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News 10 Jul 15

Serbia Opens New Migrant Center in Presevo

Aleksandar Vulin, Serbia's minister for the migrant issue, opened a new migrant centre in Presevo and rejected Amnesty International claim that asylum seekers in Serbia are abused by the authorities.

Sasa Dragojlo
BIRN
Belgrade
Migrants in Presevo reception center | photo by Beta

A new collective reception centre for migrants opened in the reconstructed building of the tobacco processing company in Presevo in the south of Serbia on July 8.

Aleksandar Vulin, Minister for Labour, Employment and Social Affairs and Hans Friedrich Soder, head of the UN's refugee wing, UNHCR, in Serbia, opened the centre.

Vulin, who also chairs a working group on migration flows, said the new centre shows that Serbia is taking the migrant issue seriously.

“Serbia is taking care of every human being who is found on its territory... we are not here to judge anyone but have organized everything so every human being is provided with medical care, food and water,” he said.

Many migrants, including women and children, fleeing war and persecution in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, are crossing Serbia on their way to the West, often exhausted after a long trip.

Vulin took the opportunity to criticized a recent report by the rights watchdog organisation Amnesty International, which said that migrants are routinely mistreated on their way through Serbia.

He said the report was untrue and that no members of the police or other officials abused or took money from migrants.

The Amnesty report, published on July 7, said migrants crossing Serbia and Macedonia are often arbitrarily detained by the authorities while their irregular status also makes them vulnerable to financial exploitation by law enforcement officers, who misuse their authority to demand bribes.

Soder, from the UN, said that he was pleased that the new centre had opened and said that the UNHCR would continue to assist Serbia in addressing the problem.

“With this [centre] we will create much better conditions for migrants who walk for days and are on exhausting road trips. This will be much better for processing their claims, accommodation and the supply of first aid,” Soder said.

According to the Red Cross in Presevo, over the past week, between 800 and 1,000 migrants have been arriving each day. Before coming to Serbia, most of them have passed through Bulgaria and Greece.

Serbia's Interior Ministry said this year so far 41,864 people expressed an intention to seek asylum in Serbia, although only 388 actually did so.

Serbia's current accommodation facilities can hold approximately 800 migrants.

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