Since March, all transit and asylum centres have been in lock-down. Raids of squats and informal accommodation have increased since then, with migrants and asylum seekers apprehended and transferred to camps across the country. According to the Border Violence Monitoring Network (BVMN), the government temporarily opened several “camps,” which have been quickly filled with new arrivals. These sites are in Morović, Subotica, and Miratovac. Reportedly, the facility in Morović has been used to confine overflow from other sites and “troublemakers” from facilities elsewhere. Some of these, including the tented facility in Morović – had originally been intended to be used for quarantining Serbian nationals returning home.
Despite Serbia lifting its state of emergency on 6 May, on 16 May the government announced that it would be deploying troops to “secure” and “protect” three migrant reception centres located on the country’s border with Croatia. Reportedly these three facilities – Principovac, Sid-Stanica, and Adasevci – currently confine 1,500 migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, most of whom are from Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. President Vučić reportedly told a local media outlet that the deployment was also to protect locals in the area. Since the country had begun to lift lockdown, he claimed, “the migrants started venturing outside the camps, committing petty crimes and illegal entries into houses.”
Pushbacks from Serbia into North Macedonia have continued during the crisis. In one case documented by the BVMN in early April, a group of 15 adult men and one minor in Tutin camp were informed that they were being transferred to a site in Prescevo. Crammed into a police van, they were driven for nine hours before being forced outside and, with guns pointed at them, ordered to cross into North Macedonia. The group attempted to re-enter Serbia four times, but on each occasion they were pushed back across the border.
As the GDP reported on 23 April, anti-migrant sentiment has been growing in Serbia. Since March, one of the fastest growing Facebook groups in the country is called “Stop Migrant Settlement.” Some of the group’s members have voiced their belief that authorities introduced curfews not to stem the virus’s spread, but so that they could quietly settle migrants across the country. In early May, a car was driven into a migrant centre in Obrenovac, with the driver live-streaming the attack on his Facebook page.
- Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, “Serbia Deploys Army to ‘Secure’ Three Migrant Camps,” 18 May 2020, https://www.rferl.org/a/serbia-deploys-army-migrant-camps/30615755.html
- E. Wallis, “Serbia Deploys Troops to ‘Secure Migrant Camps’ Near Border with Croatia,” InfoMigrants, 18 May 2020, https://www.infomigrants.net/en/post/24823/serbia-deploys-troops-to-secure-migrant-camps-near-border-with-croatia
- Serbian Ministry of Defence, “Minister Vulin: The Camp in Morović is Set Up,” 19 March 2020, http://www.mod.gov.rs/eng/15774/ministar-vulin-otvoren-kamp-u-morovicu-15774
- Border Violence Monitoring Network, “Special Report: Covid-19 and Border Violence Along the Balkan Route,” April 2020, https://www.borderviolence.eu/wp-content/uploads/COVID-19-Report.pdf
- Border Violence Monitoring Network, “Pushed Back from a Camp in Serbia to N. Macedonia and Then to Greece,” 3 April 2020, https://www.borderviolence.eu/violence-reports/april-3-2020-2300-border-of-srb-mnk-close-to-lojane/
- L. Marinković, “„Naseljavanje migranata u Srbiji” i korona virus: Kako epidemija utiče na širenje lažnih vesti i antimigrantskih stavova,” BBC, 7 May 2020, https://www.bbc.com/serbian/lat/srbija-52524776
- Tents in Morovic Camp – originally intended to be used for quarantining Serbian nationals returning home, but now being used to deain migrants and asylum seekers, (mod.gov.rs, “BIRN Fact-check: When Did Serbia Order All Arrivals to Self-Isolate?” Balkan Insight, 8 April 2020, https://balkaninsight.com/2020/04/08/birn-fact-check-when-did-serbia-order-all-arrivals-to-self-isolate/)