Russia helps Serbia cope with migrant crisis by aiding refugee camps

Serbian and Russian (L) national flags © Marko Djurica
Russia has lent assistance to Serbia in setting up camps for refugees that have flooded the Balkan country. Via the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center (RSHC), it has delivered sufficient equipment to accommodate up to a thousand migrants.

The Center gave Serbian government about 30 camping tents of different types as well as diesel power stations, stoves, blankets and beds in order to supply two refugee camps – one in the town of Preševo near the Macedonian border and one in the town of Kanjiža near the Hungarian border, as reported in the RSHC press-release.

The equipment, which was delivered on August 14, will enable Serbia to accommodate about 1,000 refugees, the Head of the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center, Viktor Safyanov, said.

Migrants in the camp near the Serbian town of Preševo

Russia is helping Serbia within the framework of a bilateral intergovernmental agreement, so the aid can be extended if necessary, the press-release says.

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The same day the aid was delivered, an official joint Russian-Serbian delegation visited the refugee camp in Preševo, which mainly hosts people that fled war-torn Syria. The delegation included Serbian Minister of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy Aleksandar Vulin, the country’s gendarmerie commandant, Goran Dragović, as well as Aleksandr Chepurin, Russian ambassador to Serbia, and RSHC head Viktor Safyanov.

“The camp certainly makes a sharp impression. We understand that the challenge Serbia faces requires enormous effort, so we decided to help. We hope that those who provoked this uncontrolled chaos, which led to the displacement of many people, will also lend support to Serbia alongside the international organizations,” Chepurin said during the visit.

Joint Russian-Serbian delegation in the refugee camp near Preševo

Vulin emphasized that Serbia needs urgent and immediate assistance and thanked the officials from the Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center for providing aid so promptly. The equipment arrived just two weeks after the Serbian government’s request.

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The flow of migrants to Serbia from ravaged Middle East countries and North Africa has dramatically increased since the beginning of the year, as they travel through the Balkan country seeking a better life in Western Europe. About 70,000 refugees have entered the country since the beginning of the year, as reported by RIA Novosti. According to Vulin, around 2,000 migrants cross the Serbian border every day.

Refugee children in the camp near Preševo

However, Western countries have not yet provided Serbia with any substantial assistance in accommodating migrants, nor are they ready to accept the migrants themselves. Germany is going to ban re-entry permits for 94,000 migrants from the Balkans and plans to deport about 30,000 to Belgrade.

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According to Momir Stojanovic, the Head of the Defense and Security Committee of the Serbian parliament, the EU plans to build a center for illegal immigrants in one of the Balkan countries capable of accommodating up to 400,000 people. Serbia could be chosen to host the center, he added.

Refugee girl in the camp near Preševo

Vulin commented on this, saying that “Serbia has no intention to build any center for migrants regardless of how many people it would possibly accommodate – 4,000 or 40,000.”

“Nobody demands that from us. And if somebody demands it, Serbia will never agree to that,” he emphasized, as quoted by Rossijskaya Gazeta.

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The Russian-Serbian Humanitarian Center was established on April 25, 2012 in the Serbian city of Niš as part of the intergovernmental agreement between the two countries. It is dedicated to ensuring effective emergency responses on the territories of the Balkan countries.