarian provision to most vulnerable groups, strengthening a referral mechanism and the capacities of local organizations to cope with refugee and migrant crisis. One of the main characteristics of the project is developing an effective cross-borders cooperation with Hungarian Helsinki Committee, in terms of information exchange and joint strategic litigation before national and international bodies.

Promoting Accountable and Professional Reporting on Issues of Rights of Migrants and Refugees

 

Donor: OXFAM Italia

Duration: January – May 2017

The project will support building capacity of young professionals, media and general public to influence and contribute to the establishment of accessible, transparent and effective democratic systems that support the democratic application and enforcement of the rule of law, which is sensitive to issues of human rights of migrants and refugees.

Specifically the project should increase the professional capacity of young journalists in monitoring and reporting on issues important for the promotion of human rights and the development of rule of law; promote and strengthen the role of media in raising public awareness on two main issues: managing migration and building up sensitive asylum system; and, facilitate networking among project participants – young professional at the beginning of their career and legal experts, decision makers coming from state bodies and international organisations, experienced journalists, etc.

Making a Difference for Refugee Children in Europe

 

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.

Migrant and Refugee Crisis in Western Balkan Countries

 

Donor: OXFAM Italia and UN Women

Duration: August 2016 – October 2016

Within this project the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights conducted a research on the position of women and girls refugees and migrants following the closure of so-called Balkan refugee route in March 2016, whose main points were presented on two round tables in Belgrade and Subotica. Belgrade Centre also prepared and published legal analysis of Asylum Act from gender perspective. The publication was presented on round table in Human Rights House, which was attended by civil society organizations dealing with rights of women and protection of refugees.

Protection Response in Dimitrovgrad

 

Donor: International Rescue Committee and Open Society Foundations

Duration: February 2016 – August 2016

The aim of this six-months long project was to provide consistent protection monitoring and a referral mechanism in the area where this was not available. The BCHR worked on achieving improvement in three main areas – the coordination of IRC partners in protection issues in Dimitrovgrad, building a referral mechanism, and strengthening local capacities.

Belgrade Centre for Human Rights conducted activities in three main areas: coordination of activities of International Rescue Committee’s implementation partners in Dimitrovgrad, developing referral mechanism to provide adequate protection to refugees, strengthening capacities of local institutions providing services to refugees.

Belgrade Centre for Human Rights also conducted trainings for representatives of civil society organizations dealing with protection of refugees in Dimitrovgrad, with the aim of introducing them to the basics of refugee law, right to asylum in Serbia, principles of border monitoring, system of identification of survivors of trafficking, as well as other relevant topics.

Support to Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Serbia

 

Donor: UNHCR Office in Serbia

Duration: January 2016 – December 2016

Throughout 2016, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights has continued to provide free and professional legal aid to refugees and asylum-seekers on Serbian territory, with support from the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Serbia, as it has been doing since 2012. The majority of refugees who were recorded in Serbia over the past few years did not stay in our country, moving instead towards those countries of the European Union they perceive as safe countries of asylum. The Belgrade Centre, apart from providing legal representation to persons seeking asylum in Serbia, provides legal aid to these persons as well, informing them of the possibility of submitting an asylum application in Serbia, so that their status under international law might be regulated before domestic bodies as well, thereby allowing them to fully access all of the rights they are entitled to under domestic and international legislation.

Considering the ever-increasing resolve of many states to shut their borders to refugees despite their obligations under international law not to do so, the Belgrade Centre has been advocating intensely for changes and improvements in the policy of Serbia when it comes to accessing the asylum procedure and the functioning of the asylum system. In addition it has been advocating to change the mechanism for the integration of persons who are granted asylum in Serbia, seeing as how this issue has been generally neglected since the Law on Asylum entered into force in 2008. Bearing this in mind, the Belgrade Centre continues to cooperate with the proper authorities in order to strengthen their capacity by means of seminars, training sessions, and expert publications.

The Belgrade Centre also provided assistance to all persons interested in seeking asylum in Serbia or who are otherwise at risk of having their rights under international and domestic law violated.

Strengthening BCHR Capacities in the Ongoing Refugee Crisis

 

Donor: Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Belgrade

Duration: December 2015 – December 2016 

The ultimate goal of the project was to improve the status of refugees in Serbia by providing them with legal assistance and by monitoring whether Serbian asylum policy is meeting international human rights standards. The project enabled the BCHR to engage more lawyers and enhance their capacities for providing free legal assistance and adequate legal aid in judicial and administrative proceedings. Project team undergo eight trainings on administrative procedure, protection of unaccompanied children, the ECtHR practice, strategic litigation, credibility assessment in the asylum procedure, representing asylum seekers before the Constitutional Court of Serbia, integration of refugees and the examples of good practice in this field, and protection of human rights of refugees. Trainings were conducted by eminent professionals in these fields.

