Serbia: Refugee and Asylum Seeker Support

Holistic Medical Care Provided to 1,161 Patients: November 2016

March 31, 2017
N’Deane Helajzen

Summary of Activities

During the November reporting period, RMF Serbia treated 1,161 patients—an average of 39 patients per day. Approximately 800 referrals were made to MSF/Miksalište for the treatment of body lice and scabies. A high number of refugees in the Belgrade city center are considered extremely vulnerable individuals, many with pressing medical needs that go beyond performing basic triage in the field.

RMF is the only medical service provider whose core work is to provide holistic medical care, which involves transportation, escorting, and cultural mediation services. Once RMF’s outreach team identifies a patient, an examination and assessment is made of the individual’s health condition and referral options. We then treat the patient in situ to stabilize their condition, before seeking referral papers and transferring the patient to secondary or tertiary care if needed. RMF’s outreach team then stays with the patient for the duration of his or her consultation and therapy to provide support with cross-cultural interpretation and translation, comfort, and reassurance. We then transport the patient back to his or her chosen location. Such consultations can take up to 8 hours due to patient wait times within the state facilities.

RMF Serbia also worked to maintain and build partnerships through the following activities:

  • Attended the Refugee Protection Working Group meeting at Hotel Zira on Thursday, November 3rd, 2016.
  • Attended the UNHCR Belgrade coordination meeting on November 14th.
  • Participated in the thirteenth monthly Partner’s Briefing on the Refugee and Migration Situation in Serbia, hosted by the UN country team and the Government of Serbia on November 30th.
  • Provided monitoring and follow-up services for our patients, and received referrals from UNHCR/DRC doctors, Palilula Health Center doctors working within Camp Krnjača, Doctors of the World (MSM), Médecins Sans Frontières, Save the Children, Praxis organization, Info Park, Miksalište, ADRA Serbia, and the Asylum Information Centre (AIC).

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Results &


  • Centers Reaching Capacity

    Referrals Directed South

    With all asylum centers (ACs) and transit centers (TCs) fully occupied, the police continued to refer newly registered asylum seekers to the reception centers (RCs) of Preševo and Dimitrovgrad only. Both centers are located in the south of Serbia, close to the border with Macedonia.

  • Belgrade

    Rough Conditions

    During the month of November, some 1,000 refugees and migrants slept outside or in rough conditions in the city center, while Krnjača AC sheltered 1,080 asylum seekers. Humanitarian agencies provided counseling, referrals, and transportation to accommodation in government centers, registration with the police, child protection, and medical services.

  • Refugees Seeking Assistance

    Encouraged to Relocate

    The government of Serbia continued to call on humanitarian actors to halt activities and the provision of assistance to refugees and migrants in the city center of Belgrade, especially food distribution, in order to encourage refugees and migrants to move to centers across Serbia. The government of Serbia currently views humanitarian actors as a pull factor to Belgrade.

  • Lice and Scabies

    Challenges and Treatment

    According to health authorities, the affliction of refugees and migrants with body lice and/or scabies has improved, but has not yet been fully eradicated. By the end of November, a fourth round of treatment and disinfection was concluded in all three TCs in the west, as well as RC Preševo. The incidence of body lice and scabies continues to rise in the Belgrade urban center, and challenges remain in our efforts to treat the epidemic due to the lack of access to sanitation facilities.

  • 250 Arrive Daily

    Continued Influx of Refugees

    Authorities, UNHCR, and partners encountered a stable number of around 6,400 refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants during this time period. Over 5,290 (83%) were accommodated in thirteen government facilities, while the remainder were counted sleeping outside or in rough conditions in the Belgrade city center or at the border with Hungary. For the month of November, roughly 250 people arrived every day in Serbia.

  • Partnerships

    Support and Collaboration

    On November 30th, RMF attended the thirteenth monthly partner’s briefing on the refugee and migration situation in Serbia hosted by the UN country team and the government of Serbia. In addition to providing a general overview of significant developments since the twelfth briefing of October 28th, this briefing applied the New York Declaration to the Serbia context, in particular concerning access to territory and asylum, UASC, and solutions.

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& Objectives


Serbia continues to face an increasing number of asylum seekers: since the beginning of the refugee crisis, 393,069 people were registered in Serbia. Since January 2016, RMF has been responding to the refugee crisis by providing comprehensive protection and medical services to persons of concern. Our team works in and around Belgrade providing 24/7 access to needed services. Our main goal is to provide first aid and basic primary health care for refugees in Serbia. Our team also has the skills to identify and refer extremely vulnerable individuals—women, children, victims of sexual or gender based violence, victims of human trafficking, or victims of other forms of exploitation—for appropriate assistance and follow up by relevant institutions.

  • Provide comprehensive protection and assistance response
  • Provide material assistance and information
  • Provide psychosocial support
  • Provide translation and cultural mediation services
  • Support existing medical institutions with capacity and mobility
  • Establish an information dissemination hotline
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1,161 patients

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Man from Afghanistan

Age: 34


He cut the dorsum of his hand attempting to cross the Hungarian border.


RMF transported him to the orthopedic hospital, where an incision was made to remove a large abscess and skin infection. RMF provided interpretation services and patient advocacy, as well as antibiotics and anti-tetanus protection.

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