EU Commission must put pressure on Serbia to improve situation of refugees and migrants

The EU Commissioner responsible for humanitarian aid and crisis management, Christos Stylianides, will be travelling to Serbia over the weekend to discuss the humanitarian situation of migrants, including refugees, in the country.

In reaction, Oxfam’s operations lead for Europe, Marco Savio, said:

“Commissioner Stylianides must urge the Serbian government to do more to help people in urgent need of support.

“The government has been refusing to allow humanitarian relief outside of its official reception sites, saying this ‘encourages’ people to stay where they are. This is a threat to people’s survival. Humanitarian aid is the bare minimum to keep people alive. NGOs and volunteers must be free to deliver to people wherever they are – both inside and outside of the official sites.

 “People are extremely fearful and distrusting, so much so they are risking their lives by sleeping outside. They prefer to stay away from government facilities rather than risk entering the system and being deported.”

Notes to editors: 
  • Marco Savio, Oxfam’s operations lead for Europe, is available for interviews. He is currently based in Belgrade.
  • In Serbia, up to 2000 refugees and other migrants are living on the streets, risking their lives under appalling conditions in arctic temperatures. There are not sufficient places in government sites, and many people also fear illegal deportations by Serbian authorities.
  • For months, the Serbian government has been barring organisations and volunteers from supporting people in need. Authorities argued that providing support would only attract more people to live outside the official reception system. However, there is a clear lack of official emergency shelter.
  • Following reports from international media on the inhuman conditions people are living in, authorities have unofficially loosened their ban temporarily.  It is not clear how long this will last.
  • Oxfam will start an emergency program on Friday, 20 January, working with a Serbian partner organisation to distribute essential items such as winter clothes, adequate shoes, sleeping mattresses and sleeping bags to all migrants in Belgrade living outside the official reception systems.
Contact information: 

Florian Oel | Brussels | florian.oel@oxfaminternational.org | office +32 2 234 11 15 | mobile +32 473 56 22 60

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