79. UNHCR has worked closely and intensively with the Serbian asylum authorities both before and after Serbia assumed responsibility for the conduct of the asylum procedure in April 2008. Despite some incremental improvements notably with regard to reception standards, Serbia’s asylum system has been unable to cope with the recent increases in the numbers of asylum applicants. This has exposed significant shortcomings in numbers of personnel, expertise, infrastructure, implementation of the legislation and government support. The increase in the number of asylum-seekers has also brought to light shortcomings in the structural relationship between the Asylum Office managed by the MoI, and the Asylum Centres, managed independently by the SCR; at the time of this writing, the capacity (available bed space) in the Asylum Centres remains linked to accessing the asylum procedure. The current system is manifestly not capable of processing the increasing numbers of asylum seekers in a manner consistent with international and EU norms. These shortcomings, viewed in combination with the fact that there has not been a single recognition of refugee status since April 2008, strongly suggest that the asylum system as a whole is not adequately recognizing those in need of international protection.
80. There is a need to set up a fair and efficient asylum procedure that is not only consistent with the existing legislative framework, but is also capable of adequately processing the claims of the increasing number of asylum-seekers in a manner consistent with international standards. This would require greater investment of resources by the government, continued and dedicated engagement with UNHCR and other relevant international actors, particularly concerning the asylum procedure, and deepened coordination among the respective ministries.
81. Until such a system is fully established in Serbia, for the reasons stated above, UNHCR recommends that Serbia not be considered a safe third country of asylum, and that countries therefore refrain from sending asylum-seekers back to Serbia on this basis.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Published on Refworld, 07/09/12