Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 September 2014, 13:37 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2006 - Serbia and Montenegro

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 14 June 2006
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2006 - Serbia and Montenegro , 14 June 2006, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4496ad082f.html [accessed 16 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Refoulement/Physical Protection

Serbia and Montenegro forcibly returned some 1,000 persons in need of international protection in 2005. In all, authorities turned back some 27,000 persons at the border.

The country was party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees but had no implementing legislation. The 1992 Law on Refugees did not guarantee against refoulement and only applied to refugees from the former Yugoslav republics that fled the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, mainly ethnic Serbs from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Government continued to accord them refugee status on a prima facie, or group, basis.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) determined refugee status under its mandate for asylum seekers from other countries and sought third countries in which they might resettle. Forty persons lived under its protection at the beginning of the year, 85 more applied during the year, and it granted status to 11. Many more asylum seekers, however, were in detention, summarily deported, or otherwise unable to reach UNHCR to seek protection.

While the state union of Serbia and Montenegro passed a law on asylum seekers from other countries in March, it specified no procedure and the Serbian and Montenegrin republics, whose policies actually determined the protection of refugees and asylum seekers, did not adopt implementing legislation. The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo, which administered that province of Serbia, also did not grant refugee status or asylum.

Serbia and Montenegro had 13 re-admission agreements with the European Union and surrounding countries. Because it lacked an asylum process, however, those countries generally did not return third-country nationals to Serbia and Montenegro if they had passed through the country. Croatia, however, did return two Moldovans pursuant to such an agreement and UNHCR accepted them into its refugee status determination procedure.

More than 4,400 Croatian and 300 Bosnia refugees voluntarily returned to their countries.

Detention/Access to Courts

The Government referred some asylum seekers it caught entering the country or present without documentation, including women and children, directly to UNHCR but sent others to local judges who detained them for up to 30 days without access to attorneys and virtually no appeal. Police then transferred them to the Reception Centre for Foreign Citizens in Padinska Skela prison while they established their identities and prepared orders to return them to their countries of origin. UNHCR had access to the detainees and secured the release of those it found to be refugees and placed them in other accommodations. Those the Government could not identify or document, including those whose documents traffickers had taken, generally remained in detention indefinitely without judicial review or independent monitoring of their conditions.

UNHCR provided documentation to refugees and asylum seekers from countries other than former Yugoslav republics and, although it did not constitute evidence of legal presence, authorities generally tolerated such persons as long as UNHCR provided for them.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

Recognized refugees from the former Yugoslavia enjoyed freedom of movement and choice of residence. Authorities required refugees and asylum seekers from other countries to possess UNHCR-issued identification and police permission to travel within the country.

About 6,000 refugees from former Yugoslav countries remained in collective centers although the Government strove, with UNHCR support, to close the remaining centers by setting qualifications for residents to remain and seeking alternative housing for those who did not meet them.

With their refugee cards, refugees from former Yugoslav republics could enter and return from Bosnia and Herzegovina but the 1992 Law on Refugees did not otherwise provide for international travel documents. UNHCR issued provisional travel certificates to those resettling to third countries.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

Refugees from former Yugoslav republics could work legally in Serbia although not for the Government. Other refugees and asylum seekers could not legally work at all. Montenegro continued to apply its 2003 regulation charging employers more than three dollars (€2.50) per day to employ any nonresident, including former Yugoslav refugees and internally displaced persons from Serbia.

Refugees from other countries had to work seasonal jobs in the informal sector, typically in agriculture and construction, with no protection from exploitation and fraud. They also had no accident or unemployment insurance or pensions.

Refugees from former Yugoslav republics could open accounts in domestic banks in Serbia. In Serbia, the Law on Property Relations and Law on Sale of Real Estate permitted former Yugoslav refugees to own real estate on the same terms as aliens generally, i.e., based on the reciprocity of their home countries with respect to Serbians. In practice, however, refugees from former Yugoslav republics could buy and sell real estate and sign sales contracts, but they could not record them in the real estate registry. In Montenegro, they could not do even that much. Refugees could register businesses in Montenegro and some did.

Public Relief and Education

Refugee children in Serbia and Montenegro were entitled to free primary education, as were children of asylum seekers. The Government, however, restricted the children of asylum seekers to one school in Belgrade. With respect to secondary and higher education, the Government granted national treatment (i.e., education free of charge) only to refugees from former Yugoslav countries.

Former Yugoslav refugees received public relief and assistance, including health services, but the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare excluded them from its primary benefit, a monthly allowance known as Family Financial Support. According to the Serbian Commissariat for Refugees, the Government spent $25.3 million (€20 million) on medical services for refugees from former Yugoslav countries, but those whose refugee status it had rescinded were no longer eligible.

Asylum seekers and refugees from other countries enjoyed no such rights except with respect to primary health services, although they had to pay for medicines. The Government granted humanitarian agencies unrestricted access and UNHCR refunded the cost for medical treatment of asylum seekers at local health institutions. Until December, UNHCR provided housing at a local motel six miles from Belgrade for asylum seekers whom the Government had directly referred, after which time the asylum seekers moved to workers' barracks in New Belgrade.

Serbia and Montenegro incorporated refugees – but only those from former Yugoslav republics – into its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper.

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