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2015 UNHCR subregional operations profile - South-Eastern Europe

| Overview |

UNHCR 2015 South-Eastern Europe subregional operations map

While the number of asylum-seekers in South-Eastern Europe continues to rise, most national asylum systems in the subregion do not meet international standards. The majority of new asylum-seekers are Syrian, with Serbia receiving by far the largest percentage of those seeking international protection in the subregion. However, many asylum-seekers and refugees move on before their international protection needs have been assessed. Such movements are prompted in part by: difficulties in applying for asylum, for example at borders; inadequate or insufficient reception conditions; low recognition rates; or a lack of local integration prospects.

Following the regional initiative on Refugee Protection and International Migration, UNHCR, IOM and key stakeholders are pursuing dialogue with Governments in the western Balkans, at national and regional levels, to promote protection-sensitive asylum and migration systems consistent with European and international standards. UNHCR also offers technical advice to Governments across the region and provides legal assistance and direct support to particularly vulnerable people of concern.

As part of the Sarajevo Process, implementation of the Regional Housing Programme continues in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, as well as in Croatia (now covered under the Northern, Western, Central and Southern Europe subregion). Additional funding may be needed to provide sustainable housing solutions for all 74,000 vulnerable refugees, returnees and IDPs from the 1991-1995 conflicts. UNHCR, with OSCE, help to ensure projects provide sustainable solutions for the most vulnerable.

Advances made in the durable solutions process in the western Balkans have led UNHCR to recommend that refugee status should cease for Croatian refugees by December 2014. Where local integration or repatriation processes are still underway, this could be progressively implemented between 2014 and 2017. A similar process, which will lead to a recommendation concerning the cessation of status for refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina, is ongoing. UNHCR is of the view that all remaining displaced people should be able to access durable solutions by the end of 2017.

Despite efforts to improve relevant laws and administrative practices, 17,000 people who are stateless or of undetermined nationality, many of whom belong to the Roma minority, continue to lack access to civil registration and documentation in the subregion. UNHCR works closely with the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and the European Commission in assisting Governments to resolve civil registration and nationality-determination issues. All countries are parties to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and only the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has yet to accede to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

| Response and implementation |

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, UNHCR is working in close partnership with local authorities, NGOs and international actors to achieve solutions for the remaining 84,500 IDPs and 47,000 minority returnees. For new arrivals, the organization is working with IOM and an intra-ministerial group under a regional initiative on asylum and migration, with the aim of strengthening reception conditions and refugee status determination procedures, and reducing the use of detention for asylum-seekers. UNHCR will continue to focus on preventing statelessness and providing legal aid to existing populations, including at least 1,500 Roma, who lack birth certificates or proof of citizenship.

UNHCR's work in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is primarily aimed at assisting the Government in building and maintaining high quality asylum procedures as mixed migration movements to the country increase. The country has seen a sharp rise in arrivals from outside the region seeking asylum. The Office will continue to advocate for durable solutions for around 900 people of mainly Ashkali, Egyptian and Roma origin, and will provide direct assistance to some of the most vulnerable. UNHCR will work with the authorities to resolve the situation of another 800 people who lack civil registration and documentation, and will continue to advocate for the country's accession to the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and the establishment of a statelessness determination procedure.

As its European integration process progresses, national legislation and practice around Montenegro's new asylum system is being harmonized and UNHCR is offering assistance to the Government to strengthen its capacity to deal with mixed migration flows. Particular attention will be given to cross-border cooperation and prevention of refoulement. UNHCR aims to find durable solutions for the region's remaining group of people of concern. A public call for registration of people without citizenship, organized by the Ministry of the Interior and UNHCR, is scheduled for late 2014.

Serbia observed a sharp increase in asylum-seekers in 2014, with more than 5,000 new applications received by July. As these asylum-seekers arrive in mixed flows, UNHCR remains focused on safeguarding asylum space and helping to build the capacity of both national authorities and other stakeholders. The Office estimates that some 88,000 internally displaced people still need assistance and will work with the authorities on a comprehensive package of durable solutions. The Regional Housing Programme will provide permanent solutions for approximately 43,000 refugees from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Close cooperation and coordination of activities between UNHCR and the relevant Serbian authorities will continue to address the statelessness issues of the Roma population.

The priority in Kosovo (S/RES/1244(1999)) is to strengthen the national asylum system, primarily by building the authorities' capacity to manage mixed migratory flows efficiently. UNHCR is working with the Kosovo authorities on implementing durable solutions for around 17,000 IDPs and around 10,000 people willing to return to Kosovo from the region. The Office is implementing a return and reintegration project for Ashkali, Egyptians and Roma, and returnees from camps in Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and will provide support to community-level reconciliation initiatives. Ensuring access to birth registration and civil documentation remains central to the Office's work.

| Financial information |

Between 2011 and 2015, the financial requirements for South-Eastern Europe have steadily declined from USD 76.2 million in 2011 to USD 46.7 million in 2015, due to the progressive downscaling of operations. In 2015, the financial requirements of USD 46.7 million are set slightly higher than the 2014 budget. This is partly due to UNHCR's additional activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina for IDPs, as part of responsible disengagement, and also to the creation of a Regional Office in Sarajevo.

