All of us who live in Serbia are well aware that finding a job is not easy. It is particularly challenging to find a job that would fit our competences and make us feel good about it. M.K., who has spent the last few years living in our country, knows exactly how challenging this can be for migrants in Serbia.

M.K. is a young man from Iraq who came to Serbia in 2016. Even though he submitted an asylum application, he was granted only a humanitarian stay permit in 2018 and then extended his stay on the basis of employment. Having in mind the legal status he was given in our country, M.K. wasn’t entitled to having a personal work permit. In other words, to find a steady job, he needed an employment work permit that would remain valid only if he remained employed with the employer who submitted the request for his work permit in the first place, without the possibility to change his job. In short, he couldn’t have changed his job if he was dissatisfied or if he was offered better working conditions, without having to go through the ordeal of submitting a new stay and work permit request.

“I wasn’t happy with my working conditions and my job, and neither was I happy with the way my boss treated me. But I was also aware that getting fired might mean that I could no longer stay in Serbia,” says M.K.

Even though he wasn’t satisfied with his job and the working conditions there, it was there that he met the love of his life. M.C. used to be his co-worker. They dated and after some time they decided to get married. It was at that point when new issues arose.

To overcome the legal and administrative hurdles, M.K. sought help with the legal team from the project Guidelines for migrants – A guide through the labyrinth. The legal team took action by asking about the necessary documents in two offices for vital statistics. However, there was a mismatch in information in those two offices. The legal team then got in touch with the Consulate of Iraq in Belgrade and asked for the necessary documents. When the papers finally arrived, the legal team, together with M.K. verified them through the Ministry of Interior and accompanied M.K. and M.C. to Savski venac borough in Belgrade where they scheduled the wedding.

In the process of obtaining the documents, M.K. and members of the legal became friends, so in September 2020, M.K. i M.C. invited them to their wedding. Apart from legal assistance, the project’s budget was also used to cover the administrative fees. M.K. was first granted a one-year stay. However, his marriage to a Serbian citizen allowed him to submit a personal work permit request, so the legal team pitched in once again to help him.

In January 2021, M.K. was granted a one-year personal work permit. M.K. now has a chance to live like “normal folks”. He is happy with his current job that allows him to earn a decent living for himself and his new family. In about two years, M.K. managed to turn himself from an unsuccessful asylum seeker into a fully integrated person who meets all the requirements for citizenship application.

The European Union (EU) is the largest donor of the Republic of Serbia in the area of migration management. Since 2015, when Serbia was faced with an increased influx of migrants, the EU put over 130 million at Serbia’s disposal for immediate humanitarian needs and protection of migrants, especially children, as well as for providing adequate conditions in reception and asylum centres – food, healthcare and education. EU’s support was also aimed at migrant-hosting local communities/municipalities with the goal to strengthen social cohesion as well as at protecting the state border and fighting migrant smuggling and building capacity of institutions engaged in migrant protection. Apart from that, the EU secured over 28 million euros for efficient border control, contributing thus to improved safety of Serbian citizens by making border crossing points safer and helping to fight illegal activities, while also setting up faster procedures for the movement of people and goods (Integrated Border Management ‒ IBM).