Asylum Seekers from Serbia: Migration, Poverty and Human Trafficking Risks
On 30 April 2013, in the Media Centre in Belgrade, a press conference at which results of the research on asylum seekers from Serbia was held. The research examined the causes of this current phenomenon which became particularly problematic after the abolition of the visa regime, as well as certain specific risks of trafficking in human beings, and it was conducted through five focus groups and thirteen interviews in several local Roma communities (in the territory of Vojvodina, Belgrade, and south-east Serbia).
The following people spoke about this project, experiences gained during its implementation and key findings:
Milos Marojevic, Office for Human and Minority Rights;
Vladimir Petronijevic, Group 484;
Ivana Radovic, ASTRA – Anti Trafficking Action; and
Djurdjica Ergic, Roma Women Centre Bibija
The Conference moderator was Tanja Pavlov, Director of the Group 484 Centre for Migration, who indicated that the Centre for Migration tended to contribute to understanding of various migration flows in the territory of Serbia, and to emphasise, in the context of this research, the human aspect of the large number of asylum seekers phenomenon.
Milos Marojevic from the Office for Human and Minority Rights concisely presented the support programme for the projects aimed at the improvement of the position of the Roma in Serbia and thematic framework of the latest competition published by the Office for Human and Minority Rights, and also emphasised the importance of the topic this research addressed.
A part of the research related to the motives of asylum seekers from Serbia and their experience gained during the asylum procedure in some European countries and upon their return to Serbia, was presented by Vladimir Petronijevic, Executive Director of Group 484. It was particularly emphasised that asylum seekers from Serbia work a lot, opposite to some frequent prejudices and despite their severe poverty and bad education, – their migration is clearly related to the periods of the year when there are not enough seasonal jobs in Serbia at which they can earn some income. Besides, the research findings indicate that they frequently even during the asylum procedure, when given the opportunity, do various informal jobs and combine the incomes from these jobs with social benefits they are provided with as asylum seekers. Another important reason for their migration is healthcare, or more precisely, the difficulties they have in getting the healthcare in Serbia, owing to either high price of medicines that are not covered by the health insurance or to the problems they face regarding the access to healthcare services. Furthermore, hygiene and housing conditions in asylum centres are far better than the conditions they live in Serbia. Also, the reception of children in schools and access to variety of education is emphasised as an extremely positive experience from the asylum countries. In majority of cases, the asylum countries are Germany, Sweden, Belgium, and Switzerland.
Summing up key research findings, Vladimir Petronijevic underlined the recommendation given to Serbian state authorities – to initiate a dialogue with certain Western European countries on the conclusion of an Agreement on Employment and thus provide lowly-qualified workers with an opportunity of legal seasonal migration. However, it is also important to take new measures within the country in the field of employment and to make various employment programmes priority in Roma integration policies.
Speaking about the research findings referring to human trafficking risks, Ms Ivana Radovic from ASTRA pointed out that it had been noticed that participants of focus groups had approached the topic of human trafficking with more constraints. Some of them had had familiar stereotype attitudes on how someone could become a victim, although they were aware of the fact that some suspicious offers might be made by people you may know, cousins or friends. The respondents had been familiar only with some forms of human trafficking and they had lacked the understanding of the very phenomenon. Frequently they did not know what organisations they could address and ask for help, and they showed scepticism towards the police and centres for social work owing to their past bad experiences. Based on all this, it was concluded that there was an obvious need for preventive-informative programmes, but such that would be culturally adapted. This is a community highly exposed to various factors that create a favourable environment for trafficking in human beings (poverty, unemployment, social exclusion), so the efforts aimed at suppression of such circumstances are crucial.
Ms Djurdjica Ergic from Bibija then indicated some gender aspects of migration that were the subject of this research, and group of women that were particularly vulnerable in this process (single mothers, elderly women, women with health issues). She particularly emphasised the issues of women health and indicated that easier access to various basic healthcare services was frequently the reason for which women, and even whole families, opted for these kinds of migration. Children, a better access to education and various educational contents for children were another big reason which was particularly gender-related. Moreover, indicating some general reasons, Ms Djurdjica Ergic estimated that the main reason was the failure to enable a sustainable reintegration of returnees based on the Readmission Agreement in Serbia, and pointed out a constant issue of the lack of appropriate budgetary resources for implementing strategic action documents related to the improvement of the Roma position.
In the closing part of the Conference, in the replies to journalists’ questions, the social nature of the issue was reiterated, but also the responsibility of the state to recognise its real causes and take measures aimed at tackling them.
The Conference was held as a part of the Project ‘Prevention of Human Trafficking in the context of migratory seeking for asylum protection by the Roma population from the territory of Serbia’, which was implemented by Group 484 with the support of the Office for Human and Minority rights of the Republic of Serbia, and in the partnership with ASTRA, Roma Women Centre Bibija, and Nexus – Vranje.
The announcement of the Conference and a video, and some additional information and material can be found in the web site Media center.
You can read about this event in web pages of various media: