Press Release Regarding the Letter from the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veterans and Social Affairs

On November 4th 2016, the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs sent an open letter to organizations and non-profits that provide assistance to refugees. In the letter, the Ministry warned that “…assistance and support in the form of food, clothing, footwear, encouraging migrants to reside outside the designated permanent asylum centres and transit reception centres are no longer acceptable, particularly on the territory of the Belgrade city municipality.”

We consider this request scandalous and unacceptable, but not unexpected. The Ministry, the Commissariat for Refugees, and the police have, from the outset of the refugee crisis, had made their agenda and their stance clear. Behind their public “concern” for refugees, they have hid the motives of their work and the national strategy for refugees. The Refugee Crisis is being exploited by the state, because the government receives money and resources from the European Union, other countries, and other organizations, for refugee aid. Despite the large sum of money that the government has received from international donors, it is still unable to provide the bare necessities and minimum conditions for refugees passing through Serbia. This is done intentionally, and it constitutes the second part of a national strategy for refugees, and that is to ensure that refugees’ stay in Serbia is so unbearable and severe, that they “voluntarily” leave the country.

What are the conditions like in these refugee centres when the open letter from the Ministry states that “…all necessary assistance is available (food, shelter, clothing, medicine, psycho-social and health care) in the best interest of migrants”? The obvious answer is one that is visible on the streets of Belgrade every day; refugees “choose” to sleep on the streets in the winter, without food or water, rather than to enjoy the “hospitality” of the Commissariat or refugee centres.

We want to highlight the increasingly common practice of illegal deportations carried out by the police with the assistance of the Commissariat for Refugees. Refugees in Preševo’s refugee centre have spoken about police taking refugees to the Macedonian border and forcing them to cross into Macedonia.

Refugee centres are becoming prisons, and refugees are being denied their freedom of movement.

The practice of the functioning state bodies for this issue, so far, have been shameful, and the scandalous content of this open letter from the Ministry, alongside the frequent illegal deportations, speak volumes – the authorities in Serbia have launched a complete showdown with refugees, as well as with civilians who voluntarily assist them. We demand from the Serbian authorities to immediately cease their repression of refugees, as well as the organizations and individuals/civilians who provide assistance to refugees, on their own time, and with their own money or donations.

We demand that refugees be provided with the necessities and conditions they urgently need during their time passing through Serbia.

Belgrade, November 11, 2016

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