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UNHCR Serbia Monthly Update, July 2020

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In more than 120 field visits and remotely, UNHCR and partners provided information, counselling and interpretation in over 2,600 instances, counselled over 1,200 foreigners on seeking asylum in Serbia and supported the integration of 133 asylum seekers and refugees. One new asylum-seeker gave UNHCR project lawyers power of attorney to represent them in substantive asylum procedures. Partners Belgrade Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and Danish Refugee Council (DRC) obtained 18 ID cards and 6 work permits for asylum-seekers. Twelve men and women asylum seekers participated regularly in intensive Serbian language classes provided by DRC in Banja Koviljača AC. Partner Psychosocial Innovation Network (PIN) organized a session with five recognized refugees to help explore entrepreneurship opportunities in Serbia.

UNHCR kept regular contact with 114 refugees and asylum-seekers in private accommodation, of whom 69 qualified for financial support, including 38 who had lost their income due to the COVID-19 situation.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, only two cases of Coronavirus infection have been confirmed among the refugee/migrant population, both with milder symptoms and recovering successfully in isolation. Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants continue to enjoy unrestricted access to testing and health care, and all new arrivals are placed in 14-day quarantine by the authorities.

Two hundred and fifty-three intentions to seek asylum were registered in July (compared to 241 in June) and six persons applied for asylum. The Asylum Office adjudicated on eight asylum applications in the first instance, rejecting all.

The number of foreigners that newly arrived in Serbia and were profiled by UNHCR rose by more than 60% compared to June to 3,197 (from 1,973 in June); 94% arrived from North Macedonia and 3% from Albania (through Kosovo1 ), smaller percentages from Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and Montenegro.

Occupancy of Asylum (AC) or Reception/Transit Centres (RTC), again dropped from 5,121 at the beginning to 4,233 at the end of the month. They comprised 1,794 citizens of Afghanistan, 928 of Syria, 320 of Pakistan, 266 of Bangladesh, 240 of Iran, 147 of Iraq, and 538 from 43 other countries; 3,497 were adult men, 256 adult women and 480 children, including 131 unaccompanied or separated children (UASC). Four reception/transit centres accommodating mainly single men remain overcrowded.

The number of foreigners observed outside centres rose from 740 at the beginning to 825 at the end of the month. The number of recorded collective expulsions from neighbouring countries rose by 24% to 2,742: 1,636 from Romania, 804 from Hungary, 222 from Croatia and 80 from BiH. Many victims alleged denial of access to asylum procedures or mistreatment by officials of these countries.

UNHCR partner DRC organized five Covid-19 prevention workshops for 24 asylum-seekers and migrants in Krnjača and Banja Koviljača ACs, in consultation with the epidemiologist of Palilula Public Health Centre. In cooperation with IDEAS and Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs (MOLEVSA), on 31 July the DRC conducted a workshop on prevention and protection against SGBV for eight outreach social workers from Belgrade, Sombor, Šid and Vranje. DRC also continued following up on all SGBV cases in governmental centres.

Partners PIN and Indigo provided psycho-social counseling and support (PSS) to 147 asylum-seekers and refugees both in asylum/reception centres and unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) institutions and remotely. UASCs reported these sessions help them cope more adaptively with prolonged periods of quarantine, as well as to understand better the reasons behind such strict measures. UNHCR supported an International Aid Network (IAN) psychiatrist to visit the Bogovađa AC on July 29 and