Providing Free Legal Aid to Asylum Seekers in Serbia

 

Donor: UNHCR Office in Serbia

Duration: January 2015 – December 2015

In 2015, the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights continued to implement its project of providing adequate legal assistance to asylum-seekers in Serbia. The project was supported by the UNHCR. The Belgrade Centre conducted regular visits to asylum centres in order to provide legal counsel and monitor the situation in the asylum centres as well as the asylum procedure as a whole. The Belgrade Centre gained a clear picture of the degree to which the rights of asylum-seekers were respected in line with the international legal obligations of the Republic of Serbia. Our lawyers provided legal counsel and representation to those in need of it in the asylum procedure. Thus, the Belgrade Centre legal team gained insight into individual decisions on asylum applications. Apart from providing legal aid to asylum-seekers, the Belgrade Centre’s activities this year included strategic litigation and advocacy with members of the national parliament and local assemblies, updating our country-of-origin information database, taking part in the legal clinic organised by the UNHCR at the Faculty of Law in Belgrade, organising training sessions for specific target groups in matters related to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), taking part in the National Preventive Mechanism against Torture, organising ten training sessions on refugee law for judges of misdemeanour courts and one for judges of the Administrative Court. Finally, an international conference of asylum experts was organised in Belgrade in September.

Networking and Capacity Building for More Effective Migration Policy in Serbia – Pursuing Further Progress

 

Donor: Royal Norwegian Embassy in Belgrade

Duration: December 2014 – December 2015

By reinforcing and developing the outcomes of the previous project cycle, the project  provided hands-on policy outputs for the most pressing issues in the areas of asylum and readmission in Serbia. Belgrade Centre for Human Rights implemented this project with partner organizations Group 484 and the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy.

The project promoted efficient migration management through greater involvement of civil society organisations (CSOs) and increasing their actions at local level. Fifteen CSOs formed two thematic policy-advocacy groups (PAG) within the first year of the project. They were given the opportunity to further enhance their experience and capacities through research, monitoring and policy work. One PAG dealt with issues concerning asylum system in Serbia, while the other PAG worked on problems concerning the readmission of Serbian citizens.

The activities of the asylum PAG consisted of three programme groups: the advancement of legislation, the engagement of more local CSOs and the encouragement of public discussions about the reception of migrants and the virtue of tolerance. The readmission PAG dealt with the issue of new asylum seekers from Serbia and a sustainable social response through new employment policy measures, including the possibility for seasonal labour migration toward specific EU Member States.

At least 25 local CSOs went through basic training on asylum and migration and were given the opportunity to conduct minor local research activities. A larger amount of CSOs was included through public discussions and consultations. Another important target group were national and local government institutions. They were engaged in consultations, discussions, and conferences about specific migration issues raised by this project. Asylum seekers, undocumented migrants and other specifically vulnerable migrant groups were an indirect, but extremely important, target group of this project. Their voice was heard through focus group discussions, consultations, public discussions, and training events for the local CSOs.

Serbia from Transit to Destination Country

 

DonorEmbassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Belgrade and Dutch Refugee Council Netherlands

Duration: From November 2014 – April 2016

This project sought to improve the asylum system in Serbia by raising awareness about the importance of asylum and migration issues and to set these topics in the context of European integration and regional cooperation – one of Serbia’s political priorities. To further the project’s aims, a study visit of BCHR’s lawyers to the Netherlands was organised by the Dutch Council for Refugees (DCR), two trainings for Serbian, Macedonian and Croatian CSOs were conducted by DCR experts, and a Regional Expert Conference was organised. The project encompassed several meetings with members of Serbian National Parliament and different stakeholders engaged in asylum and migration issues. At these meetings the BCHR briefed MPs and other stakeholders on current problems in the Serbian asylum system and tried to encourage them to tackle these problems within their institutions. The BCHR continues to use the knowledge gained through the study visit to the Netherlands, the two trainings in Belgrade, and the Regional Expert Conference, in order to lobby and to advocate for systematic changes in asylum system in accordance with European acquis. In order to combat the rising xenophobia in Serbia a documentary, portraying the ordeal of asylum seekers, was produced and broadcast within the framework of this project.

Networking and Capacity Building for More Effective Migration Policy in Serbia – 3rd Cycle

 

Donor: Royal Norwegian Embassy in Belgrade

Duration: December 2014 – December 2015

This was the third year of the implementation of this project by the partnership between Group 484 (the lead organisation), the Belgrade Centre for Human Rights, and the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy. This project continued to work to provide hands-on policy outputs for the most pressing issues in the areas of asylum and migration. The project specifically aimed to reach consensus on necessary legislative changes based on the Draft Law on Asylum proposed by CSOs in 2014. This was achieved through continuous dialogue and networking between CSOs and national institutions, including scholars and experts. Three expert meetings were organised in order to discuss key issues concerning the Law on Asylum, related to international and EU standards, procedure and jurisdiction, and rights and obligations of asylum-seekers. Thus national stakeholders were provided with the basic knowledge and initial capacities to understand the process of the adoption and implementation of the EU and international standards in the area of asylum and migration. Apart from this the project entailed constant communication with MPs (particularly during preparations for the public hearing) in order to secure their support for the CSOs Draft Law on Asylum.

