News 28 Apr 17

Serbia Moves Refugees From Sid Following Campaign

After locals in the Serbian border town of Sid complained of threats to their safety, authorities are removing refugees from a centre located near the town's train station.

Vanja Djuric
BIRN
Novi Sad
Migrants near the Serbian town of Sid Photo: EPA archive/Zoltan Balogh

At least 60 refugees will be transported this week out of a centre in Sid, near the Croatian border, after locals petitioned for their removal, complaining that they were a safety risk. 

Hundreds of refugees have been already transported from the centre, Serbia's State Commissioner for Refugees, Vladimir Cucic told BIRN.

"It is important that centre remains open for refugees despite media reports that it will close. I understand that people from Sid are concerned but the local authorities can’t take a decision on closing that centre because they didn’t open it, the government did," Cucic said.
"What will be in the future, I can’t say now,” he explained.

The refugee centre opened at the end of 2015 in a building near the railway station.

Two other centres near Sid will remain open for refugees, one sited in an abandoned hospital for children and another at a motel close to the highway.

“A group of around a hundred has been sent to the motel and another group of around 60 will be sent to the abandoned hospital,” the Commissioner told BIRN.

The head of Sid municipality, Predrag Vukovic, said he hoped more of the refugees will leave, for security reasons.

“I don’t mind if families, women and kids are there but those who just walk around and make problems should leave. I will not allow anyone who is violent to stay, whatever Cucic says,” Vukovic told BIRN.

The newspaper Blic reported that other refugees who were accused of being violent were already transferred to a centre in the southern town of Presevo two weeks ago with the help of police.

Blic said the refugees were from Afghanistan and Pakistan and that criminal charges had been filed against them.

Nenad Ivanisevic, state secretary at the Ministry for Social Care, said the security of Serbian citizens was paramount and he apologised to the people of Sid if they had suffered problems with migrants, the newspaper reported.  

Locals in Sid have complained several times to the local authorities and the media about the refugees in the town.

Some launched a petition to close the refugee centre after unconfirmed information spread that a refugee armed with an axe had robbed a house while two children were in the building on April 6.

Last year, there were several other reported incidents in the town, including a knife attack on a local man by a migrant.

Complete closure of the refugee centre in Sid could cause problems, as Serbia does not have enough spaces to accommodate migrants, humanitarian activists have warned.

“We have to build up our capacities in all aid centres so we can prevent possible negative consequences,” Rados Djurovic, from Belgrade’s Asylum Protection Centre, an NGO, told Serbian public broadcaster RTS in January.

Refugees and migrants hoping to head north via Croatia towards western Europe were halted last year in Sid after the closure of the border. Before that, Serbia’s other neighbour, Hungary, had also closed its borders to refugees.

According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, around 8,000 refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers remain in Serbia, many of whom are stuck in temporary accommodation.

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