Serbia > Overview

last update: July 2015

Serbia is one of the main transit-countries for migrants on the way to EU-countries. Traditionally it is a country of emigration. It is not used to receiving immigrants, especially from outside of Europe.  Serbia is not part of the Dublin III (follow-up of Dublin II, since January 15th 2014) agreement. This means that you can ask for asylum or have your fingerprints taken in Serbia without problems to ask asylum in another Dublin country after (no danger of a Dublin-deportation).

You will be fingerprinted already when you first express an intention to seek asylum and get a 72-hours-paper 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.

Under pressure from the European Union, Serbia strongly monitors its borders, whether to enter the country or to enter Hungary or Croatia. There is a lack of provisions for persons who have obtained a refugee or a subsidiary protection status. Because there is no Integration Act or Strategy, people do not get any support in learning the language, finding housing, job 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 (more infos see SERBIA > LIVING).

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 (potvrda o izraženoj nameri za traženje azila: expression of an intention to seek asylum), 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 centre 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 centres, 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. Please note : A big problem for the most refugees and migrants passing through Serbia is how to get a sleeping place. In Belgrade, e.g., taxi-drivers are cheating migrants asking a big amount of money just to get to the police-station. You’ll find the police-station yourself following this link :,+Beograd+111108/@44.8012146,20.4509666,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m2!3m1!1s0x475a7003fbc256f1:0x7f5e970a92c3a6e9.

There are right now 5 reception centres where asylum seekers are accommodated with a total capacity of around about 600 places. This is still not enough to accommodate the increasing numbers of asylum seekers in Serbia. That’s why refugees also often stay in "jungles" around the camps or in the border area. It is also possible to be accommodated privately (more info see Serbia > Living). There is a detention centre in the Belgrade area called "Padinska Skela" (more info see Serbia > Detention). Last but not least: The issue of the increasing number of migrants stuck in Serbia, has received very little adequate support and solidarity from the civil society. Except of the noborderserbia-infomobile (contact see Serbia > Contacts) there is no organized and contactable solidarity-group for undocumented people yet, unfortunately.

Short History about migration in Serbia

last update: February 2014

Since  the 1960s, Serbia has been primarily the country of emigration:  like  hundreds of thousands citizens of ex-Yugoslavia, Serbians migrated  to  the countries of Western Europe, as temporary or "guest" workers (gastarbeiter).

During   the conflicts following the break-down of Yugoslavia, there were both   many people who sought safety in Serbia and many Serbians who left to go to the countries of Western Europe. The term "refugee" (izbeglica)   is now used to refer to people, most often of Serbian ethnicity, who   fled Bosnia and Croatia and sought refuge in Serbia. It is estimated   that there are around 86 000 Bosnian and Croatian refugees, as well as   206 000 internally-displaced persons who fled the armed conflicts in   Kosovo, living in Serbia, many of whom still live in so called   collective centers they were accommodated in when they first arrived,   and face obstacles in their integration with the rest of the society.   They remain most the visible and represented group of "migrants" in   Serbia.

While Serbia has been a country of transit for migrants from Asia and Africa, the number of non-ex-Yugoslav migrants stuck in Serbia has been increasing in the recent years, due to the increasing  pressures from  the EU for Serbia to harmonies its policies with the EU  migration  policies. Since the 1st of March 2012, Serbia is officially a  candidate  to join the EU.

Under  the pressure to harmonies its  legislation with the EU standards, as a  condition to become an EU  candidate state, Serbia has passed the Law on  Foreigners in 2008. This  law regulates the entry, movement and  residence of foreigners and  largely harmonies it with the legislation  of EU countries. Serbia has  also taken steps to harmonies its border  control legislation with the EU  standards through the adoption of the  Law on State Border Protection in  2008.

Besides  these laws, Serbia has adopted strategies such as  the Migration  Management Strategy in July 2009 and two related  strategies: Strategy  for the Reintegration of Returnees following the  Readmission Agreement  in February 2009 and Strategy to Fight Illegal  Migration in the  2009-2014 period in March 2009.

Go back