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New Asylum Law In Serbia And Montenegro

UN Refugee Agency Hails New Asylum Law In Serbia And Montenegro

The United Nations refugee agency has welcomed a new asylum law adopted by Serbia and Montenegro as “a concrete step” towards establishing a national asylum system in a country recovering from years of conflict and displacement, thus completing the introduction of international standards throughout the Balkans.

“This is a very important, strategic achievement for UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees),” the deputy director of the agency’s Europe bureau, Rob Robinson, said of the law adopted last Thursday. “We are truly very happy with this important development that will strengthen the protection of asylum seekers and refugees.”

The law sets out the basic principles of refugee protection, rights and obligations of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as the minimum procedural safeguards under the 1951 Convention related to the Status of Refugees, which the country signed in 2001.

“Serbia and Montenegro is the last of the Balkan countries to adopt a national asylum law in accordance with accepted international standards,” Mr. Robinson added. “The humanitarian crises of the late 1990s and the fragile situation in the country may have delayed this process for some time, but now that it’s been adopted, it’s a sign that Serbia and Montenegro is moving forward towards EU (European Union) accession.”

The law still has to be adopted and implemented at the level of the country’s constituent republics – Serbia and Montenegro. The country hosts an estimated 275,000 recognized refugees, mostly from Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. There are also believed to be more than 220,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

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