DRC Serbia has been operating since 1993, running numerous activities related to integration and improvement of living condition for refugees, internally displaced persons and socially vulnerable domiciles. Prior to the European refugee crisis, the Republic of Serbia was hosting the largest displaced population in Europe. According to the government authorities, in 2016 29,457 refugees from former Yugoslavia and 203,006 IDPs were living in Serbia. DRC was present in Macedonia from 1999 until 2011, responding to emergencies and displacement situations. In August 2015, DRC re-established its presence in Macedonia with the aim of immediately respond to and address needs of the refugees and migrants who since the spring of 2015 were fleeing the conflicts and wars of the Middle East and transiting through Macedonia.
Since 2015, being one of the countries on the so-called “Balkans Route”, Serbia has been affected by large influx of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers, mostly originating from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2015 577,995 asylum seekers were registered, and while there were only 12,821 registered in 2016, the number of those passing through or staying in Serbia was significantly greater – UNHCR reports approx. 123,247 arrivals to Serbia by September 2016. Currently, there are more than 7,700 refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in Serbia, out of which 47% children and 16% women. Around 85% of the population comes from “refugee-producing countries”, including Afghanistan (53%), Iraq (20%) and Syria (9%).
Workingin the Western Balkans for more than two decades, DRC Serbia has developed expertise in the following areas:
Protection and advocacy on behalf of persons of concern and assistance towards achieving sustainable durable solutions (integration/livelihood enhancement and return and reintegration)
Emergency relief operations (migration crisis and floods recovery)
Technical assistance to central, local institutions and civil society
Long-term rehabilitation/reconstruction and housing projects
Information dissemination and legal aid.
During all these years, in close cooperation with the Government of Serbia, DRC has been implementing various projects related to enhancing refugees and IDPs' return and reintegration, focusing primarily on sustainable housing, income-generation opportunities and legal aid, local integration/livelihood enhancement in Serbia, response to various needs within support to asylum seekers, social inclusion activities benefiting Roma population, as well as technical assistance/capacity building activities. DRC has also been supporting the recovery of floods-affected households and local economies in Serbia and providing technical assistance within a consortium for the Regional Housing Programme in the Western Balkans.
In response to the ongoing migration crisis, DRC Serbia has expanded its programming and launched new emergency relief operations to provide protection and assistance to persons of concern, supporting the Government of Serbia in tackling migration management challenges and response to the increasing humanitarian needs. DRC is engaged in shelter and WASH interventions aiming at improving reception conditions in asylum centres and various recently opened reception and transit centres in the country, protection, including child protection, information dissemination, health assistance, provision of food and NFIs.
The programme is implemented through the main office in Belgrade and field offices in Kragujevac and Kraljevo, with several settings close to reception and transit centres across Serbia, as in Presevo, Dimitrovgrad and Sid. DRC Office in Montenegro (Podgorica) closed its operation in June 2016.
DRC Serbia has been closely cooperating with various institutions of the Government of Serbia, various international agencies and NGOs and trusted by various donors including the EU Delegation to the Republic of Serbia, ECHO, UN agencies (UNHCR, UNICEF, UNFPA), the Danish Government, BPRM, the Norwegian Government, DFID and many others.
In Macedonia DRC’s response to the influx of refugees in 2015 has included protection, WASH, NFI distributions and support to local authorities. At the time, up to approximately 6,000 persons per day were entering the country through unofficial border crossing points, along the border line with Greece near Gevgelija, and passing through Republic of Macedonia into Serbia. However, as the Balkan Route closed in March 2016, large numbers of refugees and other persons in need of international protection were left stranded at various transit centres along the way. Although the numbers are smaller, refugees and migrants still remain at the two Macedonian transit centres – consisting mainly of those left behind as a consequence of the border closings and those who attempted to cross borders on their own and were pushed back.
The local population residing in areas along the border line with Greece and Serbia has been severely affected by the 2015 and 2016 refugee crises, where around 1 million of refugees and other persons of concern passed through the territory of the country and subsequently through these locations. Through partnership with UNHCR, DRC is implementing a number of small scale community projects in areas along the border line with Greece and Serbia.
DRC Macedonia is working in close cooperation with DG ECHO and UNHCR.