Since May 2015, Serbia has faced an unprecedented refugee crisis. In 2015 and in the first quarter of 2016, more than 920 000 refugees and migrants - primarily from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq - passed through Serbia on their way to central Europe. After the closure of the Western Balkans migration route, the number of refugees stranded in Serbia now stands at more than 3300, with 87% accommodated in 18 government sites (UNHCR figures).
Since the closure of the Western Balkans migration route in March 2016 and the entry into force of the EU-Turkey statement, the number of arrivals has dropped significantly.
However, refugees and migrants became stranded in the country and have been hosted in 18 government-run reception centres throughout of the country, with the possibility to apply for asylum. While movements towards Serbia still continue with a significant increase in new arrivals encountered in the last month, the overall number of refugees and migrants in Serbia has decreased to approximately 3300 in July 2018.
The government reception sites cover the basic needs of refugees and migrants such as food, shelter, and basic health care. Discussions with authorities on the humanitarian response to the stranded population are ongoing. It concerns mainly continuous improvement of accommodation centres, access to formal or informal education, vocational trainings or provision of mental health services.
Since the beginning of the refugee crisis in Serbia, the European Union has allocated more than €25 million in humanitarian aid to assist refugees and migrants. Humanitarian actions focus on providing basic assistance at the collective centres including health services, warm clothing, food, water, child-friendly spaces and protection. The assistance also includes the provision of cooked meals in the centres as well as informal education.
The European Union has been working closely with the Serbian authorities, UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations to meet the humanitarian needs of new arrivals and stranded populations as well as the most vulnerable among the refugees. The EU is also in regular consultations with the Serbian government on its medium and long-term strategy to address the needs of the refugees and migrants. Major EU-funded organisations include UNICEF, CARE, Danish Refugee Council, OXFAM, CARITAS and Médecins du Monde, and national Red Cross societies.
Approximately €80 million have been allocated by the European Commission and EU Member States to assist Serbia in effectively managing the migration flow. EU funds are used for better border management, running costs of the centres and also for improving reception conditions and provisions of services in the education and the health sector.
Due to the stabilisation of the situation, the funding support provided by the EU to Serbia to address the humanitarian needs of the refugees and migrants is progressively channelled through the EU’s regional trust fund (Madad). The trust fund is a key instrument in delivering the EU's pledges for the crisis made at the London conference on Syria in 2016 and the Brussels conference in April 2017.
The objectives of the ongoing assistance through the EU trust fund will be to support the ongoing assistance to refugees in the centres such as shelter, health, protection, informal education and food provision. This also includes reinforcing the capacity of the Serbian government to accommodate refugees and migrants in the country, and deal with the medium to long-term needs of the refugees and migrants.