According to the law, you’re allowed to seek asylum at any police-station all over Serbia, in the detention center, at the border or in any official interaction with the police. However, in practice, the police can refuse you to seek asylum. If this happens, it is best if you are persistent and continue to go to the police station and demand that you want to seek asylum. It is your right to seek asylum, free of charge!
If the police continues to refuse to allow you to seek asylum, you can contact the APC – Asylum protection centre, go to their office, express your intention there and you’ll get a statement of them with which the police shouldn’t refuse to allow you to seek asylum.
Intention to seek asylum
You will be fingerprinted already when you first express an intention to seek asylum and get the 72-hours-paper (“potvrda o izraženoj nameri za traženje azila”, which means expression of an intention to seek asylum) at the police station. The fingerprints taken at one police station are put into a national data base, which is shared with all police stations. So if you seek asylum at one police station, get the 72-hours-papers, and then it expires, you will probably not be allowed to seek asylum again, because your fingerprints will come up at the police station. Please note: These fingerprints can NOT be used to deport you to Serbia according to the Dublin-regulation – Serbia did not sign it!
Please note that when you seek asylum at the police station, your asylum procedure has not officially started. You were only given the so called 72-hours-paper, which gives you 72 hours to get to one of the centres for asylum seekers, where you are registered what is the condition for starting the real asylum procedure. When seeking asylum at the police station, the police will write (in Serbian only) which centre you are supposed to go to - you do not have the chance to choose to which centre you will be sent to. You need to reach the center by yourself, with your own transport and with your own money.
Having the 72-hours-paper does not only give you the right to go to one of the asylum centers, but also gives you the right to be accommodated legally in any youth hostel (and demand the same price as everyone else), get medical care (beyond just the emergency life-saving health care interventions reserved for undocumented migrants), take public transport without the drivers demanding higher price for not calling the police etc. In effect, getting the 72-hours-paper gives you more mobility in the country and increases your rights, even if you do not intend to go to one of the centres and start your asylum procedure. However if you are serious about getting to one of the asylum centres, it is very important that you reach the asylum centre within the 72 hours, or else your paper will not be valid anymore (and you will be undocumented again).
While having the 72-hours-paper will legalise your status and give you some rights, it does not count as an ID. You only get the ID once you have had your first interview in one of the centres for the asylum seekers, which can take months. The ID you receive is the “Asylum ID Card” which identifies you as an asylum seeker in Serbia. With this card you are allowed to move on the whole territory of Serbia.
For an official description of how the asylum seekers procedure looks like, follow this link or check the following documents.
During the asylum procedure
You will be asked to give your identity documents to the authorities for the registration and you will be asked for an interview. You have the right to request that a legal assistance supports you during the interview and the procedure in general. If you want this support get in contact with APC – Asylum protection centre.
Your asylum request should be treated withing two months, but this is rarely the case. Normally it takes much longer.
While you are in the asylum procedure you have the right of free accomodation, health care and food within the camp.
If you get a positive answer to your request, you wil have a refugee status in Serbia and a five year permit to stay in Serbia. If they grant you subsidary protection you will get a permit to stay for one year, which you will have to renew by yourself before the validity expires.
If the decision of the authorities is negative about your request you have thte right to appeal within 15 days. In this case get in contact with your legal representative or lawyer.
Refugee status and subsidaiary protection
There is a lack of provisions for persons who have obtained a refugee or a subsidiary protection status. There is an official Integration Act but often people do not get a lot of support in learning the language, finding housing, jobs or be helped in any way by the authorities. As a result, most people who have been granted a refugee status or subsidiary protection leave Serbia. Those very few who stay, remain in the accommodation of the reception centre for asylum seekers in absence of any other housing.