Serbia must find a way to integrate the tens of thousands of migrants from Russia

Russian migrants have traveled the world - Photo EPA, Jebt Teriquez

More than 300.000 citizens of Russia passed through Serbia, and about 50.000 remained. The visa-free regime allows them to stay in Serbia for up to 30 days as tourists, but this does not correspond to the nature of their stay, which is longer and which is related to the war in Ukraine

Serbia must find a way to help integrate the more than 50.000 Russians who have arrived in the past year, says Rados Djurovic, director of the Center for the Protection and Assistance of Asylum Seekers.

Djurovic pointed out to the Beta agency that since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, more than 300.000 citizens of Russia have passed through Serbia, and about 50.000 have remained. They use the visa-free regime, which allows them to stay in Serbia for up to 30 days as tourists. But it does not correspond to the nature of their stay, which is longer and which is connected with the war in Ukraine.

– When we talk about Russian citizens, if they are not married to Serbian citizens, if they do not have real estate here and if they do not have a registered employment relationship, they must regulate their stay by leaving Serbia and returning every 30 days, in the hope that the border services they will let them back into the country. It is an unsustainable way for someone to stay longer in this country - explains Djurovic.

He adds that only a small part of the Russian migrants requested asylum, barely a few dozen. Such a trend, however, has other legal consequences.

- We estimate that about 20 percent of all Russian immigrants have a regulated residence based on work, marriage or real estate, and all others are forced to manage by leaving and returning to Serbia - says Djurovic.

The main reasons for coming to Serbia are the difficult situation in Russia, problems due to political determination, the reluctance to participate in the war, but also the closure of workplaces as a result of the sanctions imposed by Western countries. Russian citizens in Serbia are mainly located in Belgrade, but there are also in other cities. They often gather, communicate, create communities and strive to develop.

- Of course, from the point of view of the system and interest, these people should be included in society as soon as possible. First of all, their stay should be regulated, and then they should be integrated, not wait for them to leave the country due to aggravating circumstances and try to find another place to live - says the director of the Serbian Center for the Protection and Assistance of Applicants of asylum.

He recalls that the situation was similar a hundred years ago, when almost the same number of people, mostly highly educated, arrived in Serbia after the October Revolution, as today.

- Then there was a special board established by the state for their integration. Plans were thought and developed not only about where people would be assigned to stay and live, but also how to organize themselves, what kind of work they would do, what kind of help they would need. In some sense, that state was much more efficient and planned to solve such problems - says Djurović.

He complains that the authorities occasionally point out that those people need protection, but in reality there are no concrete actions or plans.

- Serbia is not the only country to which citizens from Russia come in large numbers. Turkey, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Armenia are in a similar situation. And people come to those countries without visas and try to stay. In Turkey they have huge support, as well as in Kazakhstan. There are all the conditions for people to stay - says Djurović.

He adds that many countries, like Canada, want such a wave of highly educated migrants who want to stay and integrate into society. The advantage of Serbia is that the language is related, and it has a number of similar cultural traditions.

- In Serbia, all the pieces of the big mosaic are in place, which we now have to keep from falling apart. That's a big challenge when it comes to a society that needs those new residents, who are a productive workforce. This is a great opportunity, which our society must not miss - says Radosh Djurovic, director of the Center for the Protection and Assistance of Asylum Seekers.

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