The EU has acted quickly to enhance Serbia’s response to the increased migration flows with a multi-million financial package (see more in background part). Individual EU Member States provided significant bilateral support as well, including through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (blankets, sleeping bags, beds, winterized tents, etc.).

The ongoing EU support is mainly financed from €7 million allocated for the Special Measure, adopted on 7 October 2015, which reflects specific needs established in agreement with the Serbian authorities in September 2015. Additional humanitarian support is also provided by the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Directorate (ECHO).

The Special Measure state of play: 

Component 1 aims to ensure/expand the direct operational capacity of authorities to effectively respond to the needs of the refugees and migrants. A 1.5 million 12 months contract with Commissariat for Refugees and Migration of the Republic of Serbia (CRMRS) and with the Ministry of Interior includes: support in financing the running /operational costs for accommodation and basic living conditions of the regular and transit asylum centres in Serbia; support in engaging additional SRMRS staff to work in the field of asylum and transit centres in Serbia. To date almost €1.8 million has been disbursed.

Component 2 aims to provide the necessary equipment. The EU Delegation is purchasing vans, buses, passenger vehicles, etc. for €2.5 million for the Ministry of Interior and CRMRS. The deadline for submission of offers was 4 July, evaluation of offers is ongoing.

Component 3 aims to strengthen the capacity of partner NGOs to support government actions. 1 million has been awarded to the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) for 12 months to enhance refugee reception capacities in various locations in Serbia and ensure refugee access to basic services. To date more than €400,000 has been disbursed. The full rehabilitation of the Asylum centre in Krnjaca near Belgrade was financed under this contract. Furthermore the contract is dealing with the response capacity of CRMRS, Ministry of Labour, Employment and social Policy and other national institutions.

€1 million has been awarded to the Arbeiter-Smariter-Bund Deutschland (ASB) and Initiative for Development and Cooperation (IDC) for 12 months for the construction of the Dimitrovgrad reception centre and preparation for building sanitary blocks and provision of sanitary equipment, furniture/equipment, heating systems and supplies. To date more than €530,000 has been disbursed.

€1 million has been awarded to the Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe e. V. (HELP) for 12 months for rehabilitation work of centres in Pirot and Bosilegrad, provision of social, heath, transportation and translation services, as well as support to the local service providers and local population. To date more than €420,000 has been disbursed.

In total about 250 employees are engaged in Serbia under these projects in Subotica, Šid, Preševo, Negotin, Dimitrovgrad, Zaječar, Krnjača, Banja Koviljača, Tutin, Sjenica and Belgrade.

Support by ECHO:

Meanwhile, ECHO has allocated €9.8 million to Serbia in humanitarian response to provide basic assistance at refugee aid points: temporary shelter, warm clothing, food, water, child friendly spaces and protection (a third of all refugees are children). In July ECHO enabled the aid centre Miksaliste in Belgrade to start providing hot meals to undocumented migrants. ECHO has established major implementing partnerships with the UNHCR, UNICEF, the Red Cross, DRC, Norwegian Refugee Council and Medicins du Monde.

Strong EU commitment to work with Serbia:

The EU and the European Commission will continue supporting financially Serbia’s efforts on migration through further allocations, in particular under the Madad Trust Fund, which will continue many activities started under the Special Measure. In the end of May, Madad’s board approved €15 million to provide support to manage the influx of migrants and refugees in the Western Balkans (see below). The EU Delegation is working to make these funds operational towards the end of this year.


The EU Delegation and the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Directorate (ECHO) mobilised more than €800,000 for emergency assistance in Serbia in the first weeks and months of the migration and refugee crisis of 2015. In November 2015, EU Delegation awarded grant agreements to partners to start the implementation of a new aid package worth €7 million, part of a special measure adopted on 7 October by the European Commission. The grants were developed in close cooperation with all partners and processed in record time by EU Delegation staff.

Several EU Member States responded to Serbia’s request for assistance under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (EUCPM).

The European Investment Bank (EIB), the bank of the EU, contributed €5 million to the Migrants and Refugee Fund (MRF) recently founded by the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB). This has enabled CEB to grant, at the end of October 2015, €2.3 million to the Serbian Government for improving living conditions for refugees and migrants in reception centres.

In addition, ECHO released €8.5 million for emergency humanitarian aid for Serbia and the fYR of Macedonia in October 2015 and a further €13 million in December 2015 aimed at supporting refugees along the Western Balkans route. Out of this package, close to €10 million have been deployed for Serbia for winterization, provision of basic health and protection services, shelter and delivery of hot meals to refugees. ECHO’s aid is delivered by the EU’s international partner organisations including UNHCR, UNICEF, the Serbian Red Cross, the Danish Refugee Council, World Vision and others.

A regional programme worth €8 million has been launched in March 2016 to deal with protection-sensitive migration management in the Western Balkans and Turkey, mainly related to Serbia and the fYR of Macedonia. The programme is led by Frontex and IOM, and is implemented in partnership with EASO and UNHCR.

In the medium and long-term, the EU will continue supporting the reform of Serbia’s asylum system and improving border controls. Projects are already being implemented or should start within the next year:

  • An EU twinning project of €1 million is already ongoing with a focus on drafting a new law on asylum and stepping up the reform of the asylum system.
  • €3.2 million will be used to support Serbia in expanding the existing capacities to accommodate asylum seekers.
  • €4 million have been allocated to further develop Serbia’s border surveillance systems.

The EU also supports local civil society organisations involved in relieving migration pressures in Serbia. Currently the EU is supporting the Asylum Protection Centre (APC) with a grant worth €130,000 to provide support to asylum seekers in Serbia and prevent discriminatory practices against them, with a special focus on accompanied and unaccompanied minors.

Serbia also has access to the Madad Fund, a key instrument for delivering on EU’s €3 billion pledge at the London conference on supporting Syria and the region. In the end of May 2016 the fund’s board approved €15 million in support of managing migration in the Western Balkans. From the of 2016 onwards, these funds will cover the running costs (such as heating, electricity, water, etc.) of the existing reception/asylum centres; cover the employment of the staff (i.e. translators, cleaners, doctors, etc.) working in the asylum centres; help improve the humane treatment, information provision, interviewing, counselling on the assisted voluntary returns and repatriation (AVRR) and accommodation capacities for irregular migrants; facilitate the humane and dignified return and reintegration of rejected asylum seekers, and persons residing irregularly in the Republic of Serbia, who wish to return voluntarily to their country of origin; improve the refugees and migrants access medical services and have proper interpretation services; support to works and refurbishment of facilities in Aleksinac, Banja Kovljaca, Tutin, Irig and Kikinda; and supply containers, equipment, furniture, etc.

A new call for proposals worth €3.8 million has been launched this spring aiming at supporting local NGOs acting on topics related to chapters 23 and 24. Part of these funds will be made available for migration/refugees issues.

In addition to the direct assistance to the current refugee and migration situation, since 2001, the EU has acted as Serbia’s main partner and donor when it comes to managing migration having allocated some €80 million from pre-accession funds. This assistance includes, amongst others, construction and renovation of border crossings, supply of equipment and IT infrastructure for better border management, upgrade and extension of asylum facilities, as well as assistance to improve the efficiency of the asylum system. This support will be continued with fresh financial allocations under the regular IPA 2016 budget for Serbia.