The National Action Plan for Chapter 24 was used as an advocacy tool for achieving the necessary changes. The comments on the Action Plan for Chapter 24 were drawn up. Policy Advocacy Group (PAG) members, with the support of international experts, developed a methodology and indicators for measuring achievable progress in the implementation of the measures defined by the Action Plan. Achievements and shortcomings in the implementation of the Action Plan were identified through a desk research and intensive monitoring visits to respective facilities.

In the previous cycle, it was identified that local actors, including CSOs, needed more practical knowledge regarding treatment of migrants and asylum seekers and their role in it. For this purpose, a Practical Handbook, containing steps and actions which must be conducted, was produced. Five local promotions of this Handbook were organised. Besides at the local level, in regions with the highest number of asylum-seekers, the project aimed to contribute to social acceptance of asylum seekers by introducing citizens with the migrants’ cultural background and everyday life experience, through various socializing events.

Networking and Capacity Building for More Effective Migration Policy in Serbia – Pursuing Further Progress

 

Donor: Royal Norwegian Embassy in Belgrade

Duration: April 2013 – October 2014

By reinforcing and developing the outcomes of the previous project cycle, this project will work further to provide hands-on policy outputs for the most pressing issues in the areas of asylum and readmission in Serbia. The project will be implemented by partner organizations: Group 484, Belgrade Centre for Human Rights and Belgrade Centre for Security Policy. Strong increase in the number of asylum seekers in Serbia has been noticed since 2010. Capacities for reception and institutional ability to provide efficient asylum process have become insufficient and people directly involved in the asylum process clearly indicate various flaws of the Asylum Act and there is a pressing need for it to be amended. On the other hand, Serbia is still facing the challenge of reintegration of its citizens being readmitted from EU Member States. It has been particularly serious since the abolition of the visa regime in December 2009. In 2010 and 2011, increased numbers of unfounded asylum applications by Serbian citizens occurred in several EU Member States. To avoid the visa regime restoration Serbian Government introduced several administrative measures. However, the major increase in the number of asylum seekers from Serbia in 2012 evidently demonstrates that true solution to this problem could be found only through genuine social intervention that would increase the life quality of those asylum seekers.

This project promotes efficient migration management throughout greater involvement of civil society organizations and their actions at local level. There are 15 civil society organisations (CSOs) forming two thematic policy-advocacy groups (PAG) established within the first-year project period. They will be given opportunity to further enhance their experience and capacities through research, monitoring and policy work. One PAG will be dealing with issues concerning asylum system in Serbia, while other PAG will be working on problems in regard to readmission of Serbian citizens.

Asylum PAG activities will consist of three programme groups: 1) advancement of legislation; 2) engagement of more local CSOs; 3) encouragement of the public discussions about reception of migrants and virtue of tolerance. Readmission PAG will be dealing with the issue of new asylum seekers from Serbia and of sustainable social response through new employment policy measures, including the possibility for seasonal labor migration toward specific EU Member States.

At least 25 local CSOs will go through basic training on asylum and migration and have opportunity to conduct minor local research activities. More CSOs will be included through public discussions and consultations. Another important target group are the national and local governments and institutions. They will be involved in consultations, discussions and conferences about specific migration issues raised by this project. Asylum seekers, undocumented migrants and other specifically vulnerable migrant groups are indirect but extremely important target group of this project. Their voice will be heard through focus group discussions, consultations, public discussions and training events for the local CSOs.

Providing Legal Assistance to Asylum Seekers

 

Donor:  UNHCR Office in Serbia
Duration: January 2012 – December 2014

 

During this project, the BCHR legal officers provided legal assistance to asylum seekers in Serbia by regularly visiting the reception centers at which they are accommodated. The BCHR was also constantly in touch with the state authorities charged with asylum issues. By monitoring the decision-making process and insight in all the individual decisions on asylum applications, the BCHR assessed the degree in which the asylum seekers’ human rights are respected. The BCHR legal team talked with potential asylum seekers and advise them on their rights and obligations, whereas everyone who filed an asylum application was entitled to BCHR’s full support and assistance. Apart from providing direct legal aid, the BCHR was also engaged in raising awareness of the public and the competent authorities about this topic and promoting new, adequate solutions to the identified problems. In addition, precise statistical data on the number of asylum seekers was collected together with information about their countries of origin. The BCHR team also cooperated with the Refugee Law Clinic of the Belgrade Law School and shared its knowledge and experience with future legal practitioners.