Human Rights Watch Warns of Asylum Seekers Stuck on Serbian-Bulgarian Border
In an article published at the website of Human Rights Watch on Monday, a researcher for Eastern Europe and Western Balkans, described the harsh conditions asylum seekers are faced with in Dimitrovgrad, a town in southeastern Serbia, at the border with Bulgaria.
A group of 200-250 people, mainly single Afghan men, have been stuck in the border town for as long as a week while waiting for the mandatory registration by Serbian authorities, which grants them permission for onward travel across Serbia to Croatia and on to western Europe.
Before arriving in Serbia, most of them have passed through Iran, Turkey and Bulgaria.
The registration facility in Dimitrovgrad, which consists of eight containers, can accommodate only around eighty people, with the rest forced to sleep in the open where they have to endure harsh and cold weather conditions.
The researcher of Human Rights Watch also noted the inadequate humanitarian aid efforts provided by the Serbian state.
According to the article, Serbian authorities are placing obstacles to volunteers aiding the asylum seekers, one such example being the removal of a cooking stall due to health and food safety concerns.
Volunteers and asylum seekers claim that the registration process is corrupt, with police asking bribes for swift processing of documents.
Earlier in April, Human Rights Watch reported extortion and police abuse of asylum seekers and migrants in Serbia and flawed registration procedures.
Under international law and due to its status as EU candidate country, Serbia is obliged to provide humane reception conditions for asylum seekers.
In a recent artcile, the BBC noted that migrants are also subject to heightened security checks by the Bulgarian border police.
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