Since May 2015, Serbia has been facing 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 4146, with 93% accommodated in 18 government sites.
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.
With the closure of the route, refugees and migrants became stranded in the country and have been hosted in 18 government-run reception centres throughout of the country, the possibility to apply for asylum. A small number of refugees and undocumented migrants continue to arrive in Serbia from Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). However, the overall number of refugees and migrants in Serbia has decreased to 4146 at the end of September 2017.
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 Commission has allocated more than €25 million in humanitarian aid to assist refugees and migrants in Serbia. Actions continue to 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 EU has also assisted in opening a new collective centre in Obrenovac near the capital Belgrade which provides basic assistance to more than 700 men and unaccompanied minors.
The European Commission 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 as well as 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 being 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 needs of the refugees and migrants will be increasingly channeled through the EU’s regional trust fund (Madad). The trust fund is a key instrument to deliver 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 government of Serbia to accommodate refugees and migrants in the country and deal with the medium to long-term needs of the refugees and migrants.