UNHCR 2015 budgets for South-Eastern Europe (USD)
Operation 2014
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2014)
Total 45,654,517 14,330,924 3,799,064 5,793,306 22,755,682 46,678,975
1. As from 2015, Croatia is reported under Hungary Regional Office.
Bosnia and Herzegovina 9,507,353 2,312,335 799,029 0 9,738,635 12,850,000
Croatia[1] 3,659,377 - - - - -
Kosovo (S/RES/1244 (1999)) 7,624,823 1,944,161 1,230,293 5,793,306 215,612 9,183,372
Montenegro 4,620,706 4,330,016 192,020 0 0 4,522,036
Serbia 16,585,990 2,568,713 1,198,094 0 12,801,434 16,568,241
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 3,656,268 3,175,699 379,627 0 0 3,555,326

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2015 Update

UNHCR contact information

The UNHCR Representation in Croatia
Style of Address The UNHCR Representative in Croatia
Street Address Radnicka cesta 41, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
Mailing Address Radnicka cesta 41, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia
Telephone 385 1 371 3 555
Facsimile 385 1 371 3 484
Time Zone GMT + 1
Working Hours
Monday:8:30 - 17:00
Tuesday:8:30 - 17:00
Wednesday:8:30 - 17:00
Thursday:8:30 - 17:00
Friday:8:30 - 17:00
Public Holidays 01 January 2016, new year
28 March 2016, easter monday
22 June 2016, antifascist struggle day
24 June 2016, independence day
07 July 2016, ramazan bajram
15 August 2016, assumption
13 September 2016, kurban bajram
07 October 2016, statehood
01 November 2016, all saints day
26 December 2016, christmas day



UNHCR contact information

Statistical Snapshot*
* As at June 2015
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained. In the absence of Government figures, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in many industrialized countries based on 10 years of individual asylum-seeker recognition.
  3. Persons whose applications for asylum or refugee status are pending as at 30 June 2015 at any stage in the asylum procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015. Source: country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and assistance. It also includes people in IDP-like situations. This category is descriptive in nature and includes groups of persons who are inside their country of nationality or habitual residence and who face protection risks similar to those of IDPs but who, for practical or other reasons, could not be reported as such.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015.
  7. Refers to persons who are not considered as nationals by any State under the operation of its law. This category refers to persons who fall under the agency's statelessness mandate because they are stateless according to this international definition, but data from some countries may also include persons with undetermined nationality.
  8. Refers to individuals who do not necessarily fall directly into any of the other groups but to whom UNHCR may extend its protection and/or assistance services. These activities might be based on humanitarian or other special grounds.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Croatia [1]
Refugees [2] 710
Asylum Seekers [3] 90
Returned Refugees [4] 24
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 2,886
Various [8] 13,774
Total Population of Concern 17,484
Originating from Croatia [1]
Refugees [2]
More info 33,669
UNHCR has recommended on 4 April 2014 to start the process of cessation of refugee status for refugees from Croatia displaced during the 1991-95 conflict. The Office suggests that cessation enters into effect latest by the end of 2017.
Asylum Seekers [3] 460
Returned Refugees [4] 24
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 13,774
Total Population of Concern 47,927
Government Contributions to UNHCR
Contributions since 2000
More info 97,541
As at 15 January 2015
2013 70,032
2012 137,056
2011 0
2010 0
2009 31,000
2008 62,000
2007 30,000
2006 10,000
2005 10,000
2004 0
2003 0
2002 0
2001 0
2000 0

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Serbia: Europe's forgotten refugees

A study of the lives of three Europeans who have been living as refugees in Serbia for more than 15 years.

Serbia is the only European country with a protracted refugee population. More than 90,000 refugees from Croatia and from Bosnia and Herzegovina remain there, victims of wars that erupted after the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

These long-term refugees live under appalling conditions in dingy apartments and overcrowded collective centres – the nearest thing to refugee camps in modern Europe.

This set of pictures tells the story of three displaced people, the problems they face and their hopes for the future.

Serbia: Europe's forgotten refugees

Prince Soniyiki, from Nigerian to "Croatian" in three years

Prince Wale Soniyiki, 29, is the poster boy for Croatia's refugee system. When Prince (that's his real name, not a royal title) arrived here from Nigeria three years ago, he felt like a "complete nobody." Today he has a good job, speaks the language fluently and is a well-known advocate for asylum-seekers, whose voices are rarely heard in Croatian society. Prince fled Nigeria in December 2011 after a bloody terrorist attack killed his brothers. A circuitous route through Libya and Italy eventually led him to Croatia.

Croatia, which joined the European Union in 2013, has a well-functioning asylum system. But it's rarely tested because nearly all asylum-seekers and refugees move on to other European countries, partly because integration into society is not easy. Prince, though, is making a life here. Two years ago he founded "Africans Living in Croatia" to help others like him integrate and to help Croatians better understand migrants. His passionate work grabbed the attention of the owner of a tuna farming company, who offered him a job on his boat on the Adriatic coast.

Prince Soniyiki, from Nigerian to "Croatian" in three years

Croatia: Tea and campfires to beat the chillPlay video

Croatia: Tea and campfires to beat the chill

Sipping tea and huddling around fires for warmth, some 2,000 refugees gathered a few paces inside Slovenia's border with Croatia on October 21 and 22 as they waited to board buses for an onward journey to Western Europe.

Croatia: Sunday Train ArrivalsPlay video

Croatia: Sunday Train Arrivals

On Sunday a train of 1800 refugees and migrants made their way north from the town of Tovarnik on Croatia's Serbian border. They disembarked at Cakovec just south of Slovenia. Most of the people are Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi. Their route to Western Europe has been stalled due to the closing of Hungarian borders. Now the people have changed their path that takes through Slovenia. Croatia granted passage to over 10,000 refugees this weekend. Croatian authorities asked Slovenia to take 5000 refugees and migrants per day. Slovenia agreed to take half that number. More than a thousand of desperate people are being backed up as result, with more expected to arrive later Monday.