Asylum Info Center launched in Belgrade
The Asylum Info Center has been opened in Belgrade, as Serbia is facing a huge influx of refugees arriving from the Middle East on their way to Western Europe
According to announcements made earlier, the center in located at 3 Nemanjina Street, and will be open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. local time (CET).
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Labor Ministry State Secretary Nenad Ivanisevic spoke at the opening of the center on Monday to say that Serbia "has a plan for migrations" that will be adopted this week - and that Labor Minister Aleksandar Vulin will then present it to the public.
He said the government's cooperation with UN's refugee agency UNHCR was "excellent" - but that he expected "concrete financial support from the EU, because the cost is rising - the state sets aside EUR 15,000 every day for migrants."
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Asked "whether Serbia has received any recommendations on how to treat migrants," Ivanisevic said, "nobody can tell Serbia what to do with people in its own territory," and added:
"We have international obligations toward asylum seekers, to provide medical, legal assistance... as for where they go after that, that's their right."
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This official reiterated that Serbia is prepared to provide care for "any number of migrants."
"Our message is clear: we did not take part in causing the crisis. We expect the EU to come up with a strategy, while Serbia will be a part of the solution," Ivanisevic said and urged neighboring countries Croatia and Hungary to accept asylum seekers.
"And if they violate that international obligation and start sending people back from their borders, Serbia will react together with representatives of the European Commission," said he.
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Ivanisevic and head of the UNHCR office in Serbia Hans Friedrich Schodder, who also attended the opening of the center, "agreed that Hungary is expected to honor its international obligations and not prevent asylum seekers from entering its territory."
"We will respond to the problem of anyone who arrives in Serbia in a humane and human manner, because our policy is not one of closing of borders," he said.
Schodder stressed that UNHCR "does not agree" with changes Hungary made to its asylum legislation, and added that Serbia, Greece, and Macedonia "should not be on the list of safe third countries."
He also said he "did not believe" Hungary will start turning migrants back from its border, and added that if this did happen, it would mean the country was "violating international obligations."
Schodder noted that while all states have the right to control who enters and stays in their territory, they cannot refuse entry to people who seek asylum.
"When you close your borders, as was the case in Macedonia, that has its consequences. I hope this big influx of migrants from the weekend will once again subside," the UN official has been quoted as saying.
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