The European Union (EU), International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched a EUR8 million project “Addressing COVID-19 Challenges within the Migrant and Refugee Response in the Western Balkans,” financed under the EU’s Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace.
The EU has demonstrated its leadership and responsibility by putting together a collective, coordinated, and coherent global response to the pandemic, bringing together EU institutions and Member States as “Team Europe.” At the core of the “Team Europe” approach is a strong message of European solidarity with partner countries, as is the case with this project.
At the time of declaration of the state of emergency in the Republic of Serbia due to COVID-19, there were some 5,900 migrants in asylum and reception centres around the country. The project will help ensure that the rights of migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees are protected, and that asylum and migration management systems remain operational. It will contribute to mitigating the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in the Western Balkans and addressing the shortage of protective equipment for border police officials and personnel working in reception facilities or providing services to migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees.
In addition, it shall help prepare and train the responsible staff to respond to COVID-19 challenges in adapting reception centres, scaling up sanitary infrastructure, and providing basic services and hygiene items. The project will also promote and disseminate critical and factual information about the COVID-19 risks and measures in languages understood by different communities, migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees.
The European Union is the largest donor of Serbia in the area of migration management. Since 2015, when Serbia was first faced with intensified mixed migration, the EU has donated over EUR117 million to public institutions, local self-governments, international and civil society organisations and other beneficiaries to help them tackle this challenge. This assistance is particularly important in the time of the COVID-19 epidemic when migrants need protection and reception and asylum centres are under increased pressure.