During the fourth quarter of 2017, the number of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants increased slightly in Serbia, with 4,273 counted on December 24, 2017. Of these, around 3,999 (94%) were accommodated in one of five asylum centers or thirteen reception centers. Most are from Afghanistan (46%), followed by nationals of Pakistan (21%), Iran (12%), Iraq (10%), Syria (2%), and other countries (9%).
At the end of September 2017, Serbia lifted its visa requirements for Iranian and Indian citizens. Due to the current situation in Iran, and because its citizens no longer require a visa to enter Serbia, the fourth quarter saw an increase of new arrivals from Iran, primarily entering by air.
According to UNHCR data in December 2017, 497 persons registered intention to seek asylum in Serbia. 55% were filed by adult men, 12% by adult women, and 33% were registered for children. Most asylum applications were filed by citizens of Iran (30%), Pakistan (30%), Afghanistan (18%), or Iraq (12%). In December, one person was awarded subsidiary protection, bringing the total number of positive first-instance decisions by the Asylum Office in 2017 to 14, of which 3 received refugee status and 11 subsidiary protection, in comparison to 2016, when 19 persons were granted refugee status and 23 subsidiary protection.
Serbia-Hungary Border According to UNHCR data in December 2017, 54 asylum seekers, mainly families from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, were admitted into the “transit zones” of Hungary. 10 asylum seekers were camped at Horgoš and Kelebija border points awaiting admission to Hungary. Subotica Transit Centre sheltered 105 asylum seekers (including 36 unaccompanied or separated boys), while Sombor Transit Centre sheltered 132, mostly families from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, as well as 17 unaccompanied or separated boys.
At the meetings, we assessed and discussed medical needs, priorities, and gaps for this winter and next year, as RMF Serbia continues to build the capacity of health systems to respond to the refugee and migrant situation. RMF has played a key role in developing, collecting, and disseminating knowledge, analysis, and evidence on progress and challenges, lessons learned, and recommendations, identifying best practices and innovative approaches to improve the health response.
Transportation and escort services to secondary and tertiary care institutions continue to be a key challenge for the Ministry of Health; hence, RMF has been providing medical transportation and escort services in both Belgrade and Obrenovac from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM, 7 days a week.
Provided transporation in 127 cases.
Primary health care services are provided through the medical clinic in Adaševci Transit Centre in Šid, near the border with Croatia. The clinic is open from 8:00 AM to midnight, 7 days a week. RMF’s partnership with Médecins du Monde (MDM) allows for extended clinic operating hours. Medications to treat scabies and body lice continue to be procured, donated to, and used by the Commissariat for Refugees and Migration and the Ministry of Health for ongoing camp screening, treatment procedures, and health promotion sessions.
In Obrenovac Reception Centre, RMF provides primary healthcare services from 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM, 7 days a week. By providing a medical team consisting of two doctors, one cultural mediator/translator, and one driver, up to 60 consultations can be facilitated per shift, as well as referrals to secondary and tertiary care facilities.
RMF Serbia continued to support the Institute of Public Health (IPH) of Serbia, the Ministry of Health, relevant health institutions, and partner NGOs in the coordination of healthcare provision.
RMF Serbia identified unaccompanied and separated refugee children (UASCs), who were referred to the Centre for Social Work.
During the reporting period, 1,100 hygiene kits for men, 550 dignity kits for women, and 250 packages for babies were procured, and a distribution system was devised to ensure fair and equal distribution.
RMF also provided assorted drugs and medical care, in addition to hygiene packs, dignity and safety kits, and children’s kits to support the response to refugees.
The design and procurement of RMF’s mobile dental clinic was further delayed by a 3-month wait for importation of the vehicle. During this reporting period, the tendering process was completed, with a local ambulance builder offering the most competitive quote and being awarded the contract. All medical equipment was also purchased, including the dental chair and associated components. The technical design drawings were completed by an architect and the vehicle importation finalized. The mobile dental clinic will commence work on the 16th of February 2018.
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.
Belgrade and Obrenovac- 3,735 health consultations provided to men, women, and children refugees and migrants.
Adaševci Transit Centre in Western Serbia- 3,324 health consultations provided to men, women, and children refugees and migrants.
Crimes, including incidents of theft, brawls, and physical assaults among refugees, as well as attacks on police officers, are common in asylum shelters in Serbia, especially in all-male shelters such as Obrenovac Reception Centre, where RMF’s team is the leading healthcare provider for more than 600 refugees. Cramped spaces, constant noise, sleep deprivation, abuse of alcohol and drugs, as well as an uncertain future generate fear and aggression in which religious and ethnic differences are used as an excuse for violence. RMF is working to amend the physical and emotional consequences of the violence that is present in Obrenovac Reception Centre daily; however, without the support and understanding of the authorities and the entire community, problems will remain, and we will keep on treating symptoms instead of the cause. Psychosocial support and integration mechanisms would go far towards creating hope and diffusing tension among refugees and asylum seekers.
The area of Obrenovac is considered to be polluted, with air, water, and earth pollutants coming from a nearby thermal power plant, causing an increase in the number of local residents suffering from respiratory tract infections and obstructive lung diseases like bronchitis and asthma. Since the reception center in Obrenovac was opened in April 2017, RMF’s team started noticing an increase in the number of refugees suffering from acute bronchitis, newly diagnosed asthma, and worsening of preexisting asthma. Patients have been treated mainly with inhaled bronchodilators and corticosteroids. With the constant supervision of RMF doctors and implementation of chronic preventive therapy for obstructive lung diseases, most the patients’ quality of life has improved.