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Safe shelter for migrants and refugees in Serbia

In the Adaševci reception centre, at the border between Serbia and Croatia, about 1 000 migrants and refugees from 12 countries live peacefully side by side. None of them had planned to be there.

Adasevci reception centre Serbia
Goran Sivacki
Adele Shirza (28) left Afghanistan with her husband and two small children on a perilous journey that lasted for 11 months. Her dream? To reach Germany, where she hoped to settle down and be able to work in her profession. The tightening of borders along the Balkan route, however, left the family stranded in Serbia, waiting to be allowed to continue their journey.

There are currently about 6 000 migrants and refugees in Serbia.

While the country did run reception centres before the crisis, their capacity was entirely inadequate to accommodate such large numbers of people who were likely to stay for many months. In the absence of any kind of housing, many migrants had to sleep outdoors, often in cold weather, exposed to health hazards and vulnerable to robbery and violence. Women and children were particularly in danger.

MRF funds additional capacity

The CEB’s funding was absolutely critical in providing safe and secure shelter to vulnerable migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. With a € 500 000 grant from the Migrant and Refugee Fund, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) refurbished a former roadside hotel in Adaševci, on the border with Croatia, and a closed factory in Vladičin Han, close to the border with “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, turning them both into reception centres capable of providing safe shelter.

The reconstruction works included upgrading the existing infrastructure, installing sanitary facilities and providing basic furniture and necessary equipment in line with international standards.

These new reception centres help Serbia honour its commitment – made jointly with the Western Balkan countries – to increase its capacity to house migrants for longer-term stays.

“We have been in the Adaševci centre for four months and I am very satisfied to have got a room for our family, since we are not in a tent. People around us are very kind and there are a lot of activities for the children,” says Shirza.

Children in Adasevci reception centre Serbia
Goran Sivacki
The centre is run by the Commissariat for Refugees and Migrants, which ensures three daily meals and 24 hour/day access to healthcare for its inhabitants. Children make up about half of the centre’s residents; many of them are unaccompanied minors.

Dragan Velimirović, Coordinator of the Adaševci reception centre, says the Commissariat for Refugees and Migrants has enlisted the help of civil society organisations to provide activities and entertainment for the children, offering them the possibility to attend art workshops, study English or German or even learn how to sew.

“Our aim is to train refugees for some kind of occupation and for children to learn languages, to make them ready when they leave for an EU country” adds Velimirović.

In the meantime, those still at the centre are trying to make the best of it. “I am aware that life in the camp is not like being at home, but I am trying to stay positive and make our stay as pleasant as possible,” says Shirza. “I feel very safe in Serbia.”
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