At the sitting held on 6 November at the Subotica City House, the members of the Committee on Human and Minority Rights and Gender Equality discussed migration, asylum and fundamental human rights.
Committee Chairman Meho Omerovic said that Serbia is a transit not a destination country for the migrants bound for the countries of Western Europe. Omerovic stated that the Serbian Government is proactive and ready to provide the migrants with healthcare services, food and medicines, and temporary housing, during their stay in the country, as well as all necessary asylum-related information if needed. He added that the state is also active in the protection of its national borders and prevention of illegal migration and trafficking in human beings. The Committee Chairman said that Serbia is at present home to 3882 migrants, 2771 of which are living in transit centres while the rest are in asylum centres, 56.5% of which are refugees from Afghanistan, 16.5% from Iraq, 13% from Pakistan, 4.77% from Iran and 2.4% from Syria which leads to the conclusion that most are economic migrants. Omerovic pointed out that Serbia does not have the financial capacities to address the migrant crisis and the European Union’s assistance through the MADAD programme is extremely important for the country.
The Mayor of Subotica Bogdan Laban said that Subotica is home to 20 different nationalities and confessions and respects the law and minority rights in full. The Mayor said that Subotica has been batting the migrant crisis since 2012 and has, with its Migrant Council and Working Group for the territory of the city of Subotica, been a reliable partner to the Government and the non-governmental sector in the concentrated efforts to find a solution to the problem. Laban also pointed out that Subotica is home to the children’s reception centre “Kolevka” (Crib), the first and only on the Western Balkan route.
The President of the Municipality of Dimitrovgrad Vladica Dimitrov said that the easternmost point of Serbia had been traversed by an overwhelming 20,000 migrants in late 2015, early 2016. Dimitrovgrad is now home to 81 migrants, mostly families with children, twelve of which were integrated in elementary, and eight in high schools.
The President of the Working Group for migration in Subotica and MP Milimir Vujdinovic said that at the height of the migrant crisis, 1500 people went through Subotica on a daily basis, and the reception centre in the city is currently home to 96 people.
Nenad Ivanisevic said that Serbia pursued a humane migrant policy since the onset without a second thought. Speaking of the security situation he stressed that the authorities have kept detailed records on the persons who entered the territory of Serbia, stressing that Serbia is currently host to the least number of migrants, unlike Turkey with its 2 million and Germany with 880,00 migrants.
The Committee members said that Serbia is investing a great deal of effort to ensure suitable conditions for the temporary or permanent stay of migrants, in line with the internationally guaranteed human rights, but also worries about the need to educate them about Serb culture and integrate them into society. They also had questions about local action plans and doubts about the need of funding the integration plan from local income sources.
The sitting was chaired by Committee Chairman Meho Omerovic and attended by the following Committee members and deputy members: Ljibuska Lakatos, Milena Turk, Ljiljana Malusic, Olivera Ognjanovic, Marjana Maras, Marija Janjusevic, Ruzica Nikolic, Olena Papuga, Tomislav Zigmanov and MP Desanka Repac, as well as representatives of the Police Administration, Social Welfare Centre, Community Health Centre, Red Cross, Subotica Migration Council and NGOs.
The sitting was organized with the help of the OSCE Mission in Serbia.