Thousands of migrants and refugees who travelled along the Western Balkans’ migration route in 2015 and 2016 are now stranded in Serbia in a precarious legal situation.
That is the verdict of the Secretary General’s Special Representative on migration and refugees Ambassador Tomáš Boček in a report published today.
While Serbia has adopted a genuinely humanitarian approach, receiving thousands of refugees and migrants, a strategy which goes further than the provision of humanitarian assistance is now needed to address issues related to their legal status and to find sustainable solutions in order to guarantee their social and economic rights in the case of an eventual prolongation of their stay in the country.
Ambassador Boček stresses the need to improve migrants and refugees’ access to asylum procedures and their living conditions, to address informal practices relating to the management of the migration flow towards Hungary as well as to prevent and combat smuggling of migrants and refugees.
He recommends that urgent action should be taken to strengthen the guardianship system for around 1000 unaccompanied children present in the country and to ensure their proper accommodation with a view to preventing their exposure to risks of violence, sexual abuse and exploitation and human trafficking.
The Special Representative also visited the transit zones of Röszke and Tompa in Hungary at the invitation of the Hungarian authorities, following legislative changes to the Asylum Act and other migration-related laws, which became effective during the first quarter of 2017.
“The situation of asylum-seekers in the Hungarian transit zones of Röszke and Tompa raises concerns about de facto deprivation of liberty under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights”, the Special Representative confirmed in the report.
He identified the confinement of children in these transit zones, including unaccompanied children between the ages of 14 and 18, as a matter which demands necessary measures to be urgently taken.
The Special Representative also underlined the importance of ensuring that all migrants and refugees have effective access to asylum procedures with proper safeguards against the risks of refoulement and chain refoulement.
He recommends that Council of Europe support the Hungarian authorities, in particular by providing advice and expertise in eventual legislative changes on these matters, in particular to put in place a guardianship system for children between the ages of 14 and 18.