Since May 2015, Serbia and other countries in the Western Balkans have been facing an unprecedented refugee crisis. In 2015 and in the first quarter of 2016, more than 920 000 refugees and migrants – primarily from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq – have passed through Serbia on their way to Hungary and Croatia. After the closure of the so-called Western Balkans migration route in early 2016, the number of refugees stranded in Serbia stands now at just over 6650. Of that number, 94% are accommodated in 17 government sites.
With more than 80 million euro of funds allocated over the past 2 years, the EU has been the largest contributor of emergency aid to Serbia, helping the country ensure accommodation of migrants and refugees in accommodation centres, provide health and other primary services to refugees, migrants and host communities; and reinforce its border control capabilities. Actions continue to focus on providing basic assistance at the refugee aid points including health services, warm clothing, food, water, child-friendly spaces and protection. The assistance has enlarged to the provision of cooked meals in the centres as well as informal education.
"Serbia has been a reliable partner to the European Union, and our partnership has allowed an effective response to the refugee crisis. We have helped improve conditions in many reception centres, contributed to food provision in camps, provided education in emergencies to children and helped providing health services", said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides during his visit to Serbia.
EU humanitarian assistance includes direct support to refugees through the Commission's humanitarian partners, and also capacity-building to enable the authorities to respond more effectively. The most significant efforts have been made to improve conditions at the government run reception centres, where the EU has been the main and sometimes only donor.