Serbia Will Take in Some Migrants, Vucic Says

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic says Serbia is ready to take in a number of migrants fleeing war and persecution, as experts warn that the country needs to increase its capacities.
Refugges in Presevo. | Photo by Beta

Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic says Serbia will take in a portion of the migrants moving through Europe, although it is not yet an EU member state.

“Serbia has not put up fences or barbed wire. It would be easy for us [to do so], while you in the EU were silent, when the fence was being erected,” Vucic said on Monday in Bled, Slovenia, referring to the fence erected on its border with Serbia by EU member state Hungary.

Vucic on Monday confirmed on Twitter that Serbia was ready to receive a certain number of refugees, without specifying the number.

“Serbia will receive a certain number of migrants. This makes us more European than some member states. We don’t build fences,” Vucic wrote.

Experts in Serbia agree that Serbia has done much to aid the refugees so far, but warn that the country needs to prepare itself for new waves of refugees arriving in winter.

Dusan Janjic, an expert in ethnic relations in Belgrade, told BIRN on Tuesday that Vucic’s announcement sounded positive and urged the government to adopt a new strategy for migration.

“It is very good that the government has recognized a problem. However, Serbia does not have well defined strategy for migration and it is great that we have started developing it,” Janjic told BIRN.

After several far-right organisations called for protests against the migrants in Serbia last week, the protests were banned by the police.

Janjic argues that Serbia is behaving less xenophobically than other countries in the region and should be seen as a “role model for the surrounding countries.

“These people who are calling for the refugees to get out do not represent the majority of the Serbian people. Serbian people have proven that they are humane,” Janjic concluded.

Rados Djurovic, director of the Center for Protection and Help for Asylum seekers, in Belgrade, agrees that Serbia has done well with dealing with the migrant crisis so far.

But he also stated that more work needs to be done.

“If the EU asks us, we should take in more refugees. We are good at helping them, since we had a refugee crisis during the past wars,” Djurovic told BIRN, referring to the conflicts of the 1990s.

“Old refugee centres are being upgraded and new ones are being built. But we don’t have the capacity to take in more refugees and we should start preparing for winter,” Djurovic added.

“Around 160,000 refugees have crossed Serbia so far in order to get to EU countries,” Djurovic continued.

Vucic recently said that Serbia had received 390,000 euros from the EU and hopes to get 3 million more as a help to handle the influx of the Middle Eastern refugees.

“We have been promised 3 million euros, which is only a tenth of what we are going to spend in engaging our forces, military, police and all other capacities,” he said.

Serbia has built three temporary camps for refugees so far and has announced that it will soon build two more – in the capital, Belgrade and the northern town of Subotica.

Two camps are located in the southern municipality of Presevo, while the third is in the north, on the border with Hungary.

Almost all migrants leave Serbia within days to continue their trip towards Hungary and then to wealthier EU member states. Most head for Germany, which expects to receive 800,000 asylum requests by the end of this year.